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Founding Japan's 1st engineering faculty at a women's university: interview

Nara Women's University in the city of Nara is seen in April 2021. (Mainichi/Satoshi Kubo)

NARA -- Nara Women's University here will establish Japan's first faculty of engineering at a women-only university in spring 2022. Women account for only about 15% of engineering students nationwide, according to the education ministry's 2020 academic year survey. Considering this, what kind of human capital will the new faculty aim to foster? The Mainichi Shimbun talked with Nara Women's University professor Meiji Fujita, 61, who will be the dean at the school's Faculty of Engineering.

    Nara Women's University professor Meiji Fujita talks about the purpose of establishing the school's Faculty of Engineering, in the city of Nara on Aug. 31, 2021. (Mainichi/Yusuke Kato)


    Mainichi Shimbun: What is the purpose of establishing the Nara Women's University Faculty of Engineering?

    Meiji Fujita: There are very few women working as engineers, and that's a global problem. It's no exaggeration to say that engineering is a male-dominated world. However, the world of engineering will be expanded if women contribute perspectives on design, functionality and other things that only they can bring. We thought we had to act as a women's university to overcome the assumption that "engineering is a men's field."

    MS: Specifically, what fields can students study?

    MF: Our curriculum consists of two major fields: environmental design and human information. In the environmental design field, students will learn from engineers such as architects and those in environmental engineering about design methods to improve the environment around us, and will conduct research on materials that will be the bases of industrial products on the molecular level. In the human information field, students will learn programming, data analysis, "medical and biological engineering," which is a fused realm of medicine and engineering, among other disciplines, and will acquire abilities that can contribute to the development of hardware, software, health care, welfare and other things.

    MS: What is the purpose of subjects such as "building yourself" and "entrepreneurship theory" at the Faculty of Engineering?

    MF: For the "building yourself" course, we're thinking about lectures where students will contribute their own thoughts, strengths and interests to design their future lives. In the "entrepreneurship theory" course, meanwhile, we'll invite female entrepreneurs to teach students how women can build their careers based on real-world experience. People who make innovation happen understand themselves and have a strong will to realize their dreams. We'd like to nurture future workers who can proactively act as project leaders and do great things, instead of just making students memorize expert knowledge.

    MS: What message do you have for prospective Faculty of Engineering students?

    MF: Because students can freely select subjects regardless of their years at the university, it's possible to acquire the expertise they want by taking courses based on their own sense of value. We want students to find the kind of engineering that suits them and learn it. "Expanding places where women can flourish" has been our mission since the university was founded, and establishing the Faculty of Engineering is an important initiative to achieve that. If you want to become an "engineering leader" who helps build an affluent society, we hope you will study at the Faculty of Engineering.

    (Interviewed by Yusuke Kato, Nara Bureau)

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