Continuing from last time, we had a talk with Professor Kimijima, Dean of College of International Relations.
Interviewer: As Dean of College of International Relations, what do you think your students have learned and gained through their life here?
Professor Kimijima: The college is sometimes called an interdisciplinary college, since students learn many disciplines. When our students go job-hunting and employers ask them, "What is international relations?", the students explain that it is a combination of political science, economics, and sociology. At the same time, some students wonder what their specialty is and worry that they are not specialists. Some might think that this is a weakness of the college. But my response is that if you would like to study a specific area in more depth, go on to graduate school. After completing four years of university study, students do not generally have a very high level of specialty. However, they develop inquiring minds, skills to communicate with people from other cultures, and the ability to adapt themselves to different environments. They also learn to get along with others, they are very active and independent, they have their own identities, and they are good at expressing themselves. Compared to the students of other colleges, our students are great communicators.
Another characteristic of the college is that faculty members are really friendly and close to the students. This tradition grew from our beginning as a small community with just 160 students, and relations between faculty members and students are still very close.
Interviewer: What is your vision for the College?
Professor Kimijima: In the future, Japanese society will shrink due to population decline, and GDP will probably fall compared to big neighboring countries. So our society will inevitably become smaller and, unfortunately, the tendency of Japanese people nowadays is inward-looking. This is a concern. Japan is a small island nation, so we are destined to look to the world outside our country, and cannot return to a period of national isolation. Our college is a place where we always gaze at the world. We'd like to serve as an interface between Japanese society and global society. And we'd like to educate people to work in global interface roles.
Ritsumeikan University and American University started the dual undergraduate degree program (DUDP) in 1994 as the first program of its kind in Japan. With more than 20 years of experience, we will establish the first-ever joint degree program (JDP) in Japan. I am often asked the differences between the DUDP and the JDP, so let me explain. In the DUDP, both universities have their own requirements for degrees. But in the JDP, the two universities establish a single program, so students have dual status; in other words, when they enter Ritsumeikan University, they also obtain the status of a student of American University. The JDP offers a single trans-Pacific program at two campuses: Washington, D.C and Kyoto. Washington, D.C. is a center of world politics, and home to many political institutions like the US Congress, the White House, the US Supreme Court, the World Bank, and the IMF. Students can learn from and use the whole city as a ‘campus’. The city is also famous for internships, and students have many opportunities in that area.
Interviewer: In closing, would you explain the difference between the traditional approach to international relations and the 'Global International Relations' approach adopted by the JDP?
Professor Kimijima: The academic discipline of international relations started in Britain in the 1920s, just after World War One. That war saw the end of the Pax Britannica period, when Britain had been the hegemon. After WWI, the US became hegemonic in the global order, and more so after WWII. Since these hegemons created the academic discipline of international relations, it is an Anglo-American product. After WWII, the ideas of colonialism and imperialism were criticized, and many people in non-Western countries sought independence. Now, scholars from those countries demand a ‘non-Western’ approach to international relations. Global means not only the West, but the whole world. In that sense, they demand fairer international relations theory. This new idea of ‘Global International Relations’ was proposed by Professor Amitav Acharya of American University, who is also a visiting professor at our college. In empathy with his proposal, we named the new degree Global International Relations. This is a kind of challenge to Western international relations. Japan is part of Asia, and China is rising, so the world order is changing. The importance of the West will decline and that of the non-West will rise. Considering these changes, we think that a Global International Relations approach is necessary.
Interviewer: Thank you for your time today.