What Does Applied International Liberal Arts (AILA) Aim to Be?
The Significance of Liberal Arts
One of the advantages of specialization is having a deep understanding of
and strong skills in a particular field. However, the problems we face in
the real world are complex—most of them cannot be solved from the
perspective of a particular field alone. Say, for example, that a company
has decided to simplify its product packaging as a measure to combat
global warming. What perspectives would be necessary? First, they must
verify whether the materials and packaging methods used for alternative
packaging can help to reduce CO2
emissions that cause global warming. They must also take measures to
ensure that the simplified packaging is strong enough to prevent the
products from being damaged. Finally, they must develop an appropriate
public relations strategy so that the initiative is not perceived as a
mere cost-saving measure, damaging the company’s image. And since changing
the packaging method may lead to the loss of jobs by those who had been
engaged in the work, legal and ethical considerations of such matters will
also be necessary. As you can see, in society today, it is becoming
increasingly difficult to solve problems with just a single area of
At times, the study of liberal arts is used in the context of simply acquiring broad-ranging knowledge. Because of this impression of liberal arts, there was a time when it was mistakenly understood to mean the study of a mishmash of subjects from various fields. The significance of a liberal arts education is that it enables students to cultivate the ability to bridge various academic disciplines—this is the original meaning of liberal arts.
From Liberal Arts Education to International Liberal Arts Education
The 21st century has seen dramatic changes on all fronts, even when compared to any previous period in history. There are multiple factors at play, but the main ones are the rapid development of information technologies, as exemplified by the internet, and climate change on a global scale. In this information society, incidents, accidents, disasters, and conflicts around the world have come to have an instantaneous impact on Japan. As for accelerated climate change, the issue clearly cannot be solved by the efforts of any single country. The international community’s efforts to combat climate change can be characterized as a quiet battle in which countries and regions around the world seek a middle ground while accounting for their own interests and losses. The recent speed of evolution in our global society has made it necessary for liberal arts to further broaden its horizons as well. In step with these global trends, Akita International University has been developing its own unique style of liberal arts education called “International Liberal Arts Education” since the school’s opening in 2004.
Now to Applied International Liberal Arts Education
Akita International University’s mission is to foster world-class leaders. We define global leaders as people with outstanding intelligence and character, and who serve global society with a sense of responsibility and passion. The university has introduced AILA as the structure to achieve this mission, and we are taking International Liberal Arts Education a step further by strengthening it through the following two points:
- We will systemize the curriculum to more effectively develop students’ ability to fully utilize diverse “drawers of knowledge,” to link and apply them to each other, and to search for optimal solutions; in other words, to enhance their capacity for “integrated knowledge.”
- In order to apply integrated knowledge in the real world, students must have the ability to convey information that resonates with people with different perspectives and positions, as well as the kind of character that will gain people’s trust and consensus. We offer the opportunity and environment for students to enhance their human potential by overcoming various challenges, while gaining experience as they adapt to society.
The Applied International Liberal Arts Framework
The two pillars of the AILA framework are “Reinforcing Integrated
Knowledge” and “Enhancing Human Potential.” First, let us address efforts
to reinforce integrated knowledge. In AILA 1, students master the four
basic English language skills and strengthen their foundation in reading
and understanding texts, weaving their own thoughts into writing, and
making effective presentations. In AILA 2, students choose whether to
pursue a program in Global Business, Global Studies, or Global
Connectivity, while developing an awareness of how subjects are
interlinked through the process of taking Core Liberal Arts Courses. This
choice determines your axis of learning, and it does not mean that you
will be restricted to a particular field of specialization. Each program
has its own Guide to Academic Disciplines, called a “cluster.” It is
possible to select courses in other program clusters centered on your
chosen program, and you will be trained in interdisciplinary learning and
thinking based on a theme of your interest. In AILA 3, students will
integrate the knowledge and experience gained during the rigorous study
abroad program with their studies at AIU. They will also form deeper ideas
for their research papers (i.e., graduation thesis). In AILA 4, students
will submit research papers as the culmination of their research theme.
Efforts to enhance human potential begin at matriculation as students are exposed to different cultures in a variety of settings, including the mandatory dormitories, student apartments, and classrooms that are full of diversity. As you become more involved in extracurricular activities and interactions with the community, you may find yourself struggling over the relationship between yourself and society. The time you spend away from your friends and family during the study abroad period will also give you a chance to calmly reflect on yourself. By experiencing repeated setbacks and seeing yourself in relation to others, overcoming difficulties, and confronting the rigors and contradictions of society, you will establish self-esteem, ethics, autonomy, and a higher sense of responsibility.
Academic Environment for Fostering Global Leaders
How do we develop the ability to integrate and apply our knowledge in practice? How do we develop our human potential? What is needed are places for practice. Almost all Advanced Liberal Arts Courses adopt AILA Activities and Projects to incorporate practical experience outside of classroom learning. Moreover, AIU has a variety of opportunities for practical application, including the AIU Design LAB, where students collaborate with local companies to solve business issues or promote innovation, the International Project-Based Learning (PBL) programs with overseas partner universities, student-and-faculty collaborative research initiatives, long-term internships at companies and organizations, community service programs inside and outside of Japan, and more. The key to greater growth lies in how autonomously and voraciously you can take what you need from these programs. Akita International University’s unique education system, extensive extracurricular activities, community exchanges, and multicultural campus are all a part of the university’s learning environment, and this environment is what makes AILA into a reality.
Three Domains: GB, GS, and GC
Global Business Program
Globalization in every aspect of our lives is making business activities ever more complex and diverse. In this era of rapid change and uncertainty, businesses must devise effective strategies based on accurate determination of both local and global needs to provide sustainable goods and services to society. This program is designed to equip students with creativity, critical mindset, and global perspectives as prospective leaders in such an environment through broad interdisciplinary studies rooted in business and economics.
Global Studies Program
The rapid flow of people, goods, and money has made the post-Cold War era increasingly complex. Issues such as the reorganization of the European Union, the growing number of refugees, the rise of protectionism, and environmental issues like climate change are all complex global problems that we human beings are experiencing for the first time. This program, from the perspectives of Global Society, Political Science and International Relations, and Sustainability Studies, aims to provide students with the broad knowledge, cultural sensitivity, and analytic skills necessary to face the challenges in this globalized world.
Global Connectivity Program
Throughout recorded history, humans have developed language as a means of communication and have built a large, complex society while increasing the number of interactions and creating diverse cultures. Meanwhile, technology is playing an ever more significant role in our lives, as seen in our reliance on the internet. The increasing applications of artificial intelligence are even changing our society and the way we live. This program aims to explore both humanities, as represented by studies of humans, culture, and communication, and the latest developments in technology, marked by the studies regarding the rise of artificial/extended intelligence, on common ground. By learning the connectivity of both fields of human wisdom, students will develop a better grasp of the implications of novel technologies on the future of humanity and its philosophical and social value.