April 09, 2024

President's Message for New Students, April 2024

On April 9, 2024, the SOKENDAI entrance ceremony was held.
Congratulations on your admission to SOKENDAI!

President's Message for New Students

 Congratulations on your admission to SOKENDAI. On behalf of the faculty and staff, I would like to extend a heartfelt welcome to all of you.

 As you all know, SOKENDAI has been established to train the next generation of doctoral professionals at top-class national research institutions. I am sure that now you are all feeling a mixture of anticipation and anxiety, as you are about to begin your studies and research at those institutes scattered nationwide in Japan.

 There are many things that I would like to say to you as president of the university, but today, I will narrow it down to two phrases that I would like you to keep in mind as you go through your graduate school life.

 The first is “student experiences.”

 In our graduate programs, students are expected to acquire advanced knowledge in their chosen specialty, master research methods, and gain the ability to identify and solve new problems. A doctoral degree could be considered the ultimate goal of a graduate program, as that is what you are awarded. While obtaining a degree is indeed meaningful, I believe that the true significance of graduate school lies in the sorts of student experiences that you accumulate in graduate school.

 Another phrase I would like to introduce in relation to this is “connecting the dots.” Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, used this phrase with the word “dots” referring to a person’s various experiences. To provide more context, he said:

 You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

 Meaning that, while in the moment, we can’t see how what we are doing will affect the future, the things we have done to this point determine what we will be able to do in the future. I would like for all of you to increase the number of such “dots” you have during your graduate school years. To do so, I would like you to take on various challenges without fear of failure, and to experience a graduate school life full of trial and error. I even believe that graduate school is a place to obtain these “dots” of experience that will shape the rest of your life. The degree should simply come as a result.

 The second major phrase that I would like you to keep in mind is “ask the right questions.”

 In research, it is first necessary to identify the problem and what needs to be done to solve it. However, it is even more important to discern how solving the problem will lead to presenting an even larger concept or to changing conventional ways of thinking. I once heard a prominent medical scientist say, “Finding the right question is more difficult than answering it.” Asking the right questions leads to the right results. Once you have the right question, all you have to do is devote sufficient time and energy to figuring it the answer.

 These are the two phrases that I would like for you to keep in mind, but I will add one last thing. You have all entered SOKENDAI with the goal of further studying your respective specialties and earning a doctoral degree. The road you are about to step onto will most certainly not be flat, but rather a series of peaks and valleys. However, I hope that when you look back on your graduate school days in the future, it will have been such a rich and distinctive period of your life that you will consider it the foundation of who you are at that time. The university and all of our faculty and staff are committed to supporting you in this endeavor to the best of our ability.

 Once again, congratulations on your admission today.

2024,April 9
Takashi Nagata, President
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI