On May 31st, 2021, President Norihiko Suzuki retired from his position upon the expiration of his term in office. President Suzuki has served as the president and chair of the board of Akita International University for eight years since June 2013.
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, President Suzuki delivered his farewell address via Zoom. Here are excerpts from his address.
Address from the President
It was in the spring of 2013 that I was approached to assume the position of President of Akita International University, following the sudden death of our first President, Dr. Mineo Nakajima, whom I had known for many years. I made up my mind that the development of AIU is an important project that will affect the development of the whole Japanese education, and thereafter took office in June 2013.
As soon as I took office, AIU applied for the government's Top Global University Initiative. Thirty-seven universities from all over Japan were selected, including our university. Through the SGU project, we have developed our academic and living environment with an awareness of the global trend "from Teaching to Learning". All these efforts were a process for AIU to become a "quality" university that is recognized worldwide.
In particular, in the development of the academic and living environments, we have tried to reflect the many voices of students that we hear daily from faculty members, administration, and other channels, and I also have good memories of dialogue meetings with students and parents' meetings. Some of the things we have changed to reflect the students’ voices: the LDIC is now open until 2:00 a.m., the Cross Lounge in the library building is now open for conversations, and the Student Hall and the Center for Student Initiatives (Building I) is now open 24 hours a day. We have also increased the number of menu items in the cafeteria, introduced health-conscious menu items, installed refrigerators and hot carpets in the dormitories, and increased nighttime patrols and lighting. In addition, we are on track to rebuild the aging University Village and renovate Komachi Hall. I believe that the growth of this university, ranging from small to large points, has been the realization of the voices and opinions of the students, faculty and staff members.
I am also very grateful to the local community and alumni association. AIU has been able to conduct more than 200 community outreach programs every year because of the generous support of the local community. Moreover, the AIU Supporters Club, the local chambers of commerce and industry, the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, the local municipalities in the prefecture, and those who have supported the AIU Kanto-kai are just a few of the many people we must remember to thank. When the Alumni Association held its first Reunion in 2019, the venue was full of alumni, showing their passionate AIU Spirit and even expressing that they would do anything for AIU. Even today, these graduates are invaluable members of the AIU Community who continue to support the Pipe Committee, job-hunting activities, and other activities for their younger colleagues.
Even during my eight years at AIU, it may seemed to have went well, but we had some difficulties. What do you think is necessary in such times? I believe that it is dialogue with yourself. You have to think through what you want, what you believe, and what you think is worthwhile. However, talking to yourself does not mean listening only to what you want. We must always be aware of our place in society and have a dialogue with society at the same time too. Even when you are troubled, I would like you to have the ambition to "do something for others someday and somewhere," instead of prioritizing the "for me here and now" way of living.
We should be proud of the fact that our university, a small public university with a short history, is rated very high in the Japanese university rankings published by the Times Higher Education, UK. What I am most proud of is that we are ranked first in the pillar of Student Engagement. In another expression, it is the degree of subjective engagement with learning. Moreover, it is an art form that encompasses all of the motivations, attitudes, and activities of students that emerge from the efforts of faculty and staff and their interactions with their peers, and I believe that AIU is the best environment in Japan to foster these qualities.
As I leave AIU, I would like to leave you with two things that I believe will be useful in motivating you to learn. The first is the new curriculum that was introduced this year, which includes sustainability, science and technology, as well as a more structured approach to learning. I expect that the new curriculum will enable students to learn in a more interdisciplinary manner and feel the need to integrate various kinds of "knowledge" and the joy of integrating "knowledge". The other is the "Applied International Liberal Arts Education" that will be introduced in conjunction with the new curriculum. This is a method that aims to encourage students to grow both intellectually and personally by increasing opportunities to apply their "knowledge" and their "whole personality" by creating situations in which they would be required to integrate their "knowledge" in individual classes, as well as situations in which they would need to go off campus to face and think deeply about real-world issues. When I first came to AIU, I was impressed by the positive attitude and altruistic spirit of the students, and I believe that by incorporating these characteristics of AIU students into our educational system and developing them further, we will be able to make even greater progress as a university.
Next month, we will welcome the new Chair of the Board and President, Prof. Monte CASSIM. It is said that the future is based on the extension of history, and I believe that Prof. Cassim is the perfect person to build on our history and envision the future of AIU with his long experience as a member of the university's Board of Trustees and his thorough knowledge of the university. It is my sincere hope that the new President and all of you will work together to build an era in which Akita International University will lead the world in a global standard education.
I would like to say that the most important thing for AIU, which continues to produce global leaders who will lead the world by enlightening today’s confused society, is to foster a "willingness to learn" and "mental attitude as a person." No matter what difficulties may come our way, including the new coronavirus, I hope that you will always remember that each student's effort is a reflection of Akita International University.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you who have supported Akita International University and me over the past eight years. Thank you very much.
Norihiko SUZUKI, Chair of the Board and President of Akita International University