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Sophia University Interns: Interview with Chancellor of Sophia School Cooperation, Mr. Kōso

Sophia University Interns: Interview with Chancellor of Sophia School Cooperation, Mr. Kōso

Beginning December the year before last, Sophia University and APIC have begun to strengthen their partnership by creating a more comprehensive educational cooperative agreement. We took this chance to interview Chancellor Kōso of Sophia School Cooperation and explore his thoughts on what goals Sophia University has set for the future, and also about the university’s relationship with APIC. (Interviewer: Miho Kaneko, intern)

Q. You are an alum of Sophia University. What kind of student were you?


I matriculated in the undergraduate program of foreign languages, specifically the German language department. I studied English until graduating high school, and the common opinion of those around me was that in addition to English, learning a third language would be beneficial for the future. It was a completely new language to me, so of course I struggled with it. I was also advised to join the mountaineering club, which I joined for only one year, but I think I was outside climbing for close to one-fifth of the year. However, I took my studies seriously and fervently tried to keep up with my 1st-period German courses.

Q. Sophia University’s motto is “Men and Women for Others, with Others”-how do you want students to use the knowledge they’ve learned inside the classroom in society?

Our motto is short, but laden with significance.

One of the meanings behind these words is the idea of Sophia’s campus as a ‘miniature globe’. At Sophia, we want our students and teachers to realize that their campus is not confined only to the buildings and grounds at Yotsuya, but that the world is their campus. I want students to be prepared mentally, to have a broad sense of vision, valuable knowledge, and a honed skill set that they can use as tools for navigating the outside world. The earth is mankind’s home, so to speak, and all the people living together on it are family-this is the way of thinking I hope our students will embrace. I want them to contemplate on the idea that we, as part of a global family, have a responsibility to take care of our ‘home’ and to pass it down to future generations in a healthy state.

Another meaning behind our motto is ‘equality’. Human beings have established that we are equal to each other; however, if we open our eyes we must realize that even though as the same species we may be equal to each other, unchangeable circumstances in which we were born into, such as country, level of society, etc., diminish this equality. I believe that ‘Men and Women for Others, with Others’ gives us a hint to finding the answer to how we, people from different backgrounds, can become friends and live together in this home we call Earth.

For example, it is often said of children born with disabilities that it’s an inconvenient, but not unlucky, life. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so we should take action and help each other out. I believe this idea is imbedded in our motto, and consequently one of our biggest aims is to cultivate students with this idea in mind. With this frame of mind, one’s life starts to deepen and expand with new meaning. We want students to have intellectual experiences and emotional experiences, all of which will be of great importance in the real world as they will use these understandings to search for answers within themselves when up against a wall. Rather than perfecting these answers before graduating, I believe it’s more important to help guide students in this direction and let them grow.

Q. In 2014 Sophia University was selected as a “Super Global University”. What do you think the significance of this is?

Sophia University was founded on the idea of a global perspective, so there are some who say that calling us a ‘super global university’ is not so meaningful. However, in these times of furthering global initiatives, particularly in the sense of connecting the world, I am very appreciative of being chosen as one of these universities.

On the other hand, Sophia University has its own principles and goals, and we will not stop at the level that the Ministry of Education has set for us; we will continue to connect with the rest of the world and continue to observe the world with a wide perspective, using our capabilities to the fullest. By reaching out and trying to engage with people from different countries and backgrounds, we are one step closer to fulfilling our mission to “bring the world together with wisdom”. To fulfill this mission, I also believe that it is important to walk each place, each country, with your own feet, experiencing and building personal connections first-hand. Not only will you support each other, but you will learn from each other as well. This is what I believe we call ‘mutual exchange’, and a concept that Sophia University will try and realize as a ‘super global university'.

Q. The internship program at Sophia started in 2015; what are your hopes and expectations of the students participating in it?

Firstly, I think that the internship concept is extremely important. There are several reasons for this. Currently in Japan the word ‘internship’ commonly refers to a one-day internship, which I do not believe is a true internship. If one is going to undertake an internship, I believe it is important to fulfill one’s work from start to finish.

Furthermore, a majority of research that university professors are undertaking is difficult to focus on the ‘now’. There are many opinions about this, but the majority of research currently underway is focused on data from three to five years ago. This means that the information in textbooks is the result of research that has stopped a number of years ago. However, internships allow students to see the current state of a specific field, along with an opportunity to see who is behind the research. By permitting students to intern at companies, organizations, foundations etc. that are in line with the Sophia mission, students can see how and what direction society is moving in. Like I mentioned before, the world is our campus, and the internship program delivers an excellent way for our students to learn more, to better understand society and the world, and to better understand their strengths and weaknesses, eventually leading to the discovery of their interests. With this in mind, I believe Sophia’s internship program is of great value.

Q. What are your thoughts on the cooperative structure between Sophia and APIC?

In 2013 Sophia University celebrated its 100th anniversary of its founding. We created the motto “bring the world together with wisdom” with Sophia’s history, current position, and our future mission in mind. At that time we couldn’t imagine the development of the APIC-Xavier High School exchange program; our thoughts were far away from the Pacific and Caribbean nations and the long history they have with Sophia.

However, it is fit that these countries are incorporated into our motto, and we are thankful to APIC for helping us turn our attention to countries and the people who are part of and who have helped build this world together. There are a surprising number of Sophia alums who are living, studying, and working in Micronesia, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. They’re studying at local universities, working at embassies; each alum figuring out their life plan and laying the foundation of their career path. It’s a wonderful experience to meet alums abroad who are working and living in line with Sophia’s motto “Men and Women for Others, with Others”.

Sophia University Interns: Interview with Chancellor of Sophia School Cooperation, Mr. Kōso

Chancellor Kōso being interviewed by Ms. Kaneko at Sophia University

Q. Sophia and APIC had informal cooperative ties before, but in December 2015 they made those ties formal. What are your thoughts on this?

The agreement now allows students attending Micronesian junior colleges and Sophia’s university and junior colleges to experience cultural exchanges between Japan and Micronesia. A large portion of Sophia’s Graduate School of Environmental Studies is devoted to studying the Caribbean and Pacific Islands and the effect of climate change on these areas. This means that Sophia is able to take part in research to find a solution to problems that are affecting all of mankind. This research isn’t only done within Japan, but we also join with other countries to make headway in this area of research. This provides an excellent chance for each country to learn more about each other, but also opens up new paths for teachers and students alike.

Sophia’s university and junior colleges in conjunction with Reitaku University have started a program for students to visit Micronesia and to participate in homestays, to study the history and culture of the region, and to talk to local residents, all of which is helping to set the groundwork for interest in research on environmental problems. A university’s role does not stop at promoting exchange between cultures; we have three major roles which are 1. Education 2. Research and 3. Contribution to society. APIC is rich in resources and networks in these three areas, and we hope to share these resources and to deepen our ties with the Caribbean and Pacific Island nations, and to actively include them in the word ‘world’ in Sophia’s motto, “Bring the world together with wisdom”. I am very much looking forward to seeing the materialization of these efforts.
Sophia University Interns: Interview with Chancellor of Sophia School Cooperation, Mr. Kōso

Chancellor Kōso giving a speech at Sophia’s Farewell party on the last day of the Pacific and Caribbean Student Invitation Program

Q. In January of this year, APIC invited 16 students from the Pacific Islands to participate in a special program where they also met with Sophia University students. What are your thoughts on this cultural exchange?

Sophia has been holding a three-week summer program in English called “summer session” where students are introduced to Japanese culture, politics, economics, etc. This time we have begun to hold a similar session in the winter. In January of this year APIC led the course, with eight students from the Pacific Islands and eight students from the University of the West Indies coming to Japan. At the end of the program, the students broke into four teams and gave a short presentation on what they learned while in Japan. While watching the presentations, I was pleased to see that even though the students were from diverse backgrounds that they were working together harmoniously. The younger generations are going to be taking care of this world in the future, so it’s very important that they have knowledge of countries besides their own that expands beyond tourism, and extends to knowing people’s names and faces. It’s important for all students, Japanese and non-Japanese to lay that groundwork now. My hope is for that students to understand that we are all the same deep down, regardless of the color of our skin, what language we speak, our behavior, or actions. The realization that we are all the same will eventually lead to a feeling of security and trust between people, regardless of background. This is why I believe it’s important to have students from other countries come to and learn about Japan; hopefully they can get to know people and make friends whom they can trust, and from whom they can learn something new.

Bio

Toshiaki Kōso was born in Etajima city, Hiroshima prefecture in 1947. In addition to being a Jesuit priest, he is the chancellor of Sophia School Corporation, and a professor at Sophia University’s Faculty of General Human Studies Education division. After proceeding on to graduate from Sophia University’s graduate school with a degree in education, he became a professor at his alma mater, and in 1999 was appointed to the post of Chancellor of Sophia School Corporation. His field is the history of comparative education, and among his publications are “Educational Thought in the Renaissance” and “The Apostle of the Orient- Xavier” (Sophia University Press). He is a member of the Japanese Ministry of Education’s “Group of conscious persons regarding policy evaluation”, the Science Council of Japan’s “Committee on Quality Assurance for University Professors by Field”, and the secretary of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, and councilor and president of many other organizations in Japan.

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