Applied International Liberal Arts (AILA)
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 expertise.
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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.

“AILA” is a registered trademark of Akita International University.