Research at AIIT

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 33rd Installment“Graduate School for Students with a Variety of Backgrounds”

by Seiichi Kawata,
Dean of Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology

Graduate School for Students with a Variety of Backgrounds

This year’s Project-Based Learning (PBL) seminar marked the climax in the first half of the academic year, when PBL interim report meeting of the Master Program of Information Systems Architecture and the Master Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering was held at the end of last week, and the fruits of ingenious research were presented amid the record-breaking heat. The PBL at the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology is characteristic and unique—veterans with abundant experience as managers at corporations participate as students equally with new university graduates and young engineers. It is not rare that new graduates and those who have served as general managers in major corporations are involved in a project on an equal footing. I am convinced that implementing a project in a group consisting of students with a variety of backgrounds helps them acquire communication skills and strengths as a team on a higher level.

When I think about this, I recall what happened in 2006 when the Institute was opened. We had only freshmen in the Master Program of Information Systems Architecture. As a test case for a smooth start to the PBL the following year, we had a mini PBL class under the theme “Advanced Study of Experience-based Learning.” As the number of participants was relatively small, we had two teams consisting of around five people to implement the project.

One day, a team leader from the project visited my office seeking advice. He is an ex-general manager at a leading global company in the information industry. He said, “Professor, it is difficult for me to lead the team. Some students do not submit assignments by the deadline and others are slow in responding to my inquiries. I am at a loss as a leader. Businesspeople always follow my orders at my company but they just do not. What should I do? ” I could imagine how much trouble he was in. His big body was trembling. He wanted a solution from me. I also couldn’t find an easy solution on the spot. I pondered for a while and an idea came to mind. I said, “How about a discussion with all team members to find rules for a good partnership for a team and leading the team based on the rules agreed by all? ” After a short silence, he seemed convinced. He said he would try it and left the office. Later, he reported to me that he was successful in leading the team. “I learnt a lot from this project, which I had not noticed in my career in the company,” he said.

I think there have not been graduate schools in Japan where students with a wide variety of backgrounds, i.e. age, sex, nationality and experience, learn together. New university graduates are 22 or 23 years old and pretty mature. One of such students, who must be an adult, visited my office to seek advice. “I was told this by one of the adult students,” he said. I had no words to say. Then, I told him, “You are an adult without doubt.” However, the actual circumstances were different. New graduates study together with the students in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s and exchange opinions through a variety of conversations. Then, they realize for the first time in their life how abstractly they have understood things and how small their world has been, having built a close relationship only with friends around themselves.

A class is a society. The Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology is such a graduate university. How should we accomplish our mission of fostering highly skilled specialist professionals at this graduate school with a distinct character? We have massive challenges to tackle. I will endeavor to provide graduate school education where the quality of education is assured, while listening to the students visiting my office.

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  • The 34th Installment

    “Project Management and PBL”

    by Kiyoshi Sakamori,
    Head of Masters Program of Information Systems Architecture
  • The 33rd Installment

    “Graduate School for Students with a Variety of Backgrounds”

    by Seiichi Kawata,
    Dean of Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology
  • The 32nd Installment

    “Recommendation for Technology Fiction (TF)”

    by Shintaro Ishijima,
    President of Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology