Nagasaki University Top Interview

Prof. Masako Ito, Vice-President and Director of Center for Diversity and Inclusion personally interviews board members of Nagasaki University!
Interviewees talk about their visions for how Nagasaki University should develop, their views on diversity, their own work-life balance, and their careers.
Through this interview series, we will send “energizing messages for everyone working at Nagasaki University”.

PART 1

“Globalization presents a huge opportunity for regional universities…diversity is our greatest strategy.”

Prof. Shigeru Katamine, President

Interviewed at the President’s Office on November 25, 2015

1.Key Words for Strategy are “Globalization” and “Diversity”

Vice-President Ito: Prof. Katamine, even before you were appointed as University President, you were spearheading organizations and teams with your strong leadership; what is the source of these leadership abilities?

President Katamine: I don’t regard myself as having leadership ability to begin with. When you talk about leadership, it’s difficult to explain, but in fact all I have is a “desire to somehow make Nagasaki University a cut above the rest”. I therefore think about what strategies and tactics to employ in order to achieve this objective. In a sense, this is probably connected to leadership.
A world structure is undergoing tremendous change, the region that is Nagasaki and the regional university that is Nagasaki University are undoubtedly facing a huge revolution. How can we nurture young people who are capable of contributing to not only the region, but to the world?
I believe that one key word for achieving this is “globalization”; another is “diversity”. Globalization presents a huge opportunity for regional universities. This means nurturing human resources here at Nagasaki University who have unique values and perspectives that set them apart from others, and sending these human resources out into the world. Our greatest strategies are diversity and individuality.

2. Making the Most of Nagasaki’s Uniqueness through Diversity

Vice-President Ito: The world today is very different from when you were first appointed at University President. Much is being made of Japan’s declining birthrate, aging society, and lack of human resources, and “diversity” is an important factor in making some kind of change amidst this adversity.

President Katamine: That is absolutely true. In order for the region of Nagasaki to make efforts utilizing its unique characteristics, what is needed is diversity. The issues facing Japan and the world are extremely diverse. Without diverse human resources, diverse values and perspectives, diverse ideas, and so on, we can no longer handle so much diversity. The important factors in this diversity are “communities” and “regions”. The Nagasaki region has always had a unique character, and the values, perspectives, and ideas that come out of Nagasaki are sure to differ from those from elsewhere.

3. Fostering leaders who will act as a link with the next generation of society

Vice-President Ito: This year, Nagasaki University was selected to participate in the “Initiative for Realizing Diversity in the Research Environment”, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). This initiative includes the “Program for Fostering Female Leaders”. Actually, there are many people who balk to some extent at the “Women Leaders” part of the title, and there is still an atmosphere of hesitation regarding women aspiring to be leaders. What do you think should be done to change this situation?

President Katamine: I myself don’t especially like being referred to as a “leader” (laughs). I think that the awareness of individuals is a major issue. There are many people who probably think that “It’s possible to realize dreams without having to do something as bothersome as being a leader”.
However, under these social conditions, I believe that there will be no future unless young people in particular have the will to somehow improve society and pass this good society on to the next generation. In order to improve society, there are many things that can be done through effort at the individual level, but ultimately it is important that organizations take action and exert their power of influence on society. By organizational leaders—that is, people involved in management—becoming productive and making efforts happily, results are achieved and society improves.
It is not enough for only men to bear this leadership responsibility. This is because various values/perspectives and diversity are required. At high schools and universities, women are demonstrating their leadership abilities, taking a leading role, are they not? It would be good if many more people such as this emerge going forward.
Also, there are few role models. I think the greatest problem is that young people have few opportunities to come in contact with female leaders as role models. I also think it is extremely important that the environment be improved so that society can also share the burden of child-rearing and long-term care, etc.

Vice-President Ito: Unlike men, I feel that there are many women who are hesitant to take on leadership roles, saying that they are “not confident”.

President Katamine: The same can be said about men, too. When I was told, “Become University President”, I had absolutely no confidence I could do the job. The job of manager is essentially passive; confidence and enjoyment develop as the work is carried out and experience accumulated. The question is whether or not a person—regardless of whether they are male or female—can take a step forward without looking backwards when they are asked to take on a challenge. When someone finds a job they want to do, eventually there will come a time when they will be placed in position where they will have bring together and lead organizations.

4. The Concept of Work-Life Integration

Vice-President Ito: The “Program for Fostering Female Leaders” has been very well-received, and so I would like the program to be expanded in future to include men as well.
As part of this program, we are also currently implementing a “Workstyle Innovation Program”. This experiment aims to improve research efficiency and produce results through changing researchers’ workstyles. Do you hold expectations for the potential of these measures, Prof. Katamine?

President Katamine: Yes, I do. However, although I think there may be some difficult aspects for application in the research field, I highly agree with the concept of “Work-Life Integration” put forward by Takayuki Hashimoto, Vice-Chairman of IBM Japan, Ltd. Changing your usual research environment and conducting research somewhere completely different from where you normally conduct research; acquiring different skills; or reading books—I think that these are all good ideas.

Vice-President Ito: If you have any particular “time management techniques” that you use as University President, please share them with us.

President Katamine: I’m afraid I’m not qualified to comment(laughs).
Just as in my researcher days, I’m the type that cannot fully concentrate until immediately before a deadline. If I can manage to secure an hour or two when I can fully concentrate, I think I can get some good work done. In order to secure this time, “in-between time” is important. For me, time when I can think in a kind of daydreaming, unfocussed way is actually very important. It is time when I am not forcing my brain to work, you see. It’s at times like this when I am not concentrating that ideas pop into my head and various other things happen.

5. Utilizing Experience as a Researcher in Management

Vice-President Ito: Lastly, please describe what has been your happiest experience in research or work.

President Katamine: I believe that I myself have been extremely blessed as a researcher. I have chosen themes that I felt “might change the world if I succeed”, formulated hypotheses, and taken on challenges. My attitude has been one of “shoot ten arrows and maybe one will hit the mark”, and I have more than adequately known the pleasure of being a researcher.
It has been seven years since I became University President, and I have felt truly inspired on numerous occasions when not only I but all my colleagues have had the same motivation and worked together in the same direction to achieve something together—when the time and space in which I was working so hard could be shared with others. When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck and I was thinking to myself, “I have to do something”, it meant a great deal to me that the people around me also were so enthusiastic in taking action. I think this has been my best experience since becoming University President.

Vice-President Ito: Lastly, please describe what has been your happiest experience in research or work.

President Katamine: I believe that I myself have been extremely blessed as a researcher. I have chosen themes that I felt “might change the world if I succeed”, formulated hypotheses, and taken on challenges. My attitude has been one of “shoot ten arrows and maybe one will hit the mark”, and I have more than adequately known the pleasure of being a researcher.
It has been seven years since I became University President, and I have felt truly inspired on numerous occasions when not only I but all my colleagues have had the same motivation and worked together in the same direction to achieve something together—when the time and space in which I was working so hard could be shared with others. When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck and I was thinking to myself, “I have to do something”, it meant a great deal to me that the people around me also were so enthusiastic in taking action. I think this has been my best experience since becoming University President.

Vice-President Ito: There must be many experiences that you have had as a researcher that are connected to your work now as University President.

President Katamine: As a researcher in the science field, I also talk about doing things “based on the evidence” when I am conducting university management. Reforms are not simply implemented and then left; rather, we produce results as proper evidence and communicate these outcomes. If reforms are unsuccessful, we simply rethink them.
There are quite a lot of instances in which my experience and sense as a researcher have been useful in my job as University President. My past experience of thoroughly training myself in the skills of writing academic papers in English so as to have my papers published in top international journals has been useful in developing and presenting logical arguments. I would also encourage researchers who are currently active to think about what leadership entails and to develop these skills as far as possible while training.

Vice-President Ito: Thank you very much. Naturally, the word “Leadership” fits you perfectly, Prof. Katamine. Please continue to strongly lead Nagasaki University forward into the future.

(End)
*This article has been abridged and some expressions modified.