A Succession for the Future—Continuing to Grow with "Students First"
President Jun Ueno
Completing a doctorate at the Tokyo Metropolitan University Graduate School of Engineering in 1977 (Doctor of Engineering), Dr. Ueno went on to become an associate professor of the university's Faculty of Engineering in 1984. In 2005, he became a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University and in 2015 became the university president. His areas of research is architectural planning and notable publications of his include "School Architecture for the Future," "Living in an Aging Society," "The Renaissance of School Architecture," among many others.
Next President Takaya Ohashi
After completing his doctorate at the University of Tokyo School of Science Department of Physics in 1981 (Doctor of Science), Prof. Ohashi became a researcher at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. In 1992, he became an associate professor at the Tokyo Metropolitan University Faculty of Science before becoming a professor at the university in 2005. From 2017, Prof. Ohashi worked as Vice President of the university for two years. His areas of research are physics and astronomy and outside of the university, he has served as a member of the board of trustees of the Astronomical Society of Japan and a director of the Physical Society of Japan.
Encounters—The Establishment of Tokyo Metropolitan University
Ohashi: I have many memories with Dr. Ueno, but the best one is of the start-up period of Shuto Daigaku Tokyo (current Tokyo Metropolitan University) in 2005. As the 4 metropolitan universities in Tokyo were consolidated into one, a preparatory committee for the faculty of science and engineering was set up, and Dr. Ueno acted as the coordinator. While other faculty members were flustered because we didn't have any time and creating the curriculum was like poking around in the dark, the fact that Dr. Ueno was the only one able to keep it together, saying, "This is important, so let's think about carefully," still sticks with me.
Ueno: After that, I became the director of the General Education Center (currently the director of the University Education Center) and asked Prof. Ohashi to chair the academic affairs committee. Prof. Ohashi was a leading expert in X-ray astronomy and published a large number of research papers, so I knew he was very busy and I felt quite awkward asking him. However, excellent researchers like Prof. Ohashi are often the ones who enthusiastically think about and work on education. That was the kind of person I wanted to ask to chair. As it's so hard to ask busy people to spend even more time, "bowing to them" and asking for their help may be the most painful job of a university president.Haha.
Ohashi: That is true. But when I’m asked to do something, I actually feel happy that I’m being relied on. Haha.
Ueno: At the time, I remember that we had many discussions with the members, including the chairman of the General Education Subcommittee, about “educational programs that make it easy for students to learn." Now that we are consolidated into one, I think that we valued harmony and paid the most attention to fostering a sense of unity as one university. Prof. Ohashi helped me a lot.
Ohashi: It was the first time I was on such a committee, but I was able to get a glimpse of Dr. Ueno—who’s always focused on students-first—being an "educator" and learned a lot.
History—As University President and as Vice President of Internationalization
Ueno: 2 years after I became president (2017), I asked Prof. Ohashi to be the vice president for internationalization. While the world expects the leadership of university presidents for university reform, our university has a great number of educators, including Prof. Ohashi, who have made excellent achievements in research, train good researchers, and are involved in the management of universities. So I've always made my decisions through teamwork, and in particular, Prof. Ohashi was a huge help in reaching agreements with “strategic partnership” universities.
Ohashi: I have fond memories of attending joint symposiums and signing ceremonies with Dr. Ueno at the University of Leicester (UK), Tomsk State University (Russia), and the University of Seoul (South Korea).
Ueno: Originally, our university had international exchange agreements with more than 100 schools. However, starting the strategic partnership program with overseas universities was an urgent task as we want to actively engage in exchanges between researchers and hold international symposiums, and maintain close cooperation with universities. Prof. Ohashi worked on an agreement with the University of Malaya (Malaysia) in addition to the three schools mentioned before and did a great job taking charge of internationalization.
Ohashi: At the University of Leicester, I used to work as a researcher, and an acquaintance at that time was working as vice president, so the discussions went rather smoothly. We were also able to hold a joint symposium, which was also a very productive one.
Ueno: Researchers from a wide range of fields, including humanities and science, presented their advanced research and discussed how to promote future collaboration and exchange between the two universities. The symposium program—which Prof. Ohashi had put together based on research activities in both universities—was wonderful.
Ohashi: Thank you.
Ueno: Also, what I told students at the entrance ceremony every year is that, while at our university, I would like them to experience studying abroad in some way if possible. Our university has a wide range of study abroad programs with financial support provided. I think Prof. Ohashi intends advance this policy, and I hope that the university will continue to flourish in terms of international exchanges.
Ohashi: Our students can perform high-quality research that competes with other universities, but our students may be a little quiet. Utilizing the connections TMU has with a range of universities, I would like to, ideally, be able to support both the research and education of students and maximize the potential of all students, not just researchers.
What Makes TMU Appealing—The Benefits of Being a Medium-Sized University
Ohashi: One of the great things about our university is that it's a medium-sized university that is neither too large nor too small. The educational system is such that the teachers can pay attention to each student, and the environment allows for a sense of camaraderie to naturally grow.
Ueno: Currently, there are about 680 faculty members. If this exceeds 1,000, it will be difficult for the president to grasp the situation of each group. One of the largest appeals of TMU is that because it's a comprehensive university, there are people like Prof. Ohashi who study astrophysics, people like me who specialize in architecture, then there are also subjects such as business administration, so everyone can form close relationships with a range of people with a range of qualities. At TMU, I think there are endless possibilities, through mutual respect, of occasionally triggering interesting chemical reactions. For example, in recent years, Prof. Ohashi has been involved in launching a cross-disciplinary program for graduate students in the master's program.
Ohashi: I want students to not only deepen their area of expertise but also acquire a wide range of knowledge in related areas. I hope that we'll be able to expand the possibilities by taking advantage of TMU's characteristics and its wide range of academic fields.
Ueno: For undergraduate students, I would like to further enhance the minors available. Currently, there are three courses, but there is one more that we are thinking about. In addition, I think that when Prof. Ohashi becomes president, he will look into new courses, including a new educational program that integrates humanities and science.
Expectations—A New Educational Style
Ueno: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on on-site learning. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this was the biggest event of my six years as president. However, the students generally evaluated the online classes held during the closure of the university campus to be good, and the faculty members achieved their respective educational goals to a certain level.
Ohashi: I was worried about what would happen, but I feel that there are quite a few students who earnestly attend online classes. They submit their assignments regularly as well.
Ueno: I think we will probably return to face-to-face classes after Prof. Ohashi becomes president, but I would like to continue to take advantage of the benefits of online classes as well. For example, we give lectures online as a knowledge transfer and then students digest the knowledge through face-to-face discussion as the primary form. The year 2020 was a very unfortunate period, but I would counter-attack it by seeing it as a good opportunity to build-up a new educational style and raise the bar of university education.
Ohashi: That's true. I would like to work on education after considering a variety of possible cases. I would also like to value opportunities for face-to-face interactions as they help foster a sense of unity between students and offer chances to make friends.
Future—A University Where All Students and Faculty Can Grow
Ohashi: I feel that there are many issues I will need to tackle after becoming president. But I think around 3 years ago, Dr. Ueno drafted the plan "TMU Vision 2030."
Ueno: Looking to the future, I wanted the university to become one for which we can visualize dreams, so I decided to present what I believed the university should look like in 2030, around 10 years from now. Our vision for TMU hasn't changed even now. We want to continue to be a world-class research university and have all faculty members aim for high-level research achievements. I think that the cycle of good students, who have received a high-quality education from the faculty, entering their laboratories is operating very well.
Ohashi: As a research university, I think it is the role of the administrators to create an environment where both faculty members and students can study of their free will. I feel a lot of responsibility to realize "TMU Vision 2030."
Ueno: Since you're the one I'm leaving it to, I'm not worried at all. Through my activities with you, I can tell that you and I have many similar thoughts about TMU. Thank you for taking on this role and I wish you the best.
Ohashi: I will do my best for a further growth of TMU, the university that you built.