We sat down with Professor Kimijima, Dean of the College of International Relations (IR), to hear about College of IR's 30-year history and its future.
Interviewer: I understand College of International Relations was established in 1988 during an era of rapid global change, and offered the first undergraduate international relations program in Western Japan. Can you tell us a little more?
Professor Kimijima: Ritsumeikan University is more than 100 years old, and in the 1980s it had six colleges: Law, Economics, Letters, Science and Engineering, Management, and Social Sciences. At that time, the University felt a sense of crisis due to its position compared to other renowned private universities in the Kansai region. Faculty and staff members embarked on a radical reform and decided to establish a new college, College of IR. That decision was made in the mid-1980s, and the college opened its doors to students in April 1988. This was the start of a great transformation for Ritsumeikan University, during which the University established many colleges.
If you think back to the 1980s, the Cold War was still in progress. President Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, so there was upheaval in the Eastern Bloc, and 1988 saw the start of great changes in the international community. The Cold War ended soon after our college opened, and world politics and economies changed at an amazing pace. The college experienced this change and grew very rapidly in conjunction with it. In that era, we undertook research and education while witnessing radical changes. In the 1990s, we faced the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Iraq Crisis and the Gulf War, the revival of the United Nations, resurgence of UN peacekeeping operations, and the emergence of global civil society in the form of NGOs. The following decade saw the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Iraq War, the rise of China, the 2008 financial crisis, uncontrolled flow of money, and the rise of Islamic State. So, in the last 20 or 30 years, our college has lived through a period of radical international change.
As you noted, our college offered the first undergraduate international relations program in Western Japan. We are still the largest and most comprehensive college in the area of international relations in Western Japan and the nation as a whole. One of our strengths is that we award Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in international relations. From the beginning, the college has been a very innovative school, and we introduced active learning as our usual method of teaching. One of our unique active learning classes is Global Simulation Gaming, or GSG. For one semester, all second-year college of IR students take this class and play the roles of international actors such as heads of state, representatives of international organizations, and journalists to discuss global issues. Our college is probably the only school in the world to have this kind of class with more than 300 students. Our college has offered GSG since 1988.
Interviewer: What is the mission of your college?
Professor Kimijima: Our mission is to prepare students to act in global roles, so we equip them with knowledge, skills, mindsets, and ethics to lead the world in more peaceful directions. Our graduates work in many areas: as diplomats, government officials, officials of international organizations, bankers, securities dealers, travel agents, cabin attendants, and high school teachers. Of course, some students continue their studies in graduate schools. Wherever they are, I hope they work towards making the world more peaceful.
At the entrance ceremony this year, I told students: “I’d like you to develop intellects that are unafraid of authority, and to have the courage to go beyond borders and a sense of solidarity and responsibility as a member of international society. After graduation, I’d like you to gradually change Japan and the world as a whole.” This is our hope for our students.
I always tell students that our goals are to foster people who think critically, go beyond borders, break away from sectionalism, respect the identities of others, and engage in dialogue.
Interviewer: What is unique about your college, compared to similar colleges in Japan and around the world?
Professor Kimijima: We have two majors. One is International Relations, which is taught in Japanese and is one of the oldest programs of its kind in the country. The other is Global Studies, which is relatively new, but the most comprehensive English-language international relations program in Japan. In 2018, Ritsumeikan University will establish a joint degree program (JDP) with American University in Washington, D.C. We believe that this JDP is the most innovative, cutting-edge program of its type in the world. The School of International Service (SIS), American University is the largest school of international affairs in the US, and our college is the most comprehensive in this field in Japan. Through our collaboration, we will offer a Global International Relations program leading to a BA degree, and it will be the most innovative international relations program in the world.
Our students have diverse requirements, and our coverage of many research fields enables us to meet their demands. Moreover, we teach international relations in both Japanese and English, and have a dual undergraduate degree program (DUDP) with American University. We are also proud to offer a variety of foreign language programs, teaching the six official languages of the United Nations, plus Korean, German, and Japanese as a second language. Thus we can provide courses to students interested in learning languages, but please note that a language is just a tool for communication, and the important thing is what you do with that tool. Another unique point of the college is the number of areas covered. We teach the disciplines of political science, economics, and sociology, but we also teach area studies. I am often asked, “What is international relations?” I respond that it is the integration of language, theory, and area studies. We offer these three pillars, and this is the greatest strength of our college.
The college is located in Kyoto, a very attractive place to live and learn. The essence of Kyoto lies in combining tradition and innovation, which is an approach shared by our college.
Continued in next article