About Tokyo Tech
About Tokyo Tech
Adapting to and creating the new normal
President, Tokyo Tech
Tokyo Tech ushers in the new year as a time of renewed motivation, courage, and positive change.
Twenty-twenty was an extremely difficult year for many members of our community, and protecting the lives of students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders was our top priority. The resilience, discipline, and unity demonstrated by Team Tokyo Tech was nothing short of remarkable. Together, we overcame difficult challenges, and as a result, created new ways to approach teaching, learning, research, and life in general. We began to understand the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on society and individual lifestyles.
As we build on this understanding in 2021, I call on all members of the community not only to adapt to the new normal, but to look beyond these times of uncertainty and into a better future. By continuing to respect diversity, inclusion, and the voices and ideas of the public, we can make 2021 a year of new creation, impact, and value.
I believe that the past nine months were particularly tough on new students. Many were starting exciting stages in their lives when their worlds were suddenly turned upside down by campus closures and other restrictions. Welcome counseling services for new students were established in April 2020 and continue to operate today so that no one is left behind. I encourage students to make use of these services.
The Tokyo Tech journey was disrupted for all students, but the Institute acted quickly to establish an online environment where classes resumed in the first quarter, approximately one month later than in previous years. Live distance lectures were supplemented with streamed videos and other resources that could be used for review as needed.
Additional financial support for students affected by COVID-19 was also initiated in 2020 and will continue to be available in 2021. The Team Tokyo Tech Student Support Program, established with the support of the Tokyo Tech Alumni Association, consists of three main components to alleviate strain on student finances — an emergency loan program, extension of tuition payment deadlines, and tuition exemption during prolonged enrollment periods caused by COVID-19. Initially, emergency loans were provided without screening to students in need of immediate support. Tokyo Tech later reviewed the students' circumstances, and many had their loans replaced with scholarships sourced from the Scholarship Fund.
Changes have also been taking place in research environments. The Institute is constantly exploring alternative ways to utilize space and time, and new research styles are being applied to minimize risk of infection while maximizing research efficiency. Research laboratories are at the heart of Tokyo Tech's activities. They are the hubs of creation and discovery for researchers, the sources of motivation and guidance for students, and creating new approaches at these labs is also crucial.
The changes we have achieved in such a short time would have been unimaginable just one year ago. This pandemic has forced people to adjust work schedules and locations, commuting times and methods, and countless other ways we live our lives. There may be many more changes to come. The bright side is that Tokyo Tech has always been ready to adapt with the help of unique inventions, breakthrough discoveries, and fearless professionals. The goal since Tokyo Tech's selection as a Designated National University in March 2018 — roughly two years before the emergence of the global pandemic — has been to "pioneer a new era through continuous dialogue with society and the discovery of hidden possibilities in science and technology." More than ever, we are highly aware of and dedicated to this goal.
Our continuous dialogue with society takes many forms, one of which is Tokyo Tech's Laboratory for Design of Social Innovation in Global Networks (DLab), also established in 2018. DLab connects Tokyo Tech students, faculty, and staff with the public to envision the future we want 10, 20, 50, even 100 years from now. The future scenarios created at DLab are summarized in the Tokyo Tech Future Chronology, and some of these scenarios have already begun to materialize. The research projects that emerge from this borderless interaction will undoubtedly create impact during and after COVID-19.
With the cooperation of various companies and universities, the Institute is also moving forward with three WISE Programs, or Doctoral Programs for World-leading Innovative and Smart Education supported by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology — the Tokyo Tech Academy for Convergence of Materials and Informatics, the Tokyo Tech Academy for Super Smart Society, and the Tokyo Tech Academy of Energy and Informatics. These programs, which continue to run parallel to students' specializations, develop leaders with diverse skills in both science and technology and the liberal arts, instinctive abilities to connect with businesses and the public, and a strong drive to create new value.
In 2020, Tokyo Tech launched its Social Rebooting Technology Initiative to revitalize society together with the business sector. The first step of this program was to release 131 owned patents as royalty-free, an offer that is still valid in 2021. Large-scale organizational-level research collaborations are gradually increasing thanks to Tokyo Tech's Open Innovation Platform, which the Institute continues to promote and expand actively.
While the constantly shifting situation makes foolproof policies and countermeasures difficult to implement, I would like to reiterate that the safety of the Tokyo Tech community remains the top priority. Our task now is to maintain a safe environment — both on and offline — where Tokyo Tech members can appreciate the diversity of their community and generate new creations and discoveries together. While the launch of online classes in 2020 was successful, it also showed that campus and lab experiences are an essential part of the Tokyo Tech journey. Striking a balance between wellbeing and rich academic experiences is the way forward. Students and faculty members are working together to achieve safety and efficiency in both educational and research settings.
The construction of Hisao & Hiroko Taki Plaza (Taki Plaza) was completed on Ookayama Campus in late 2020, injecting a fresh vigor into the Tokyo Tech community. The new international exchange hub, made possible by a generous donation from Tokyo Tech alumnus and Gurunavi Inc. Chairman and Director Hisao Taki, will open in spring 2021. In line with Mr. Taki's wishes, Taki Plaza is designed to be a space where international and Japanese students connect, deepen ties, and create a better future together. The completion of this spacious, student-centered facility could not have come at a better time. While keeping safe, students will soon have more space to freely create exchange, information sharing, and other events that develop them into autonomous leaders of the future.
Finally, I would like to highlight the importance of institutional effectiveness and financial stability, one of the four goals in the Tokyo Tech strategic plan 2018-2023. The Institute's management reforms, including thorough digital transformation, continue to be implemented despite the challenging circumstances. These reforms have provided Tokyo Tech with the ability to respond swiftly to the effects of COVID-19. They will also function as a source of strength and creativity as the Institute moves forward with the public to create a better tomorrow.
Tokyo Tech has always embraced any challenge that comes our way. Many unpredictable hurdles undoubtedly lie ahead, but as a diverse, united community that believes in a better future, Team Tokyo Tech will overcome these obstacles and create a new normal that inspires us all.
Happy New Year 2021.
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