2023 Autumn Graduation Ceremony: President’s Address
On behalf of Shizuoka University, I would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to the 102 graduating students at both campuses across all undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programs. We held last year’s graduation ceremony before the COVID-19 pandemic had ended, but we took infection prevention measures and held the ceremony with all graduates in attendance. This year, social restrictions regarding COVID-19 have eased in Japan since May, and we are gradually returning to a relaxed routine, allowing us to hold the autumn graduation ceremony as in the past. I am overjoyed about this development.
Now, today, you have all received your degrees in various specializations. I would like to express my genuine respect for all your efforts in devoting yourselves to study while engaging in friendly competition in an environment so unlike your home countries. I hope your studies and research findings will prove 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 was rampant throughout Japan for three years, causing significant restrictions in your studies and research. Nevertheless, these difficult 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 in overcoming adversity during these extraordinary circumstances.
As you all know, COVID-19 has impacted global academic education and research in many ways. Shizuoka University has also expanded its online education options to protect everyone from the virus. It turns out that this form of instruction holds new possibilities. 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 because of COVID-19, we have also learned the downsides of this approach. We recognize that the adoption of many online classes has robbed you of opportunities to speak with each other and build close relationships. Unfortunately, for three years, COVID-19 has also prevented international travel, making it difficult to interact with people worldwide. Nevertheless, starting May 8 this year, the Japanese government eased such restrictions, so we should welcome the return to pre-pandemic life.
We faculty members have been teaching and conducting research under the unusual conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand that even under such 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 academic freedom that is guaranteed at universities. It is indeed wonderful that we have overcome such a challenging period to promote progressive social efforts through solidarity and interdisciplinary cooperation among global university faculties. I sincerely hope such solidarity among researchers will continue to develop in the future.
On a different note, many international students attending today’s ceremony are a part of the Asia Bridge Program (ABP). We started this program eight 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 financially support 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 rarely had 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 offer my utmost gratitude to 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.
Once again, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to each and every one of you.