“The Four Seasons of Graduate School”, Professor Xiao-Li Meng, Ph.D., The Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University

On Saturday, July 2, Dr. Xiao-Li Meng, the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) at Harvard University, gave a lecture at the Hiyoshi West Annex Building. Dr. Meng delivered a talk entitled “The Four Seasons of Graduate School” about his experience as the dean and had a question/answer session, which enabled us to better understand GSAS.

Dr. Meng was originally from Shanghai, China. His academic career started with his undergraduate degree in mathematics at Fudan University. From there he went on to teach at China Textile University for two years. After that, he went back to Fudan University and received a diploma in the graduate study of mathematical statistics. He was then enrolled in the Department of Statistics at Harvard University and received his Ph.D. degree in 1990. After ten years of being a faculty at the University of Chicago, he joined Harvard University as a professor of Statistics in 2001. He was appointed the Dean of GSAS in 2012.

In his talk, he introduced to us how the Harvard program has developed global talents. In his presentation, Dr. Meng quoted the phrase “To teach is to learn twice” from Joseph Joubert. In an innovative course for graduate students called the Graduate Seminar in General Education, graduate students work with faculty to develops new courses to teach undergraduates. One of the key points in graduate studies is a deep understanding of a graduate student’s own research. Teaching becomes an effective way for a student to understand more about his or her field as he/she needs to explain his or her field in ways that are easy to understand and also by incorporating real life examples. Dr. Meng introduced us to such a course he taught, the Happy Course. He also talked about a GSAS wide program called the Harvard Horizons, which provides not only an opportunity for participating graduate students to improve his/her presentation skills, but also how to communicate a discipline-specific topic to the general audience. Such training helps the student to understand his or her own study deeply.

For a research assistant (RA) of the Program for Leading Graduate School (PLGS) at Keio University, the second major master program is in a different field from the first major master program in order for him or her to develop a broad perspective. Moreover, we RAs who have been enrolled in PLGS from10 different graduate schools have been discussing with 12 mentors on social problems related to the “super mature” society of Japan. They are managers or senior executives of industries and local governments. Dr. Meng’s lecture gave us ideas and encouragement to study our professions deeply and find opportunities to interact with RAs from other academic fields.

By Yurie Kubo, Enrolled in 2016 Spring, M1, Graduate School of Media and Governance

Dean Xiao-Li Meng, Ph.D.
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Harvard University