President Monte CASSIM has assumed office as the Chair of the Board and President of AIU

Picture of President Cassim

On June 1st, 2021, President Monte CASSIM has assumed office as the Chair of the Board and President of AIU. President Cassim has successively been appointed as the President of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Vice Chancellor of Ritsumeikan Trust, President of Shizenkan University, and Executive Trustee of Akita International University since 2014.

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, President Cassim delivered his address via Zoom. Here are excerpts from the address.

Shaping an Exciting Future for AIU

I am from Sri Lanka and, next year in 2022, it will be fifty years since I first came to Japan. I thought I would be in this country for two years and, well, see what has happened.

During this near half century of engagement with Japan and its people, first as a post-graduate student, then as a professional in industry, in an international organization, in Sri Lanka’s government and in academia, the experience has been most rewarding. My first visit to Akita was in 1975, when I was still studying in graduate school.

I was fortunate to have been acquainted closely with AIU’s first two Presidents, Professor Mineo Nakajima and Professor Norihiro Suzuki, both of whom were giants in fostering liberal arts education in Japan. AIU was the result of their lifelong commitment to internationalizing Japan’s higher education. Today, you can be proud of the university’s reputation, both nationally and internationally.

The key question that might be on your minds today is “What does he plan to do during his tenure as the third President and Chair of the Board?”

In his play, Julius Caesar, Shakespeare says “There is a tide in the affairs of men (and women too, I believe), which when taken at the flood, leads on to fortune”. What would this be for AIU? I see the tide as the flood of difficulties we face now under the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the flow of that current lie many hidden opportunities.

I would like to see AIU ride on the crest of these opportunities, much like an elegant and daring surfer, using the five C’s, which I pledge to respect during my tenure.

Chart of the

Chart of the “five C’s”

The first C is CONTINUITY.
I firmly believe that today is at the crossroads of yesterday and tomorrow – indeed, the past, the present and the future are linked through multiple pathways in a continuum of time. So, I would like to build upon the many legacies of AIU’s past two illustrious Presidents, with the help of all of you, to take this university to a position of strength and meet head-on the challenges of the future.

The second C is COLLABORATION.
Today, AIU has around 200 partner higher education institutions around the world. They give AIU students a unique insight through study abroad for a year, while AIU in turn accepts an equivalent number of inbound students from these partners.

Over the next several years, we must build on these relationships, deepen our engagement and strengthen our institutional research interactions with them. The young people who come to AIU from overseas and the AIU students here in Japan could work together to add new value to the local communities around AIU, in Akita and the Tohoku region, guided by academic mentors in Japan and overseas. I hope our students can have a similar experience when they study abroad.

This brings me to the third C, which is COMMUNITY.
Through AILA’s educational and investigative initiatives, AIU can nurture a community of scholars in Japan and overseas. It can, as indicated above, also add new value to Akita’s local community.

This sense of community can indeed be fostered not just within the prefecture but could be extended to the other prefectures in the Tohoku region – a vast region which still remains in the minds of many Japanese people outside it as the “oku no hoso michi”, “the narrow road in the back of beyond”, portrayed by the Edo poet, Matsuo Basho. The region’s cultural heritage, its festivals, crafts and theatrical traditions, are also a rich source of inspiration. We must archive more of these heritage assets.

COVID-19, despite the hardships, has strengthened our capacity to create and engage with cyber-communities and given our scholastic initiatives a new outreach. AILA’s commitment to communities, in Japan and overseas, needs to be defined more carefully over the coming years.

The fourth C is CREATIVITY.
I believe that forming creative research teams among faculty members and utilizing their individual and collective strengths can lead to the further enrichment of the graduate school. It will also seamlessly integrate AILA’s undergraduate programs with postgraduate professionalism nurtured in the spirit of AILA.

It is important to remember that creativity can never be contained within silos. It frees one’s mind, taking it across disciplines, countries, cultures and personal biases, bringing new insights and inventions. Creativity will also be called for to deal with the pressing challenges of a future that will bring untold opportunities as well as unforeseen threats. Digital transformation of our societies, the DX revolution inherent to Industry 4.0, is impending. The AI/IoT revolution will dissolve boundaries between man and machine. VR and AR, Virtual and Augmented Reality, will blur the distinction between what is illusionary and what is truly and tangibly real.

These considerations shaped AIU’s decision to introduce Global Connectivity as the third pillar of our pedagogy, complementing the Global Studies and Global Business streams in our undergraduate curriculum.

This brings me to the fifth and last C, CONVIVIALITY.
The pedagogical foundations at AIU, namely its liberal arts foundations, will be called upon to resolve ethical dilemmas, counter new forms of crime and to work out ways in which the human spirit can prevail. This will have to happen against the background of exponential transformation of human societies and our relationship with nature, brought about by the relentless advance of science and technology.

I believe that firm friendships are the antidote to the ailments that are likely to afflict human society in the coming years – the years when you, our students, will be mature professionals grappling with a variety of issues humankind has not experienced thus far. Conviviality will give us the strength to address these issues.

Our first priority at AIU is to keep you all safe and, yet, see how soon we can bring all of you into this campus and to facilitate your study abroad commitments. Despite the constraints that COVID-19 has necessitated, please remember to have fun, laugh and enjoy each other’s company, even if only in cyberspace at the moment for many of you. Since I may not be able to meet all students in person, given the current situation, when you do see me on campus, please do not hesitate to engage with me.

The Tohoku region and its people shaped me as a professional when I was much younger. Today, it is my honor to see how best I can repay this debt, having taken office at AIU.
As they say in Spanish, “vaya con dios”…”may the gods go with you”…my friends! Keep well and stay safe!

Click here to learn more about the new President.