WASEDA ONLINE

RSS

The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Campus Now > SPECIAL REPORT : Spring Verdure Issue (May. 2013)

Campus Now

Spring Verdure Issue (May. 2013)

SPECIAL REPORT

Waseda Vision 150 Student Competition 2012

Waseda’s future as conceived by students

Students play a leading role at our university. As such, their active participation in education and research is viewed as extremely important for achieving “Waseda Vision 150,” the mid- to long-term plan of Waseda University. At Waseda Vision 150 Student Competition 2012, students gave competition-style presentations for their own visions of “Waseda’s future.” The competition was jointly held with the Waseda University Alumni Association and sponsored by the Waseda University Digital Campus Consortium.

This inaugural competition featured participation by 39 teams, 7 of which advanced to the finals. This article follows each team’s experience during the finals held at the Ono Memorial Auditorium on March 18th, and conveys Waseda University’s expectations towards students.

*Information on “Waseda Vision 150”: http://www.waseda.jp/keiei/vision150/

Interview

A university where students, faculty and staff share ideas to create a chemical reaction

We discussed the ideas contained in “Waseda Vision 150” and the meaning of student participation with Vice-President Hashimoto, who served as head of the judging panel for the competition.

Students are partners who support and expand our university

Shuji Hashimoto,
Vice-President, Professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering

――Please discuss the ideas contained in “Waseda Vision 150.”

“Waseda Vision 150” shows the ideal form of Waseda University upon reaching our 150th anniversary in 20 years. As an organization grows larger, it is difficult for all parties to agree on a common goal. Therefore, we established this vision to unify all parties as we move forward to a point 20 years in the future—a point in time which is close but remote. The vision sets goals for Waseda students, Waseda research, graduates and university systems in 20 years.

Actually, mankind’s dream hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years. For example, flying in the skies and landing on the moon, or realizing a free and equal society—all of these dreams have withstood the test of time. However, many of mankind’s long-held dreams are now being realized. This has decreased the gap between dreams and reality (see diagram). Without a sizable gap between dreams and reality, people and society lose energy and stagnate without a clear course of action. In order to escape from such stagnation, it is necessary to set even loftier dreams. Universities have taught methods for bringing reality closer to our dreams. From today, we must consider how to form new dreams for the next 100 to 200 years. Dreams for the next generation will be born from a chemical reaction caused by the free sharing of ideas among a variety of people at universities. It is the role of universities to show the path which mankind should follow and the form of society in the future. This is the meaning of a university’s existence. Furthermore, it is vital for universities to cultivate professionals who will realize mankind’s dreams.

――Please discuss the position of students in “Waseda Vision 150.”

For private universities, students are important “customers.” However, they also play a leading role in supporting and expanding our university. I want more students to recognize this role. Recently, I feel that students are in a different position than that of a leading role at university. When I was a student about 40 years ago, students fulfilled the main role at university. If a representative of the class asked the professor to let students debate a certain topic and move the scheduled lesson to another day, the professor would accept such requests. I am not saying that such an atmosphere would be the best for universities today. Still, at that period in time, universities had a different type of energy than today. That energy was created by the free behavior of students. Of course, students must take responsibility and avoid bias toward one specific way of thinking. Universities are a spring where diverse opinions gush forth from various places. In this analogy, students are the essential spring water.

Students have the power to change

――Please give your impression of the recent competition.

The recent competition was an outstanding opportunity for students to give their opinions to our university. Upon hearing students’ presentations, I felt that students are a reliable partner for expanding Waseda University. Students thoroughly understand the intent of “Waseda Vision 150.” All of their proposals were outstanding and I am pleased at how students actively stated their opinions. At the same time, I felt that many of the ideas stopped within a preconceived framework. Although it is important to reform existing aspects, it is also vital to jump forward to completely new areas through innovation. Young people are the spring for making that big jump forward. It would have been an even greater stimulation if some of the proposals caused our university to feel more surprise and admiration.

――Can our university and society change through the thoughts and actions of students?

Everyone has the “ability to change” and chance. However, today’s society takes action based on the decisions of a very small minority. All other people are used to following along with such action. In such a situation, only someone at the top of society is capable of enacting change. No matter how small, I want students to realize that they are capable of bringing about change by stating their opinions and taking action. Some of the proposals made by students at the competition are already being incorporated into projects and being implemented. I hope that students feel successful in how their ideas have taken form. I believe that a better university and society can be achieved if more opinions are generated by students.

As an aside, the mathematician and physicist Neumann formulated the theory of “creating a complete system from incomplete parts.” When applying this theory to society in an easy-to-understand example, individual human beings are incomplete and sometimes make incorrect judgments. However, when incomplete human beings gather together, each person makes subjective judgments and they approach a complete answer as a whole. Although society and universities are a congregation of incomplete human beings, they can become an complete existence. In this respect, I hope to cultivate students who think independently and find answers by exchanging opinions with many people.

A university where students can perform with energy

――What do you think of the form being pursued by Waseda University in the future?

Upon entering the Meiji Period, feudal schools expanded their perspective from narrow “feudal domains” to “Japan” as a whole. Afterwards, such feudal schools became universities and the former system of junior high schools which supported education in Japan. In the same way, Japanese universities today must expand their perspective to the entire world. Now is the time for such change. The meaning of Waseda University’s existence must be recognized throughout both Japan and the world. For that purpose, our university must constantly focus on the future and continue to evolve. There is a high possibility that private universities can achieve such change. This is apparent when considering how private schools led feudal schools in expanding beyond the regional range at the end of the shogunate.

As a first step, I want to create opportunities for students to experience success through their independent action. By doing so, more and more students will feel happiness from contribution to people and society. This will create a path for alumni to be active throughout the world. It is also important to disclose to society the type of education conducted and the type of debates held within universities. I want people throughout the world to see the rapid growth of outstanding students at Waseda University. If classes are viewed from throughout the world, faculty, staff and students will put even more effort into their academics.

――Please discuss your aspirations for the future.

To universities, students are a treasure which has been entrusted by families and society. I feel happy that such outstanding students gather at Waseda University and I feel the weight of our responsibility in cultivating such students in professionals needed by society. Outstanding professionals are “cultivated,” not “made.” Accordingly, our university must provide students with opportunities to act from their own initiative.

“What is a university? What is the ideal form of a university?”—When I was a university student, I sometimes asked such questions to my professors. However, I feel that no university has been able to provide an answer. Now that I am in the position to answer this fundamental question, I want to find a response. The basis for this answer lies in a university where students gather from throughout the world and take action with great vitality, as well as faculty and staff who openly accept the opinions of students.