On Friday 4th October, as Typhoon FITOW approached Okinawa from the south, OIST President Jonathan Dorfan, Provost Robert Baughman and six members of the OIST Board of Governors flew north to Tokyo for a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The meeting was well-timed as the Board of Governors had just completed two days of discussion on the progress being made at the Graduate University and the planning underway for expansion.
At the outset of the 30 minute meeting, which was also attended by the Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima, Prime Minister Abe said, "Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to visit the Prime Minister's Office, kantei, today. I visited OIST in early 2013 and I was convinced by the high level of aspiration of the Graduate University. By meeting outstanding OIST faculty members and students, I was convinced that Okinawa's new future and Japan's new future rests in OIST.......In promoting Japan's innovation, I have high hopes for OIST. As world-renowned scholars have gathered here tonight, I would like to listen to your opinion about the future of OIST."
Board Chair Torsten Wiesel, President Jonathan Dorfan, Provost Robert Baughman and Board Members, Akito Arima, Jerome Friedman, Tim Hunt, Koji Omi and Cherry Murray each spoke to the Prime Minister. They emphasized OIST’s unique contribution to education and research and the importance of establishing the eventual size of the University to be 300 faculty units, and they requested the Prime Minister’s support for the FY2014 budget request of 20 billion yen.
At a packed press conference following the meeting Dorfan explained, "Prime Minister Abe showed understanding of our goal of establishing 300 faculty units. He also showed understanding that OIST can contribute to Japan's policies.” Governor Nakaima underlined that OIST is something that the 1.4 million Okinawans can all be proud of, adding, " I would like the Prime Minister to exercise leadership as OIST is also part of the Japanese government's development policy.”
At the Board of Governors meeting in Okinawa, the principal activity was establishing a planning framework for the growth of the university. The first phase of the OIST campus has been designed to accommodate 50 faculty members, with all the attendant infrastructure and facilities required to support their laboratories, as well as educational facilities for approximately 100 doctorate students, and on-campus housing for roughly half of the academic population. The scale of the fully developed university is envisaged as 300 faculty members with up to 1,000 graduate students and a total campus population of approximately 4,000. The Board of Governors agreed to employ a university campus master-planner to conceptualize the educational, research and support framework necessary for expansion to this size.