Temple University, Japan Campus 2011 Commencement – Moving beyond the Great East Japan Earthquake

June 6, 2011

Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) held its 2011 commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 5 at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel, Tokyo. This year, the commencement recognized the achievements of 276 students in the class of 2011, including undergraduates, and graduates of Master and Doctorate programs. The commencement ceremony saw many talented bilingual and bicultural graduates leave TUJ for the wider world, overcoming the recent tragedy of March 11.

When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck Japan, TUJ was in the middle of the spring semester and in the immediate aftermath of the quake was forced to suspend all academic programs. As a result of diligent efforts by all staff to minimize the impact of the suspension, TUJ was able to restart the undergraduate program in three weeks. Syllabi were revised to accommodate options to be offered to students, including distance learning and continuing courses at Temple's main campus in Pennsylvania, USA. Of the students who temporarily left Tokyo, a majority of whom were international students, approximately 60% returned to the Tokyo campus. All undergraduate courses that had been in progress prior to March 11 were successfully completed with only a one-week extension of the semester, and the commencement ceremony was held according to the originally planned schedule.

Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart travelled to Japan for the ceremony and delivered the keynote address in which she reiterated Temple's commitment to Japan.

She stated that the fact that TUJ is the longest operating foreign university in Japan demonstrates a real commitment to global education overall, and she also touched upon the need to reform higher education around the world. She highlighted the unique position TUJ's students in that they are graduating from an American university in Japan, enabling them to "look at the issues facing higher education in decades to come from multiple perspectives that aren't shared by many people you will be working with." She confirmed that Temple will continue to work with Japan's top leaders to ensure that TUJ has a strong position going forward.

She also recognized the extraordinary challenges the students faced as a result of the events following March 11. Noting that this would be the most dramatic experience in their entire lives, she encouraged them to remember that experience, "because it will shape you and help you shape your thoughts about the future."

Four graduating students gave speeches on behalf of the undergraduate and the three graduate programs, in which they spoke about their memories of life at TUJ and their future ambitions. The speakers representing graduate programs, all of whom had studied while working, expressed their gratitude to their employers and families for their understanding and support, and shared their joy with them as well as their fellow students. (See the profiles and interviews of the four speakers here.)

The commencement ceremony was streamed live on the internet, allowing friends and family from around the world to tune in and share the experience with the graduating students. (You can see the recorded live here)