Happy New Year everyone! Please allow me to say a few words, to mark the beginning of 2021 (Reiwa 3). I sincerely hope that this coming year will bring everyone good tidings of happiness.
Looking back over the past year, we all know too well that it started and finished with the COVID-19 virus/pandemic. This novel coronavirus, with its first confirmed case reported in December 2019, in no time spread to the rest of the world. Over the course of the year, more than 80 million people were infected with the virus, while the death toll exceeded 1.7 million.
In Japan the situation is quite serious, as the virus has rapidly expanded not only to the metropolitan areas, but also to the provincial regions, with the current number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 exceeding 240,000 and the death toll reaching 3,600. As for Hiroshima University, some cases of COVID-19 were recently confirmed. Fortunately, we have been able to contain the outbreak, resulting in no spread or major cluster on any HU campus. I own this to each student, faculty and administrative member of HU, and would like to express my deep gratitude to each of them for bearing the risk in mind and taking necessary steps.
When confronted with the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19, HU was, as always, fully committed to maintaining research and education activities of students and faculty members. This entailed the provision of online classes from April 8th 2020, with the health and safety of all students, faculty/administrative members of HU as the top priority. Term 3 saw an increase in the number of in-person classes, and in Term 4, while still making the best use of providing online classes, HU’s liberal arts subjects are characterized by a general return to in-person classes.
At the same time, to support those home and international students at HU, who are having financial difficulties due to the drop in their income from their part-time jobs, HU launched ‘Emergency Aid for HU Students’ in late April of 2020. HU was amongst the quickest of Japan’s universities to respond to the crisis, and this aid is still in place.
Meanwhile, all of the following four research categories of HU have been selected by Japan’s ‘Agency for Medical Research and Development’ (AMED) for the “FY2020 Program to Develop Countermeasure Technologies against Viral and Other Infectious Diseases”:
i) Support for experimental study
ii) Support for improvement study
iii) Support for validation study
iv) Support for basic research
HU intends to make contributions to society by sharing findings as well as the gained knowledge from COVID-19 related research.
Along with these countermeasures against COVID-19, HU has been making efforts steadily to implement its own reforms.
The integration process of HU’s graduate schools had been completed in the previous year, resulting in the former 11 graduate schools having been streamlined into 4: namely, the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences; the Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering; the Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life; and the Graduate School of Biomedical and Health Sciences. Now, new initiatives beyond boundaries of the different research disciplines have just begun.
As for globalization of HU, last October the Higashi-Hiroshima campus saw the establishment there of a branch campus of Arizona State University/School of Thunderbird Global Management. In addition, in December the decision was made to launch Morito Institute of Global Higher Education on the campus of Capital Normal University as its Beijing branch. Such initiatives by HU are the first of their kind by a national university in Japan; this year will also see HU’s official commencement of new student recruitment and enrollment at full scale. HU’s International Exchange Center, intended as a building to receive international students and researchers from abroad, is due to open this coming autumn. Meanwhile, the following collaboration with Galala University in Egypt is to be implemented fully this year: dispatching HU faculty members there for teaching, and receiving international students from Galala University here at HU.
The general public’s expectation that HU be ‘a university of peace’ is heightening, as it has been 75 years since HU suffered from devastating damage inflicted by the atomic bomb. One initiative with this objective, is the preservation/utilization of the atomic-bombed No. 1 Building of the Faculty of Science, into which HU’s Center for Peace is due to move. Another initiative is that the Kasumi campus has surfaced as a candidate site for the relocation of RERF (Radiation Effects Research Foundation). Regardless, in terms of collaborative research, I think it is clear that RERF will be an ideal partner for HU as it has been focusing on research on genome editing in recent years.
It remains unclear exactly how long the world will have to endure the repercussions of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Be that as it may, the outbreak of such a pandemic has served as a good opportunity for me to rethink my usual daily routines, some of which I had never imagined would suddenly come to an end.
1949 was the year that HU was established, but it also happens to be the year in which Dr. Hideki Yukawa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics; and in one way or another, Dr. Yukawa was deeply associated with HU. What follows are the words he lived by: “May each single day of my life facilitate a single step forward.”
Just like sown seeds going on to sprout and eventually bear fruit, this year I am determined to get things done steadily, while at the same time making the most of each and every day. My wish is to move forward with all of you, believing that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Finally, I sincerely hope that 2021 will be a fruitful, and above all a peaceful year with good health for all faculty and administrative members, students and their families. Happy New Year!
4th January 2021 (Reiwa 3)
President, Hiroshima University