The first event in International Education Week (IEW), organized by the Office of International Programs and the Office of International Students and Scholars, was an hour-long keynote presentation by Yoshiaki Terumichi, the president of Sophia University in Tokyo, about the school’s efforts to diversify its student body, curriculum, and campus. The Asian Studies department and the IEW Committee co-sponsored the talk.
Terumichi started his presentation by giving a brief outline of Sophia University as a whole. It is a private Jesuit research university in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. With roughly 10,000 undergraduate students, 1,600 of whom are international students, Sophia University enjoys international exchange partnerships with Georgetown, Yale, and other schools around the globe. Terumichi said he hoped that Boston College could potentially be a partner in the future.
He expanded to talk about the university’s diversity efforts, starting with the students’ entrance exams. The school offers multiple versions of its entrance exam, each designed to adhere to students with different educational backgrounds, intellectual disabilities, or if students come from abroad.
The campus is also currently undergoing a total revamp in infrastructure to be fully accessible to students with physical disabilities.
“One thing that I am proud of is our unique project we have undertaken for this challenge,” Terumichi said. “We have surveyed places on Sophia’s campus that still remain challenging for physically challenged students with an aim to create a barrier-free campus.”
The school has also begun to hold seminars and workshops centered around women empowerment and LGBTQ+ issues to create a campus where, as Terumichi puts it, no person is left behind. Throughout the address, he emphasized this theme as central to the university’s mission, as well as the oft-repeated Jesuit ideal of “creating men and women for others, with others.”
Terumichi was excited at the prospect of the Paralympic Games being held in Tokyo in 2020. The university, he said, plans to take full advantage of this opportunity to deepen students understanding of Sophia University’s educational philosophy of service and inclusivity.
One challenge that both Terumichi discussed and an attendee asked about was the university’s efforts to encourage Japanese students to participate in international exchange programs, especially those located in the United States. Local students, Terumichi said, were often hesitant to go abroad due to fears about foreign countries and cultures.
The university currently seeks to address this issue by holding classes and trainings for students who wish to go abroad about American cultures and norms. One workshop instructs students on what to do in the event of a live shooting.
“It is our duty to build a campus with diversity,” he said. “Not only with nationality, religion, language, cultures, but also academic backgrounds. We need an environment created by diverse people through discussion. These are efforts effective by realizing our philosophy of men and women for others, with others.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons