9 Students – A Footstep toward “Super Doctor”

4. Aiming to Build a Better Program

Prof. Kannari:Well, I hope that I can see for myself your successes on your way to the top. I urge you to avoid being conservative and to seize every opportunity to boldly step forward. As this program aims to produce global leaders, it is my strong desire that you will grab every chance you see to step out onto the global stage.
Finally, I would like to hear any advice that you have for our program. I think there are probably many areas where the program is lacking. Likewise, there are probably things it does not need. One area where it is lacking may be language ability. While we can help you by sending you to overseas internships, short-term overseas study, and overseas academic conferences, making language training in itself available through the program’s five years is difficult. That’s why I think it is important for you to recognize your own need for language training and to strive for self-improvement. Apart from language, I would like to hear your frank views concerning what the program needs more of and what it does not need. You need not speak in any particular order.

Regarding short-term overseas study

Student A:This is a good thing about the program, but I thought I grew most in the short-term overseas study. I’m glad that the program helped me with the cost of overseas study and gave me procedural guidance.
Prof. Kannari:Do you think six months is too short?
Student A:If the overseas study period were one year, one year of the two-year doctoral program would be taken up by overseas study. I think that would make earning a doctoral degree harder. So, in that sense, six months was just about right.
Student B:Short-term overseas study has value as an experience, but six months is not enough to say that you’ve really been somewhere. And it’s not enough time to earn a degree.
Student C:Yes, but I think in some cases even six months is enough time to achieve certain results. In my case, the instructors were acquainted with each other, so I went to what was kind of like a sister laboratory. I engaged in research from a perspective that differed from my doctoral dissertation, and even so I produced a result that can be patented in six months. So I thought the experience was a good one.
Prof. Kannari:Were any of you able to reflect your achievements during the short-term overseas study in your doctoral dissertation? C-kun, was it the case that your Keio instructor and the other university’s instructor were doing joint research, and you went as part of that research?
Student C:It wasn’t up to the level of research based on a joint research agreement. When I suggested that collaborating on a certain topic with the other instructor might produce interesting results, my instructor agreed. And so we launched a collaborative project. I am writing an international paper right now, and I get the feeling it will be part of my dissertation.
Prof. Kannari:How about you, D-kun?
Student D:Prior to starting my overseas study, I visited a laboratory in Stanford University that I was referred to by an instructor in my primary major. During my visit I explained the content of my research and mentioned that I wanted to pursue it in the United States. They were very interested in what I doing and said they wanted to work together. I then took the results of the questionnaire survey I conducted in Japan to the lab, and had weekly discussions with the lab’s students and instructors. I also received various words of advice and put together the structure of my dissertation. My work there was a complete extension of my research in Japan. I think what can be done varies depending on the field, but in my case, my methods were mainly focused on analysis using simulations and probability statistics, without any experiments. I think that made it easy to conduct my research over there.
Prof. Kannari:So, if you were to specify what you accomplished during your six-month overseas study, it would be work on your doctoral dissertation, correct?
Student D:Yes, I think so. Someone just mentioned how the six-month overseas study period is short. But in my case, I think I got the Stanford people to listen to my proposal and successfully conducted research on my dissertation’s theme precisely because it was six months. They will not hand out any research expenditure. In ordinary overseas study in the United States, students are registered in the host institution and in the computer science field, for example, students become something like workers for the American professor. So students cannot separately pursue research in the fields they like, but rather do research following instructions from the instructor. I can’t make any blanket statements about which way is better, but I think, in the case of my study at Stanford, the fact that the study period was six months helped allow me to set my research topic freely.

Regarding the MMD system

Prof. Kannari:It seems the overseas study was beneficial for you. I’m glad to hear that. One could say that the main features of this program are the MMD system, mentor system, and the short-term study. However, almost all programs have an overseas study component. That’s because any program capable of securing the money for overseas travel and using connections to find host institutions can include it.
On the other hand, all programs want to introduce a mentor system, but employing many mentors who are as qualified as ours is truly difficult. They can’t imitate us even if they try. So you could say that the two main pillars of our program are the MMD system and mentor system (and the group project exercises called “GPE” that are conducted by it).
Student E:I think there are places where MMD can be improved. Having said that, however, I do think that, in my own experience, MMD has been very valuable and I’m very glad I did it. Nonetheless, I think the administrative processes are extremely numerous. Wouldn’t it be better to conduct research under sub-major instructors and to write and submit joint research papers together with them? Going beyond this to make earning a master’s degree required brings reviews and other procedures into play. There is also the problem of being tied up by school regulations. Meeting these requirements takes time away from other activities. I think that if the program is based on three parts—primary major, sub-major research, and GPE—the primary major remains first rate because we earn our doctoral degrees, but I feel our sub-major master’s degree and GPE are not quite as good as they should be.
Regarding GPE, I have recently come to think that conducting studies by actually going out to do field work is quite difficult. At the recent general meeting, it was pointed out that studies are being completely based upon Internet searches. We don’t have the time to go out into the field. I, too, have gotten through by taking what I found through Internet searches and somehow making it look more attractive.
Student F:For example, there is X-kun, who is a second-term student. One of the things that impresses me about him is that he is involved in a cancer prevention project with Hachioji City and he’s doing a GPE that involves various companies. I don’t think that kind of pattern existed for us first-term students. If we were unable to do things like that because of our MMD load, I think it would be good to reexamine MMD from the standpoint of developing the super doctors that we aim to be.
Prof. Kannari:We took the bold step of requiring students to earn a master’s degree by moving to another major with the aim of realizing fusion of the humanities and science within a clear system. A master’s degree provides clear evidence that can be stated on a résumé. Conversely, if we had used an ambiguous approach and a slacker format that required only the earning of credits, I wonder how disciplined you would have been. Ultimately, I think that requiring a disciplined approach was probably good from your standpoint as first-term students as well as in terms of the program’s structure. The first-term students had a tough road, as you were the first to take on the MMD system. Because the second-term and later students will basically be able to follow your lead, I don’t think they will have it so tough.
Student E:If you’re going to go for MMD, why not go on to MMDD? Wouldn’t getting one more doctoral degree in the sub-major create a bigger impact?
Prof. Kannari:Even if you accept Doctors of Medicine combine an MD and PhD, I don’t think that having two PhDs has a great deal of meaning. If you want to earn another PhD, you can do so after the program.

Regarding the mentor system

Prof. Kannari:What about the mentor system? The GPE project involves having students explore themes on their own and thus tends to produce saturation. If, say, the themes were presented by companies, then they would have necessity and a time scale, and so I wonder if they would have been better. Additionally, I think the fact that you had five years of mutual contact with people in industry through GPE is significant. What do you think of your five-year relationship with those adults in terms of your values?
Student A:It helped me make decisions concerning my future career path, so I am a big proponent of the mentor system. I think the best part was that members of companies’ executive class and manager class watched over us students for the five-year period.
This is something that Sakamoto-kun always says, and fully see what he means. Some students may think there is nothing unusual about this, but I think it is something that absolutely does not happen ordinarily. It also connects to our career paths. On the other hand, we are with the same person for the entire five years, and I would like to see the program allow a bit more flexibility in this respect. There are both good sides and bad sides.
Student B:The mentors are excellent. However, the goal of the GPE is to prepare policy recommendations. Honestly, I don’t really understand the significance of, or value of, having involvement by people from private enterprises. It seems to me that if mentors are coming from companies to the campus and we study issues in their industries or society, this has nothing to do with policy recommendations. So I would hope that they would give us mentoring concerning social problems. Particularly up to the second year.
Prof. Kannari:The mentors also have the view that the first and second years are extremely important, and that they should not be moved around but rather should provide thoroughgoing instruction during that time. After that, the students will grow and become something like mentors themselves. So I think that everyone should work as people doing similar things, and it’s sufficient if mentors do no more than devote themselves to giving pertinent advice. It seems the mentors place value on providing guidance on considering and developing matters to students—who don’t know right from left during the first and second years of the program—from their vantage point as members of the workforce. I think that is very close to what you’re saying.
Student C:I may be departing from the topic here, but I felt that my mentors’ personal connections were extremely beneficial. Through knowing Mr. Takahashi, one of our mentors, I was able to meet people in the New York branch of a pharmaceuticals company during my short-term overseas study. Through Mr. Ishikawa, I saw IBM’s Watson Center in Yorktown. And there was Ajinomoto through Mr. Suzuki. I therefore had the experience of being connected to various companies, something for which I was very glad.
Student D:An earlier question reminded me of something. Last year, during an evening discussion meeting that took place during a Keio University-organized symposium at the Tokyo International Forum, a person from Minebea said that the students here were really different. He said that at informal meetings such as that one, Japanese students gathered among themselves and did not talk to companies. However, students from Keio’s Leading Program came up to talk one after another. He said he found himself wondering if the companies were dragging them in. Students of this program speak to their mentors daily and are accustomed to talking to important people. Among other qualities, we also share awareness of where problems exist. I think it’s great that we have the ability to plunge into a conversation.
Student E:I frequently go out drinking with our mentors. We go following the end of the Saturday GPE, which in our case is after six. It can’t be helped that some mentors drink and others don’t. But accordingly, there are some mentors with whom I get along well and others that are hard to approach. I would like to have more opportunities to communicate with them even outside of the GPE.
Student F:Talking about communication with our mentors, I think it would be OK not to stick to the idea of being with the same mentor the entire time. I think this was proposed in the homeroom a while back: Right now we’re basically with the same mentor throughout the five years, but wouldn’t it be acceptable for us to choose our affiliation each year in line with our wishes? This program is supposed to be agile, and we are always rotating different things with short units and making improvements along the way. So I think it would be better to also rotate our mentors. The mentors each come from different companies, and many of them have diverse experiences. So I think it’s more important to meet and receive guidance from as many of them as possible. I want to hear from many different companies, not just one. So I think reassigning mentors at the beginning of each academic year might be a good idea.
Student G:We receive guidance from the same mentor during the first year. Then, in the next year, we go to the next mentor while using what we learned from the previous one. I think it would be good to consider speeding up this kind of rotation.
Student H:Basically, I think it would be good to individually rotate mentors freely.
Prof. Kannari:So, in a sense, do you think this should be implemented systematically? If, due to the system, everyone concentrates on certain mentors from the second year, I wonder if some mentors would be left without any students.
Student I:Assignments could be set based on a roulette-type system. What I mean is, students could be assigned so that they receive guidance from different mentors by rotating five times during the program’s five years.
Student J:One thing I would fear is that, if mentors are changed, we would have to take time to explain what we have done up to that point, which might hinder our progress. I think consideration is needed to avoid such a situation. Consequently, we could consider staying with one mentor to a certain degree and keeping that relationship up to our policy recommendations at the final exit.
Student K:How about establishing that the last two years or so are for personal work toward the final policy recommendations? During the three years before that, students could form teams of about three students for each mentor and study the same theme. In this group-based project, the team would produce the same output with each individual taking on his or her own share of the work. One way of doing this might be to arrange this approach into three “sets” over the three years.
There are cases where this kind of approach is used in company projects. The first year is for teamwork at the lowest level. Things are taken up a notch in the second year, and in the third year is for forming a team that has a guiding role.
Student L:Considering the nature of policy recommendations, from what I gather listening to representatives of The Japan Research Institute and Mitsubishi Research Institute who have come to give lectures, the time span for policy recommendations is quite short. The norm may be a rotation of six months or so. The keen problem awareness and solutions that we possessed in the first year after beginning GPE study inevitably fade by the fifth year. If policy recommendations are to be considered the output, then it might be better to raise the rate of rotation in one year still more. However, I think students probably need not be so concerned with policy recommendations from their first year in the program.
Student M:I think that during our first and second years, just about all we thought about was what constitutes a social problem. The objective of the first year is to nurture perspective. We thought, this can be considered a social problem, right? What problems am I interested in? What areas do I think are problematic? And, finally, during the final year or two years, I think it would be good to use this perspective to come up with own’s own policy recommendations.
However, returning to the previous topic, as Professor Kannari said, changing mentors haphazardly will prevent progress announcements and the production of results. I think this is exactly right. I think such an aspect exists. The method I’m thinking of is, for example, creating once-monthly shuffling examples in which groups are kept together, rather than having individual students shuffled among mentors. Student members of the group stay the same, and only the mentors change. On that day, during time limited to the second period, the group makes a simple presentation to the mentor explaining its thinking and what it wants to do. Then it receives feedback. The group may be told that its thinking doesn’t make sense, or it may have issues pointed out to it. This will give students the ability to explain what they want to do to people who do not share the same context. Another advantage is that students will receive advice from various angles from mentors with different backgrounds. So I think it would be interesting to do this about once a month.
Prof. Kannari:I see. As a matter of fact, we are thinking of slightly changing the way the GPE system is executed for the autumn. I have received some truly excellent ideas today. Some mentors say that consideration must be given to leadership development. If we are going to provide ordinary training for entry into society, then doing it as a group might be acceptable. But an important quality of leadership is the ability to see a matter through to the end as an individual. Developing this ability is also something that can be considered here.

Regarding term papers

Student A:I feel the term papers are not what they could be right now. Perhaps we don’t have to go as far as creating a journal, but I think compiling the papers into a format like that to be issued once a term would make them better. Putting term papers into either a periodical or electronic journal would be fine. But I think we’re just going halfway if we don’t go that far.
Prof. Kannari:We have you submit the term papers as outcomes of your GPE activities for the spring and autumn term.
Student A:That’s right. I think the term papers are becoming kind of like activity reports that are outside of the final policy recommendations. That’s fine if being activity reports is the intent, but I think they won’t be what they could be until we make them into a proper publication.
Prof. Kannari:That’s fine if, by making a term paper into a publication, you are bringing it to an end right there. But shouldn’t you think about whether enough people will read it to justify the amount of extra work needed to make into a publication?
Student A:Yes, I can see that creating a publication presents a high hurdle. But, we could upload them to the website in the form of short reports or the like. I think we should present them properly by posting content and photos so that third parties can read them.
Student D:Ultimately, isn’t it the purpose of the papers’ assignment to provide evidence of program activities?
Prof. Kannari:This program is an activity funded by government money. So we show that we are executing it as planned with written records. We are paying you a stipend, and so the term papers also serve as evidence of the stipend’s results.
Student E:If you are going to post something on the website, I think it would be more meaningful to post overseas study reports or other items rather than the term papers.
Prof. Kannari:Undoubtedly, both the term papers and overseas study reports contain valuable content. However, the term papers also contain things that are not appropriate for presentation to the public as activity outcomes.
Student F:Right now I am working on my GPE theme alone and writing my term paper alone. If I were to do these activities on a team of several members, their quality might improve. Someone mentioned this earlier, but working on a GPE as a group project has an effect on term papers. Reporting outcomes by a team raises a problem—specifically, it becomes difficult to evaluate individuals.
Prof. Kannari:Well, we are out of time. We have heard about valuable realizations you have had through the program, areas where experienced hardship, and your requests for the program. In many ways, your views have encouraged me. I have also received some hints on ways to improve the program. Thank you very much.