At Sophia University, we actively host a variety of global events, inviting guests from both domestic and international backgrounds. The Vice President for Global Academic Affairs, Tetsuo Morishita, explains the objectives of these events and what we aim to convey to the next generation through them.
“UN Weeks,” Bringing Together Leading Domestic and International Experts
Since 2014, our university has been hosting ‘Sophia University UN Weeks‘ annually in June and October. The concept behind these events is to contemplate the world and our future through the lens of the UN’s activities. We invite officials from international organizations, government representatives, and leading researchers from both the domestic and international stage to be guest lecturers, participating in our symposiums, and other activities during these weeks.
The aim of the UN Weeks is to learn from professionals in the field and provide participants the opportunity to contemplate about various challenges international society face today. During the June 2023 UN Weeks, we organized a symposium featuring the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan, discussing possible support from Japan and the UN for those suffering from hunger in Afghanistan. Additionally, an interim assessment of the progress of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a discussion of its future challenges was conducted with experts.
The UN Weeks events are open to the public, with many participants from outside the university joining us including working professionals, and high school students. Initially conducted only in person, the events have evolved, out of necessity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to a HyFlex format that combines in-person and online participation, ensuring broader access and engagement.
Beyond Sharing Information, to Fostering Human Interaction and Network Building
At the UN Weeks, we consistently prioritize timely topics for discussion. To achieve this, we see the importance of inviting guest speakers who can discuss the latest themes from both domestic and international perspectives. Sophia University is well positioned to invite such speakers and accomplish this goal with help from the network and trust that Sophia faculty and staff have built over time.
Furthermore, while the UN Weeks serve as a platform for disseminating information on global issues, they also play the crucial role of fostering interactions among participants and facilitating new networks among participants – one of the crucial roles universities play as societal ‘hubs,’ connecting various elements and offering new value.
A Diverse Range of Global Events held Regularly
The global events conducted by Sophia University are not limited to UN Weeks. Since 2017, we have been annually hosting ‘Sophia University Africa Weeks’ (hereinafter referred to as ‘Africa Weeks’).
African countries have recently been gaining more prominence and playing a larger role on the international stage. However, for those of us living in Japan, due to the long distance in between, information is often less available, compared to the amount of news we receive about Europe or the Americas. Therefore, in this event, we also invite various individuals, both domestic and international, to give lectures and hold symposiums, aiming to enhance our understanding of the current state of Africa.
Sophia University currently has 16 partner universities in Africa, and we offer on-site training program called ‘Learning in Africa.’ Through initiatives like Africa Weeks, studying abroad in Africa, and participating in related programs, we hope to foster more students’ developing interest in and having a deeper understanding of the people, history, society, culture, and economy of Africa.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there is always some form of global event taking place at Sophia University – hosted by the faculty, graduate school, and center. On the other hand, due to such availability, some students develop the perception that they can ‘participate next time,’ and they opt out of many events. However, I strongly encourage students to actively make use of such opportunities to learn about the world and engage in deep thinking from a global standpoint, even without leaving the Yotsuya campus. Additionally, I am eager to explore mechanisms that can enhance students’ interest and engagement, ultimately leading to increased participation.
Sophia’s Global Events as an Impetus to Discovering your own Future
For the young individuals who lead our future, a global perspective is undoubtedly crucial. Events like UN Weeks and Africa Weeks offer a unique opportunity to directly hear from experts and researchers who are dedicated to addressing global challenges. It provides a chance not only to listen to their insights but also to feel and share in their sense of passion. Moreover, for those who might not yet have a clear vision of their future goals and dreams, active participation in these events could offer a tangible way to imagine working abroad or making a global impact, potentially becoming a catalyst for serious consideration of future opportunities. The next UN Weeks are scheduled to take place in October, coinciding with ‘United Nations Day.’ The event will feature a special lecture by the President of the United Nations University (UN Under-Secretary-General) and workshops tailored for those aspiring to pursue careers in international organizations and cooperation. In the previous June UN Weeks, around 2,000 students participated, with approximately 500 being middle and high school students. As the event is open for online participation, I encourage anyone and everyone interested to enthusiastically join in and participate.