What is essential for students to be competent global players?
“In order to make our presence in global society, it’s important to be able to demonstrate our specialized fields as our backgrounds,” said Yoshiaki Terumichi, a professor of the Faculty of Science and Technology at Sophia University. “Today, global issues are discussed by participants from various fields. For example, I’m specialized in engineering and applied science. In delivering opinions, negotiating and persuading, it’s necessary to clarify the backgrounds of what we are saying,” Terumichi emphasized. “This is one of the keys to building trusting relationships with our counterparts.”
However, focusing on specialized fields is not enough.
“It’s also necessary to be able to communicate with people in the international arena with sufficient linguistic abilities and an understanding of different cultures and religions, things that had not been included in the traditional curriculum of each faculty,” said Terumichi. The professor has been working toward the globalization of Sophia University for years as executive director for global academic affairs and deputy director of the Human Resources Center for International Cooperation.
“The Global 30 Project launched in 2009 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) that aimed to establish a university network for internationalization was a turning point for Japanese universities to take a serious approach to globalization for their survival,” Terumichi pointed out. “Sophia was selected as one of the core 13 universities across Japan for leading these efforts. Looking back, however, Sophia has always pursued international education since our foundation in 1913 by the Society of Jesus.”
In 2012, the university established the Center for Language Education and Research (CLER) and the Center for Global Discovery (CGD). The two have played central roles in global education at Sophia University in line with MEXT measures such as the Top Global University Project funding program that began in 2014.
The CGD designs liberal arts education for the whole university, offering subjects and programs for four years according to each student’s grade and individual needs.
“It’s not sufficient for us to respond to the current global society. We need to develop students’ abilities to look into the future of themselves and society,” Terumichi said. “In this sense, the traditional liberal arts education is based on systematized discipline from the past achievements. What we need now is something different.”
“How we can combine such new liberal arts with specialized professional education is our chance to show our skills in university education in the future,” Terumichi said.
Additionally, the university established the Faculty of Global Studies (FGS) in April 2014. The idea behind the FGS concept is to integrate the international relations that take a panoramic perspective of the whole world with regional research that pays close attention to the people’s lives in each region, with particular focus on Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
“This is a new approach to provide a curriculum to study both global perspectives and local points of view for students to tackle global issues,” Terumichi said. FGS students could major in international mechanisms in the Middle East or in the African economy from the viewpoint of international cooperation, for example.
The reason the FGS focuses on Asia, the Middle East and Africa is that the development of these three areas will have particularly large impacts on the future global society, according to Terumichi. “Also, in combination with our Faculty of Foreign Studies, we are able to cover the whole world, a strength of Sophia University,” Terumichi explained.
As part of the CGD’s many programs, the recent multilateral exchange program SAIMS (Sophia-ASEAN International Mobility for Students) accepts 25 students from ASEAN countries to the university, while sending 37 Japanese students to seven universities in four countries in the area.
The CGD is also working on building partnerships with universities in African countries, including Benin, where 14 students are scheduled to go in February.
“The program provides students with opportunities to experience Africa firsthand without any trace of Japanese companies so that they can feel their current standpoint, look into the future and think about where the global society should go, while learning from Africa as Japan’s partner,” Terumichi explained.
Additionally, steps are being taken to establish partnerships with universities in the Middle East.
While about 30 percent of Sophia’s foreign students are from Europe and North America and the majority of Japanese students’ study destinations are also in these areas, the university is working to further globalize its campus through such efforts as opening a halal cafeteria and creating a space for prayer.
Among the university’s efforts, its collaboration with the U.N. is particularly noteworthy.
The CGD offers programs to participate in the U.N. Youth Volunteers and internships in U.N. agencies, as well as opportunities to learn about U.N. diplomacy from relevant experts. In 2015, two students from Sophia were accepted as U.N. Youth Volunteers, with one sent to Timor-Leste and the other to Sri Lanka.
“While the gateway is extremely narrow, the applicant students are highly motivated,” Terumichi said. “They often give feedback to us voluntarily reporting what they learned. It’s impressive to see that they come to understand how to position their respective majors in society. Through their experience in the local area, they understand the significance of studying their specialized fields now and what to do next.”
The U.N. is a biggest arena of international cooperation at the highest level so far.
“We have alumni who work for the U.N. and its agencies, and there are many students who seek jobs in the fields of international cooperation, which embodies our university’s mission: Men and Women, For Others, With Others,” Terumichi said.
“On one hand, our collaboration with the U.N. allows students to learn how the global society is actually moving forward and to get concrete information about their steps toward a future job,” Terumichi said.
“On the other hand, it’s useful for us educators to learn about what kind of education is expected from the international society through dialogues with U.N. people.”
As a comprehensive university, it is crucial to focus on research and development in each field. However, another big mission of a university is to cultivate human resources for the future.
“I think what is required for the globalization of universities in recent years embodies this mission,” said Terumichi, who will take over as president of Sophia University in April. “Our mission remains the same.”
As it is called “the age of uncertainty,” it is not easy to foresee how the world will change over the next 20 years.
“From the viewpoint of cultivating future human resources, however, we need to question anew what kinds of skills, liberal arts and specialized education will be needed in the next 20 years,” Terumichi said. “We need to not only question ourselves, but also have open dialogues with industries and international society to develop competent global players from Japan.”
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