2022 Autumn Graduation Ceremony: President's Address
On behalf of Shizuoka University, I would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to the 126 graduating students at both campuses across all undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programs. Last year, we reduced the scale of our graduation ceremony due to the skyrocketing COVID-19 infection numbers and the declared state of emergency. Nevertheless, while the COVID-19 pandemic is still not over, we have implemented infection prevention measures. As a result, I am delighted to be able to hold this year's ceremony in this hall with all of you graduating students.
Now, today, you have all received your degrees in various specializations. I would like to express my heartfelt respect for the efforts of each and every one of you who have devoted yourselves to daily study, while engaging in friendly competition, in an environment so unlike your home countries. I hope that your research findings will prove to be invaluable in the years to come.
I am sure that your families, friends, and those who have supported you will be happy to see you graduate and complete your studies. I believe that thanks to these people, you have been able to earn your respective degrees today.
COVID-19 has been rampant throughout Japan for two years, significantly restricting your studies and research at Shizuoka University. Nevertheless, these circumstances have not discouraged you. You have continued your studies to complete your respective courses in the allotted time. I believe that you deserve kudos for all your hard work during this extraordinarily challenging time.
COVID-19 has had various effects on academic education and research worldwide. Shizuoka University has also expanded its online education options to protect all of our people from the virus. It turns out that this form of instruction holds new possibilities. Online instruction consistently receives positive feedback in the student surveys we have conducted. In the future, the experience gained so far should prove advantageous in further developing classes that combine face-to-face and online learning.
However, due to the many online classes needed due to COVID-19, we have also learned the downsides of this approach. We recognize that this situation has robbed you all of opportunities to speak with each other and build close relationships. Another unfortunate effect is that COVID-19 prevented international travel, making it difficult to interact with people worldwide. However, a welcomed change is that the Japanese government now understands the negative impact of reduced global exchange. Thus, it is much more relaxed in its treatment of international students coming to Japan than in the past.
While an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is still not in sight, it is encouraging to see that even under these circumstances, university faculty members across the globe are promoting various educational and research efforts in anticipation of the post-COVID era. I believe these projects are possible because of the nature of academia, in which academic freedom is guaranteed. I am convinced that even in these difficult times, university faculty members worldwide will maintain solidarity in working to open up a new society.
Many international students attending this ceremony are a part of the Asia Bridge Program (ABP). We started the program seven years ago, at the request of companies located in Shizuoka Prefecture. Many of these firms are expanding throughout Asia. They need talent who can act as a bridge between the companies and the local people. These companies have made significant donations to establish scholarship programs to provide financial support to our ABP students. Fortunately, many ABP graduates have found positions at these companies, playing crucial roles as expected.
The ABP has also turned a new page for Shizuoka University. The program has had corporate support from the beginning, creating an extraordinarily diverse educational and research environment, unlike anything the University had before. Until this program began, most Japanese university students would rarely have the opportunity to take classes in English with international students or discuss research in foreign languages. However, the ABP has made these situations possible. I want to thank all the international students in the ABP for creating such a novel environment at Shizuoka University.
Naturally, we have accepted many international students for our doctoral programs and other courses unrelated to the ABP. These international students have also significantly contributed to the diversity at Shizuoka University, and I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for such a gift.
Finally, I remind you all that Shizuoka University is now your alma mater. I hope that we can stay connected with all of you. I welcome you all to visit Shizuoka University any time, as we are always pleased to see our alums. We sincerely look forward to reuniting with you once you have begun your careers.
Now, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to each and every one of you.