What is GSDM?
The Global Leader Program for Social Design and Management (GSDM) is an interdisciplinary doctoral program to train top leaders leading a global society, involving 21 departments of nine graduate schools at the University of Tokyo.
Outline of GSDM program
GSDM Program Coordinator, Vice Dean, Graduate School of Public Policy
Q: What was the motive for implementing the leadership program at the University of Tokyo and what was the program’s goal?
Shiroyama: This leadership program began about two years ago; it was first formed as a program for cooperation between the medical and engineering fields or to focus on the field of mathematics.
Such programs have been categorized as an all-around program that would foster, in a sense, certain types of leaders in virtually all fields. However, a program like this has not been adopted at the University of Tokyo until now.
Nonetheless we at the University of Tokyo, desire to produce such graduates, and this was the direct motive behind implementing the leadership program this year. Leadership programs elsewhere are primarily centered on students in the sciences. However, another motive behind implementing it was to create a program that was half humanities and half science, since I come from the field of humanities.
Q: What do you think are the present strengths and weaknesses of the universities of Tokyo or Japan, when considering world-class talent?
Shiroyama: Ah, yes. In each field— economics, law, or engineering—there are Japanese researchers who produce the world’s top level achievements. However, until now, these researchers have been scattered. I think that our weakness is in figuring out how these individual teachers and students should work as a team to practically tackle the issues facing society.
All-around is a category. In other words, the problems facing society don’t occur saying, “Please solve me using this specialized field.” This means that when problems occur, they require certain flexibility, in order to, say, create teams of various features that can cope with each problem and figure out each solution. Solving such problems requires project management capability, such as in planning as well as implementing projects as a team effort, and we need to compensate for a lack of such teamwork or “project-management.” I believe this is exactly what this program seeks to do.
Q: In 2013, you began a program for fostering all-around global leaders. What responses or impressions have you received?
Shiroyama: As expected, one huge aspect of this program is that students collaborate with others from completely different fields for group work. It’s not as if students are just listening to lectures during class; they often do a range of group work—practices, as it were, together. Many people have shared that they experienced something that they had never experienced before at the university, and I feel like, in that sense, this leadership program really has become an opportunity to start something new.
Q: In comparison to 20 or 30 years ago, do you think the qualities demanded in the international workforce have changed?
Shiroyama: Yes, well, until now, if we are talking about maybe 20 or 30 years ago, I think that international business was conducted by a certain limited population. For example, some people thought about national policies and strategies; similarly, an international expert would also exist to take care of the rest, regardless of whether it was a government or a business.
This one part of the population shouldered international affairs. Probably, we are no longer in that period. If individuals think they will conduct research or a business practice, they’ll never advance in their job or field if they do not simultaneously create and manage an international network. In that sense, for example, I am in the field of political sciences, but the conversation is no longer, “It’s a good idea if people working in a particular field such as international politics internationalize”; however, exceedingly domestic discussions, whether they be on domestic social welfare policy or the decentralization of power, are also, in fact, occurring and progressing simultaneously in various places. I believe that, probably, around 10 to 15 years ago, there was a great difference in the way things worked, and those things that were, until now, considered domestic discussions are exactly those things that should be carried out internationally.
Q: What are the specialties of the teachers involved in the leadership program?
Shiroyama: Because of its all-around nature, it’s not as if you decide on particular themes that will be carried out in the program, but, for example, the field of medical treatment is one important field, or energy, space and aviation, or risk management… teachers working on the frontier of these fields bring with them a great deal of merit. It’s not like these teachers are simply keeping to their classrooms, but in fact, everyone, including those in the humanities and sciences, go out into the society and transfer information in a variety of ways as well as contribute in a business-practice sense. Therefore, the fact that the program involves these types of teachers is a great characteristic of the program.
One more characteristic, of course, the interaction between traversing fields and business practices at the same time, is perhaps huge in this program. In that sense, we have had many people involved in this program with business-practice experience.
In particular, the Graduate School of Public Policy is not only a professional graduate school but also educates people, who will return to business practice afterward, therefore, a certain portion of teachers at the graduate school must be practitioners—they must have experience in business practices in their current field.
In that sense, Professor Tanaka, who has experience in business practices, is certainly a top figure in an international organization, and Professor Kan Suzuki was also involved in the government and after that was also concerned with the political scene, but has now returned to research. In fact, the program has many other distinguished people like these two from a variety of fields.
I think the fact that these people are a part of the program is a great strength. As for why the graduate school of political science, which is a small fraction of the whole University and of the humanities, coordinates the entire program from among all those within the University of Tokyo—I believe one reason is that its connections to business practice are strong.
Q: What kind of people would you like to join this program? How do you want those involved in the program to change?
Shiroyama: The answer to this question is involved with what abilities are needed in the end when you decide to enter into the international community. In this program, I would say we’re looking for something like the ability to solve problems, but, in fact, before the problem can be solved, the ability to define the problem—I use the term “problem definition”—is pretty important.
In the political scene, in other words, when you are talking with various people, the ability to determine the problem is very important, and I hope those people who have an orientation toward problem definition come join the program.
In this sense, it’s not about being told by someone, or receiving a problem and giving an answer, but rather it is about finding those problems, whether it’s a problem you find difficult or a problem you don’t know about—there are many out there. I absolutely want to look for those who think that searching for these problems is absorbing, and I feel really strongly that I want such people to join the program.