Written by Sho Tagawa and Mami Harada, student project members
Tokyo Tech embraces student groups interested in studying what science students can do for the future of society and Tokyo Tech. Students set their own goals to develop educated human resources through the liberal arts, plan activities and take action. More than the final project or event itself, the real benefit to students is found in participating in the process and educating themselves along the way.
Japanese higher education has a tendency to focus on specialized education. However, in today's complex world, there is a need for more breadth in education so that students can develop their humanity and social awareness in order to be able to confront these challenges. Against this backdrop, the Center for Liberal Arts was established in 2011 for the study of the liberal arts. The Center offers various classes. It also provides opportunities for students to create an individualized liberal arts education with faculty members, the student projects.
On May 10, 2012 a lecture commemorating the establishment of the Center for Liberal Arts was held. Twenty volunteer students participated in the planning and operation of the event. For them, the process of organizing the event was an opportunity to think and learn what it means to be truly educated. The experience inspired those students with new insights into the meaning of a liberal arts education.
"This is too precious to be a one-time experience," thought participants. "These experiences of learning what it means to be educated by doing should be repeated." Their awareness of the issues led to the launching of student projects. The director of the Center, Professor Toshio Kuwako, drew up a plan for future student projects, and they were in full swing by June 2012.
With the cooperation of faculty members, administrative staff and others, student projects continue to the present day. Through word of mouth, news about the projects has spread with past participants inviting new participants and now there are more than fifty students involved in various projects. Seventy percent are male and thirty percent are female. Students from various departments collaborate in the student projects.
Students decide on a goal and then plan and carry out projects in line with their dreams and awareness of the issues over the course of six months. Activities vary but all goals and processes relate to educating human resources. Skills and knowledge acquired through participation range from project management methods and consensus building processes to good manners. At the same time students are encouraged to discover the meaning of becoming educated themselves, and reflect on and discuss what this means. Students believe that these experiences deepen their knowledge in their specialized education classes and allow them to make more use of their scientific skills.
Ten student projects were or are being conducted. Here are some examples of completed projects.
Project for Future Liberal Arts Classes
The goal of this project was to probe into the type of educated human resources needed in the future. Guests who are active members in business and academic sectors were invited to discuss this with Tokyo Tech students. The outcomes were compiled in a report. Additionally, students discussed and made suggestions about the future of liberal arts education at Tokyo Tech.
Project for Supporting Female Science Students
The goal of this project was to provide an environment to study and discuss various possibilities for female science students and what skills need to be acquired before joining the workforce. Students in this project conducted a series of interviews called "study tours" with several women who are leaders in both business and academia. They prepared a booklet to share the project outcomes. Students also planned and organized a panel discussion of leading female professionals followed by a student discussion.
Suzukakedai Lecture Project
Students in this project organized a lecture by Professor Akira Ikegami and Lecturer Patrick Harlan both from the Center for Liberal Arts at Suzukakedai Campus. The topic for this event was "how to communicate" and they spoke about communicating intelligibly in an interesting way. A discussion with some students followed on stage. This event was broadcast live on Nico Nico Douga and approximately 26,000 people viewed the live stream.
There are other student projects with various topics and goals including book clubs and projects for designing liberal arts classes. There are also debate sessions and get-togethers for students and faculty members which focus on developing educated human resources.
Many students have their own ideas about the way to advance Tokyo Tech and about the opportunities students need. Student projects strive to give shape to these ideas and provide opportunities to connect people. With various students, faculty members and collaborators outside campus, student projects are sure to generate more interest. From the standpoint of science students, they will also raise various questions regarding the place of liberal arts, science and technology in society. Join student projects at the Center for Liberal Arts!
Institute for Liberal Arts
—Connecting Science and Technology with Society—
Information on Institute for Liberal Arts inaugurated in April 2016
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Published: June 2013