Message from the Dean
A very warm welcome to students, colleagues and friends all over the world from the International College of Liberal Arts at Yamanashi Gakuin University.
There are many ingredients that give our institution its unique character; a contrasting cultural setting of Tokyo and Yamanashi; the complementing qualities of leadership, team spirit and tolerance from sports at our parent institution Yamanashi Gakuin University; and the critical thinking, communication, creative problem-solving skills of liberal arts education within iCLA. It is one of our goals to find synergy between cultures and bring wholeness to the education we provide students. I would like to congratulate and thank our faculty and dedicated team of staff who constantly strive together to bring our education to a sweet-spot in this synergy, creating a very active learning environment through commitment to our student first policy.
iCLA takes pride in bringing together a very diverse student body through its extensive partnership program extending across over thirty countries. This diversity uniquely trains our students to grow, makes them adaptable to new cultures, helps in refining their perspective, and in bringing a better understanding of one’s own belief by considering diverse and dissenting opinions. As a liberal arts college, we are committed to a broad education with a curriculum that is both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. The traditional majors in Economics and Political science are enriched by integration with courses in Business and Sociology, respectively, providing depth and breadth. Courses in Arts, Music, Language Arts, Performing Arts, are given a symbiotic relationship in the majors of Japan Studies and Interdisciplinary Arts. The unique nature of Humanities is brought out by our “design your own major” philosophy where a student can choose a wide variety of courses from different disciplines and design their own study path. This places us at the exact opposite of traditional university education where students are forced through a narrow education funnel.The next important challenge for us in the coming years is to integrate the two apparently different methods of classical liberal arts and digital sciences. Today’s student is exposed to an increasingly complex modern world driven by technology. Behind the shiny exterior of useful and informative digital devices is a complex and invisible world. Digital science has effects on our capabilities but even stronger is its effect on ourselves. Keeping our students ignorant of the science, digital science, and technology, the silent forces of history, will leave them unprepared to face the challenges of the modern world. An understanding of digital science will be not only very important in order to appreciate the global, digital world, but will also impact future decisions whether they be economic, political, governmental, policy or education. This knowledge can play a very crucial role in making a successful career. In the next few years, we need to achieve the embedding of digital science methodology in traditional liberal arts teaching. This will enable us to achieve a key goal of education at iCLA, preparing students to live a more informed life in a modern world.
Paraphrasing Plato (The Republic), we are chained in a dark cave, believing in moving shadows, cast by burning fire to be the reality. When one of us escapes and goes out discovering the light of the Sun, he gets confused. The more he sees, the harder he finds it to believe. But eventually, he can see. Similarly, without proper education, we are chained by our ignorance with senses creating shadows of reality. The further we try to see, the more confused we get. The desire to keep trying in every possible way is fundamental to liberal arts education, gradually creating a better image of reality.
Message from the Founding Dean
Why do we go to college? Of course, one reason is to gain knowledge in preparation for a career. But, what knowledge and for what career? Another good motive is to discover and deepen our passions and natural talents. College also is a time to further develop intellectual, physical, and spiritual patterns of behavior, routines, and habits in pursuit of a whole, balanced life.
Preparation for career normally starts with selection of a major. Most Japanese universities require students to make this decision before they enter the university, which is far too early. iCLA encourages students to take about a year to explore the curriculum, then discuss with advisors, friends, and family before choosing a major. In some cases, iCLA permits students to change majors as late as the second year, without losing credits already earned – still able to graduate within four years. This is highly unusual in Japan.
Technology is advancing so fast that the impact on careers is increasingly difficult to forecast. Advances in AI and other technologies are racing toward us like an enormous fog so dense that even experts have difficulty anticipating how it will affect jobs and careers. Some predict that technologies may become so disruptive that we may need to hit the reset button not once, but possibly several times during our careers. Therefore, it is risky to be narrow in career planning, especially as an undergraduate. Instead, students should explore a wide range of knowledge, not only in search of passions and natural aptitudes, but also to make themselves sufficiently resilient in the future.
The resilience to successfully reset will depend on how wide one’s knowledge and experience bases are, capacity to combine varied knowledge and experiences in new contexts to solve problems and even create a new self, highly developed social skills, the ability to distinguish what is real and important from what is only imagined and unimportant or irrelevant, and foreign language skills to directly access information and communicate outside our own culture and contexts.
iCLA students are required to experience a wide range of knowledge – from right-brain courses and experiential workshops in dance, music, art and the martial arts to left-brain courses in mathematics, statistics, physics, and the digital sciences – and the wide range of subject areas that lay between, such as economics, political science, literature, philosophy, and history. Although located in Japan, iCLA classes are taught in English, with exception of Japanese language courses for international students. Classes are small, rigorous, and interactive. Students are required to study abroad, unless study in Japan is their study abroad experience. Study abroad occurs under conditions of one-for-one student exchange and cross-waiver of tuition through a large network of partner universities around the world. One happy consequence is the creation of a borderless global living and study atmosphere. Half of our student body and roughly two-thirds of our faculty are international, with many members of the faculty having completed their graduate studies at the world’s finest universities. All first-year students and international exchange students live on campus. These features distinguish iCLA from frontier future universities in other parts of the world and especially from other universities in Japan.
iCLA was created in response to the realization that a rigorous liberal arts education is a one of the best ways to prepare our young generation for the future. An authentic liberal arts education: (1) offers a super-wide range of courses, (2) requires all students to experience the full range, (3) institutionalizes the connectivity of knowledge through various interdisciplinary mechanisms, (4) delivers knowledge in a student-centered, active-learning format, and (5) occurs in a residential, globalized atmosphere. I wonder how many universities can make such a claim.