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Campus Now

Spring Verdure Issue (May)

Messages to Their Second Century

Creating more freedom in the university framework to enable students to find what they should study.

Ms. Sawako Takeuchi
Visiting Professor at Kyoto University
Director of Nissan Leadership Program

Professor Sawako Takeuchi gave us her opinions regarding the future form of universities. Professor Takeuchi works in a wide range of areas in order to solve issues in medicine, the environment, international cooperation, and other issues held by mankind. Her work includes the conception of systems for accumulating knowledge from throughout the world and the creation of programs for developing leaders of the next generation.

A system is needed to move technology, people and laws in fusion

What themes are currently the subjects of your work?

Today, the world is faced with many problems such as global warming. What is important is not to debate, but rather to propose solutions to these problems. For this purpose, it is necessary to create a system to move technology, people and laws in fusion. However, Japanese universities are vertically divided into school units such as law, economics and engineering, and do not offer a multidisciplinary approach. For example, even if a student graduates from the School of Science and Engineering and acquires the accompanying skills, the student does not have a sufficient opportunity to consider what issues are facing society and what kind of solutions should be implemented. In effect, this reduces the possibility that young professionals will be able to act as future leaders.

Therefore, I have started a leadership development program for young professionals. This program is based on a fusion of humanities and science, and was started with the support of the Nissan Science Foundation. Overseas, there are many opportunities for additional study after an individual has graduated from university and entered their early 30s. However, there are still very few opportunities of this type in Japan. Therefore, I started an international program that summarizes revolutionary ideas into specific proposals in order to strengthen the intellectual creative ability of mid-level company workers who are around 30 years old.

Creating a new work to heighten the abilities of mankind

You are involved in a wide variety of work, from university professor to chairperson of an international organization.

Without focusing on organizations or titles, I want to engage as quickly as possible in themes which require the use of intelligence in international society and to perform work which enables me to exert specific leadership. An example of such activities is the creation of new international organizations. I feel that the existing international organizations are removed from themes such as humanity and sustainability due to constraints of the 20th century and prioritization of Western European logic. Therefore, I hope to create a new international network from zero, to create a place for the resolution of problems. I want this to be a place that gathers the wisdom of people with a flexible way of thinking, and a place that heightens the abilities of mankind. When I look at the current situation, I feel that people themselves have created boundaries around possibilities and are restricting the ability of mankind.

When did you first attain this international perspective?

At Waseda, I majored in international law under Professor Yukio Shimada. I believe that the influence which I received at that time is a major reason why I am interested even today in serving as the chairperson of international organizations. Rather than become a scholar and dig through old literature, I wanted to perform work with international society. However, I entered graduate school and majored in economics because I wanted to acquire a field of expertise other than just foreign policy theory. Still, this was not enough for me, and I traveled to France after I turned 30. In France, I astonished to witness top students possessing a consciousness regarding leadership and making statements with scientific basis and philosophical connotations. In Japan, I had thought that I possessed strong individuality, but once I was in France I felt that I was no match for other students. From that point, I once again began to study with intensity.

What differences do you feel when comparing French universities and Japanese universities?

In France, there are general universities and grandes 辿coles, which are small, elite schools for the development of high-level students mainly in fields such as philosophy and engineering. Students at these grandes 辿coles constantly consider what they can do to have an effect on the world. For 1 year out of their 3 years of study, students search for their own theme of study by going to corporations, international organizations, or remote areas which people that do not normally visit. In the case of Japanese universities, I believe that students are too confined within the framework of the university and a system exists that prevents students from going outside of the university. Also, the emphasis is based on the acquirement of knowledge, and not much time is allocated to application of that knowledge. I think that this kind of education prevents growth even when the student possesses ability.

University students need time to search for what they should study

What does Waseda University require in order to become a university which is selected by students from throughout the world?

The idea of increasing the number of foreign exchange students who come to Japan is already outdated. In Europe, a partnership-type community has been started in which students acquire credits at universities in 3 or more different countries. An educational methodology is required that creates the constant sensation of a global network. The intelligence of Japan is already beginning to decline. Therefore, the first thing that should be done is to exchange the raising of issues from a variety of areas in the Asian region and to become an intellectual hub.

Waseda still has sufficient room to become international. How about creating a foreign policy school, or periodically holding global leader conferences?

What is the origin of the power which enables you to be active internationally?

I want to create a society which values the abilities and dignity of mankind. One motivation may be frustration towards the prejudice that I receive as a woman and as a Japanese person. Also, in my daily life, I receive energy from swimming, playing the piano and performing the tea ceremony. When the brain is relaxed, ideas arise one after another. My attitude is not to prioritize work but rather to spend a life of enjoying wisdom, and I believe that this way of thinking has a positive influence on my life.

Ms. Sawako Takeuchi
Visiting Professor at Kyoto University
Director of Nissan Leadership Program

Visiting Professor at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Engineering (from 2005). Graduated from the Waseda University School of Law in 1975. After working at the Institut de Sciences Math辿matiques et Economiques Appliqu辿es (ISMEA) in Paris, France, she served as Vice-President of the Graduate School of International Business at Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chauss辿es in Paris. Upon returning to Japan, she served as Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo Department of Civil Engineering and conducted MOT lectures at the University of Tokyo Graduate School. After supervising review of an urban development project in China for the World Bank, she assumed her current position of Chairperson for the World Bank Disaster Risk Management Committee. Serves as Ambassador at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and supervises the creation of economic foreign policy. Holds Doctorate Degrees in engineering and economics. Also serves as Director of the Nissan Leadership Program.