Oct 29, 2009
When questioned by his students and colleagues as to why the international university had to be located in Beppu City, Oita Prefecture, a rural area enclosed by mountains and ocean on the island of Kyushu—the most southwestern of the four main islands of Japan—difficult to associate with the concept of “internationalization,” Dr. Monte Cassim,
President of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) in Japan, made his first pledge, responding then with conviction that, “I will bring the world to the feet of our students.” He did indeed: world-renowned people including Nobel Prize laureates, heads of state, and captains of industries were invited to provide exemplary speeches to his students. And this time, he has brought another world to them—the world of Sylff.
The Nippon Foundation has presented a Sylff endowment to APU, making it the 69th Sylff institution and the third Japanese university, following Keio and Waseda universities. The award ceremony took place on October 19, 2009, on the APU campus.
Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation—the donor of the Sylff endowment—welcomed APU to the Sylff network. The tone of his speech was gentle but he delivered a strong message that APU and its students are expected to make great efforts to ensure the success of the Sylff Program:
“What we need are people with broad perspectives who are able to transcend borders and specialties and grasp complex global issues from a variety of perspectives; people who can understand, respect, and work with others from different cultures, different value systems, and different traditions; people with a flexible outlook……..In the 21st century, the world needs such human resources even more.”
There are a number of institutions of higher education, which are well recognized for the quality of their education. Among these institutions, Sasakawa has foreseen the superior position of APU in not only its curriculum and career path for students but also its fundamental philosophy, which has touched his mission-oriented mind.
Assured of the strength of APU, on behalf of the Tokyo Foundation—the administrative organization of the Sylff Program—Ms. Akiko Matsunobu, executive director for Sylff explained to the audience at the ceremony that “there are five reasons why APU was selected for a Sylff endowment.” Matsunobu referred to the possibilities of APU using Sylff to enlarge their global network and disseminate Japanese perspectives to the world; making Sylff an instrument for APU to make the leap to the next decade;
and the opportunities that Sylff can offer as a new community for APU students. The most important reason above all, according to Matsunobu, is that “the Sylff Program and APU share the same vision and mission.” APU was founded with the notion that many problems of current society including climate change, energy, water, health, and disease cannot be resolved without involvement of the Asia-Pacific region; the region has become important to the world for the first time since the 20th century. Therefore, the participation of APU in the Sylff network is timely because “APU will add Japanese and Asian values to the Sylff network,” said Matsunobu.
The roles of the Asia-Pacific region are not self-centered or power-driven. During the ceremony, Cassim mentioned that, “Peace and prosperity for the Asia-Pacific region must mean peace and prosperity for all people.” In this sense Sylff will help APU achieve this goal by nurturing talented graduate students to become the leaders of tomorrow who shall contribute to peace and prosperity for humankind—the end objective highly desired by Sylff as well.
It is worth noting that when the institution was established in 2000, APU set up a goal to achieve the “three 5’s”. These are to: 1) make Japanese and international student ratio 5-5; and 2) make Japanese and international faculty ratio 5-5; and 3) recruit students from more than 50 countries;. APU has achieved the last two targets and is close to achieving the first goal. There is no other university in Japan that is as internationalized as APU. APU’s strength as an internationalized university will be instrumental in invigorating the Sylff network; it is expected that voices, opinions and inputs from the university in Japan will be welcomed in the Sylff community.
Yet many challenges face APU as global problems become even more and more serious and complex. We hope to see the Sylff fellows at APU tackling and overcoming such problems in the near future.