Close-up: An interview with Frances Rosenbluth, Damon Wells Professor of Political Science at Yale University

*Note: This is a translated article. To view the original article interviewed and written in Japanese, click here. In case of discrepancy between the two, the Japanese version shall prevail. 

For the first time at Waseda University, we have an executive board member from an overseas institution. Professor Frances McCall Rosenbluth is not only the current Vice-President for International Affairs (U.S.) at Waseda, but also a distinguished professor, specifically the Damon Wells Professor of Political Science, at Yale University. During one of her trips to Waseda from the U.S., the Office of Information & Public Relations had the chance to interview her to find out more about her role at Waseda and hopes for the University.

Connections with Japan

Could you first tell us more about your relationship with Japan?

Professor Rosenbluth

Because of my parents’ work, I was born in Osaka and lived in Gifu prefecture until I was five. Even after leaving Japan, I would come back to Japan during summer vacations and visit the international village at Lake Nojiri in Nagano prefecture, where I made many friends. Additionally, I’ve also spent some time studying in Japan at Kansai Gaidai University and the University of Tokyo during my university years. Even though I live in the states, I still like coming to Japan.

Tell us more about your specialization and research areas

Professor Rosenbluth giving an invited lecture at Waseda in 2015.

Professor Rosenbluth

Besides living in Japan, I’ve also lived in Taiwan. When I was in Taiwan, I had doubts about the stance of the U.S. on issues concerning China and Taiwan. As I wanted to learn more about relations between countries, I decided to study international politics at university. As I pursued my undergraduate degree, I realized it is impossible to fully comprehend international politics without first knowing how nations make policies. As such, I decided to further my studies in political science particularly Japanese politics because I have also felt a close connection with Japan. From medieval period to contemporary period, I’m basically interested in everything concerning Japanese politics. In fact, the theme of my doctoral dissertation revolves around financial deregulation in Japanese political science.

Connections with Waseda

How did you come to know about Waseda and what is your impression of the University?

Professor Rosenbluth

I feel connected to Waseda University because of three people. The first person is Professor Masaru Kono from the Faculty of Political Science and Economics at Waseda. Both of us specialize in Japanese politics and together, we have co-written journal articles and research papers. The second important person is Kanichi Asakawa. Born in 1873, Asakawa graduated from Waseda University, then called Tokyo Senmon Gakko, as the top student of his cohort. After which, he went to the U.S. to first study at Dartmouth College and then finally attained his Ph.D. in History at Yale University. After completing his doctoral degree, he became a professor at Yale, the first ever Japanese person to do so in the history of Yale. The third and last person is none other than President Aiji Tanaka, who I first knew when I was studying at the University of Tokyo. Even after my overseas studies in Tokyo, we kept in contact with each other. I have great respect for him as a researcher in the field of political science, especially when he became the president of the International Political Science Association (IPSA) in 2014.

Professor Rosenbluth

I think Waseda does not only have a great team of faculty members, but also exceptional student body as well. Yale used to take in many international students from Waseda University. Under my supervision at Yale, I’ve seen many Waseda students who are proactive and can converse in English. As such, even before I became an executive member at Waseda, I’ve known how great Waseda University was.

How were you offered a position at Waseda? And what would you like to achieve by being an executive member here?

Professor Rosenbluth

I received a call from President Tanaka before he became president and that was how I was offered a position. I feel that he has strong desire and determination to transform Waseda into an even more globally recognized university by utilizing his overseas experiences. Under his leadership, he has also established many educational and research centers at Waseda. Seeing his goals for Waseda and how the University has had a long and good relationship with Yale, I wanted to show my support and do what I can to help him attain his goals.

Professor Rosenbluth

Waseda University is no doubt a well-known and prestigious university in Japan, but there is still much work to be done on the global stage. My job is to help Waseda achieve better global recognition and help it reach out to the world. For example, I travel to Waseda from the U.S. every month to attend executive board meetings where we discuss how to make Waseda better. When researchers and faculty members from Waseda come to the states, I help to bridge them with the U.S. correspondents. I try my best to assist by making full use of my experiences and connections in the states.

An essential skill not replaceable by machines

Do you have any message or advice for students?

Professor Rosenbluth

There are three important steps in the process of gaining profound knowledge and comprehending a problem. First you have to “investigate” by doing necessary research. Next, you have to “analyze” them to understanding why such problem or phenomenon takes place. Lastly, and most importantly, you need to be able to “judge” or “interpret” these results from various perspectives. This is one very important skill I wish students could develop. No matter how machines or AIs develop, this is one significant skill that we human can develop that would not be replaced by them.

What are you hopes for Waseda University?

Professor Rosenbluth

Waseda University is a university that contributes to various research fields, such as the arts, social science and engineering. If you could build strong relationships with people on and off campuses and attain profound knowledge in your specialization, you should naturally become someone who can contribute on the world stage. I hope Waseda University will continue be such a university and continue to produce great global leaders.

Frances McCall Rosenbluth

Vice-President for International Affairs (U.S.) at Waseda University and Damon Wells Professor of Political Science at Yale University. After completing her undergraduate studies with highest distinction at the University of Virginia, Professor Rosenbluth obtained her Master’s and doctoral degrees at Columbia University. Before becoming a professor at Yale, she has also taught in UCSD and UCLA. By expertise, she is a comparative political economist and her areas of special interests include politics and political economy of Japan, the political economy of gender, war and politics and party competition.

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