President Kamata’s Address: Delivered at Spring 2013 Entrance Ceremony for Undergraduate Students

Tue, Apr 16, 2013

My heartfelt congratulations to you all on your entrance to Waseda University.

On behalf of Waseda University, may I also extend my warmest greetings and sincere congratulations to the families and acquaintances of this incoming freshman class who have gathered here today in celebration of this momentous occasion.

Today we welcome a total of as many as 9,820 new students to our 13 undergraduate schools of Waseda University.

Entrance ceremonies take place twice a year at Waseda University: in April and in September. Together with your 249 fellow freshmen who joined us last September, Waseda University now boasts more than 10,000 first-year undergraduate students.

Tokyo Senmon Gakko, the predecessor of Waseda University, opened its doors to an inaugural class of 78 students when it held the official inauguration ceremony right here at Waseda on October 21, 1882. Since then, despite some difficult periods of teetering on the edge of survival, the University has remarkably grown over the past 130 years and flourished into what it is today. This must owe, first of all, to the enthusiastic academic instruction constantly rendered by educators of the highest standard from around the nation, represented by such prominent individuals as Shoyo Tsubouchi, Soseki Natsume, Yakumo Koizumi and Ogai Mori, all of whom served on the faculty at Waseda University when it was still in its infancy. The second factor lies behind the University’s high standing which has steadily been established by our graduates as they keep making their mark in wide-ranging fields, from politics, economics, journalism, to arts and sports. Then again, these engaged and successful alumni—uniquely diverse, well-cultured individuals with an enterprising spirit— once hailed here from all corners of Japan and the world, seeking in-depth expertise and a broad education. They also attained rich human qualities cultivated through vigorous instruction and unwavering diligence of their own.

Some distinctive features common to our graduates are said to be the spirit that puts themselves “out of power” in society, the enterprising spirit, and the willingness to self-sacrifice for the sake of others. We might as well conclude that these are qualities built upon the University’s three founding principles: (a) the “Independence of Learning,” a dedication to free and creative scientific inquiry for the advancement of civilization; (b) the “Practical Utilization of Knowledge,” the practical application of knowledge for the public good; and (c) the “Creation of Good Citizenship” by contributing to the welfare of the state through educational opportunities which respect individuality and which cultivates leaders who will be active throughout the globe. As for the spirit of the “Independence of Learning,” let me quote Azusa Ono, the great philosopher and statesman of the early Meiji Period, as saying:

Educator Ono, in whom Shigenobu Okuma put his utmost trust and is dubbed here at Waseda the “Mother of Foundation,” underscored the significance of this principle in that it is not simply to direct one to stay aloof from the authorities but that it is to serve as the ground for nurturing citizens imbued with the independent spirit.

Founder Shigenobu Okuma was fully aware of people’s chronic nature and tendency to utilize the outcomes of learning exclusively for the interests of their own, or their party or clique. The “Creation of Good Citizenship” encourages us to disown this idea. Okuma maintained the importance of nurturing aspiring individuals who thrive to exploit their own learning to benefit the world at large. He cited it to be the most meaningful aspect of education provided at Waseda University.

I hold it to be true that the very purpose of a university goes beyond the mere transmission of knowledge; it must afford each and every individual an opportunity to acquire basic skills and principles with which to reflect on one’s own potential, determine the path in which one should follow, and realize it over his or her lifetime.

Having providing students with an academically and culturally stimulating environment, Waseda University is one university that has worked hard to fulfill its mission held as a higher education institution. Here at Waseda, the most advanced research and education of the highest standard are available. Also, the students can seek to enhance their individuality through extracurricular activities. In November last year, the Executive Board set out on a mid- to long-term development plan, “Waseda Vision 150,” which places the idea of “cultivating global leaders with a broad range of exceptional qualities and the power of insight” as one of its most important pillars underpinning this comprehensive plan. We are committed to becoming an Asia’s leading university while expanding our education and research systems.

The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 and the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant it precipitated drove home to us all the harsh reality surrounding us. We have learned the hard way that science and technology had limitations and our government was apparently dysfunctional. These disastrous events also convinced us of the fate of our energy-extravagant lifestyle that we had taken for granted. We are being urged to overcome these problems and build a society that is safe and secure, as we continue to confront perennial global issues such as global warming, environmental contamination expanding beyond national borders, energy issues, and regional conflicts.

These are the marked challenges your generation is bound to face. And each one of you is expected to start developing abilities to tackle the very essence of these issues with a keen sense of insight cultivated through a broad education and pursued expertise in your selected academic field. You will also need to grow understanding of diverse cultures and values, think on your own, and put your ideas to practice in the solving of these problems.

With a view to catering to such needs, Waseda University instituted the Global Education Center that has begun to operate just this month of April. This new initiative is aimed at enhancing the Fundamental Education Programs, which have already been in practice at Waseda, and exploring cross-disciplinary liberal arts education. Specifically, the focus will be on the practical foreign language education in which one native speaker of a certain language provides instruction to four students, the courses to improve academic and technical writing skills, and the development of IT-related general knowledge or mathematical and logical thinking required even for those in liberal arts.

Shifting the focus of our daily learning from a one-way lecture style to one that encourages an interactive dialogue among participants based on seminars is also underway. Our ongoing efforts to expand “hands-on” learning opportunities such as internships, field work, or volunteer activities will help you expose yourself to more of real society and the problems it holds. I believe you will then be able to take initiatives in developing skills to conduct research by utilizing necessary references, present specific solutions to such problems, and refine them through discussions.

Now let me speak to you about our activities to step up Waseda’s globalization. The “English-based Degree Programs” are currently available in our six undergraduate and eleven graduate schools. We have embarked on the partial implementation of a quarter system while maintaining a year-round semester system. We admit students in both April and September. We offer a variety of study abroad programs that are designed to meet the needs and expectations of our students. In all such endeavors, we proudly wear the badge of the university with the nation’s largest international student body as well as the biggest number of outgoing students studying abroad. Furthermore, in April 2014, we are scheduled to open an international student dormitory which houses 900 student residents. It is our hope that the emergence of this new facility will enhance cross-border interactions on campus.

Waseda University keeps taking these measures in response to the needs of today’s society as well as of a variety of students. Be reminded, however, that a university is not a place to simply instill knowledge into students; it is a place where learning takes on a life of its own. As such, we leave it up to each one of you whether or not to take advantage of a wide range of programs that I have talked about today, or a wealth of resources in academics and arts and sports that the University has to offer.

Now that you have successfully completed your entrance exams, I imagine some of you are very content that you have entered into the school of your choice and might want to enjoy the fresh air and freedom to let loose for a while. Or, others may be feeling unmotivated, having failed to get yourself into your first choice of school. Whichever the case, remember that undergoing college entrance exams is nothing more than one of countless ordeals in your life. Consider today, this moment, to be the very beginning of your journey to learning in the real sense of the term.

Your undergraduate days shall represent the most important, and perhaps the last, chunk of period in your life that allows you to try and find a path to follow in your life with a liberated mind and foam values that are unique to you. You might also make friends of a lifetime and built important future contacts during this period. But this precious time is also known to pass you by before you know it. So I encourage you to exert maximum effort, and I urge you to start right this moment, so that you can look back in four years’ time and declare that your four years here were the most fruitful time of your life.

Ponder and elaborate on the philosophy of the founding spirit depicted in the mission of Waseda University. Have faith in yourselves, give as many things as possible a brave try, and immerse yourselves in a wide range of educational opportunities to nurture rich qualities as human beings. Founder Shigenobu Okuma also left us with words of wisdom and guidance that stress the importance of avid learning when it comes to making great strides. It is my earnest wish that you will grow in the near future to stand ahead of the pack of those devoted to the world peace and human happiness.

Once again, congratulations and welcome to Waseda University. I wish all of you the best of luck in your wonderful journey of learning and discovery right here at Waseda University.

Kaoru Kamata

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