Greetings, everyone. And Happy New Year!
Last year was beyond anyone's imagining, as the novel coronavirus spread throughout the world, a state of emergency was declared, and second and third waves hit even after the declaration had been lifted. The situation remains largely unchanged and it is truly unfortunate that we cannot all come together to celebrate.
That said, the coronavirus crisis has forced us to change things that we have always wanted to change but could not, and it has also given us the opportunity to rethink values that we have always taken for granted. Things like working from home online had been proposed for years, and the technology for it had even been developed to a degree. Likewise, we all knew that there was something strange about commuting to work every day on a crowded train, yet still we couldn't make the decision to stop doing it. Intellectually, we may understand something; but change can still be hard. Is it that human beings are incapable of change without some external pressure bearing down on them? For me, the year has been a reminder of the power of inertia in everyday life.
If we can no longer do things the way we used to, what should we be doing? Gradually, we have come to understand the advantages and disadvantages of being online and working from home. As a result of everything we have learned about what makes for a better lifestyle, I think we are capable of making gradual improvements. That said, I still believe that humans by nature need to come together, meet face to face, and share a common space with each other as they work together. After all, we are social animals.
How has your research and living situation as graduate students been? If you have any problems that the university may be able to help you with, please do not hesitate to contact us. I can't say for sure what we might actually be able do, but we will do our best to find ways to help. I wish you all the best as you endeavor despite it all to make progress on your research and successfully complete your doctoral dissertations. The challenges are many, so remember that the joy of research--that feeling--is the driving force that will propel you forward. You are the younger generation that will build the society of the future, so it is my hope that you will re-examine the ways of our civilization and propose new systems of value.
I know that our faculty and staff also face many challenges, albeit of a different kind. Whatever comes our way, let us not forget to keep a positive outlook as we do our best to get through it. For the university administration as well, the year 2021 will be a time of new developments. It is the final year of the third mid-term-objectives/mid-term plan period, and also the year to begin pursuing new challenges ahead of the fourth period. The issues are many, but let's not grow pessimistic. Rather, let us focus on the various ideas and discussions that will move us forward in the best direction possible.
This is the Year of the Ox. Take it slow and easy, but be sure your progress is steady. I wish you all the best in your endeavors.
Mariko Hasegawa, President
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI