Welcome Speech at OIST Graduation Ceremony 2022

May 20, 2022

To our distinguished guests and honorary degree recipient, to our board of governors and board of councilors, President Emeritus, faculty, and staff, to the parents, family members and friends, and especially, to our graduating students, welcome to the 4th graduation ceremony of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology 2022.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all today in this auditorium and to all those joining us online from around the globe to celebrate the achievements of our graduating students.

My heartfelt congratulations to all the graduates on your accomplishment.

And you, dear Graduates, you accomplished a lot.

Let’s start with the obvious - the result: You all successfully completed your PhD thesis, adding to scientific progress.

We all tend to look quickly at the results. Achieved – check, and on to new adventures, new challenges. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if we want to learn from past achievements, we should take a moment to look at what led to our achievements.

Observing you, dear Graduates, many of your skills and qualities come to my mind.

First, you must have made good use of your talents and made many smart decisions for yourself over the course of your life.
You succeeded among 500 or so candidates who applied to OIST from across the globe at the same time as you. You belonged to those few offered a place.

Second, you certainly showed courage. 
You applied to OIST at a time, when only one class of Graduates has had ever finished a PhD at our young university. While it is a safe bet to start a career by applying to a university with a century-long track record of excellence, you showed a pioneering spirit and took a risk to turn to OIST – a university where your Graduation Celebration is part of its 10th anniversary.

You trusted in OIST’s vision of an international, world-leading university in science, education, and innovation in Okinawa.

Your trust in OIST early on was not done foolheartedly. All of you came to us with your own track record of excellence. In your selection interviews at OIST a few years ago, you met outstanding OIST scientists, you have taken advantage of what an international and a well-equipped campus can offer.
You understood what cross-disciplinary research can achieve when it comes to tackling the challenges of our time—and the breakthroughs that occur at the frontiers of science that bring major innovations and can foster your career.

Third, your resilience and personal strength have been tested even more than during “normal” PhD years.
You were confronted with a combination of some of the most complex problems of our times – the COVID pandemic, the challenges of climate change, a global economy shaken by disrupted supply chains, and geopolitical shockwaves from Russian invasion of Ukraine putting a strain on the world.

In the last 2 years, you showed that you can deal with uncertainty, not only from the course of the pandemic but how it affected every aspect of your daily lives – from your carefully planned experiments to the wellbeing of your families and loved ones.

But despite all this, and as hard as this time was, you did what you needed to do. You showed persistence and pressed ahead. Research during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic was also possible because of the OIST community’s responsible behavior in mask-wearing, social-distancing, and vaccinating as well as regular testing. This allowed us to keep the campus open for most of this period and provide you with access to labs and research facilities.

And so, you have reached this milestone, here today, because of your dedication and hard work, and because of all the people you related to who helped keep you going – your family, your friends, your colleagues, our faculty, and our staff. Let’s take a moment to thank them and OIST Graduate School for standing by you during the ups and downs along the way.

I also like to thank you for being engaged members of the OIST community. You belong to this family, and I hope we will stay in touch. You will always be welcome. Success of OIST comes from the success of our students. Since 2018, the first batch of graduates left OIST to make their mark in the world, many of them have stayed in touch with one another and with OIST and formed an alumni network. I am pleased to see all the achievements they have already made and continue to make in the society. And I am sure you will be as successful in establishing your careers.

As OIST celebrates its 10-year anniversary, I wonder how you might look back at your formative years at OIST, let’s say in 20 years from now.
Look back at your experiences, friends you’ve made, mentors you met! You might think of this beautiful island, snorkeling in the ocean, coffee breaks in the cafeteria, and your hard work. I hope you will always remember OIST with fondness. When you visit in 20 years from now, I am convinced that OIST will be the beacon for science and technology we all wish to see. Imagine the beacon that OIST will be on the international scientific map, contributing to solutions for our planet’s most challenging problems; fostering the next generation of science and technology talents; creating Japanese and international entrepreneurs through incubator and accelerator programs; and attracting venture capital, innovators, and entrepreneurs to Okinawa.

Imagine parts of an Innovation Park established where people will live, work, and play. Imagine this village and this campus with sustainability features and a vibrant mix of local and diverse cultures offering jobs, housing, education, and wellbeing for a community.

I hope, as we are proud of you, Graduates, OIST will give you every reason in the future to be proud of your Alma mater.

Maybe we will even see some of you engaged as scientists, as entrepreneurs, or as investors here on this campus or in the Innovation Park.

Today, we welcome James Higa as our Commencement speaker. James certainly can give insights to future career paths.

Anton Zeilinger joining us per video, will receive the Honorary Doctor of Science degree for his visionary and groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of quantum mechanics and development of quantum technologies.

Both of these leaders will be introduced in more detail shortly.

If our future image of a world-renowned Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology as an innovation hub should be become reality, we need continued support from all those who made OIST’s vision a reality so far. My gratitude goes to all those who have made critical contributions along the way – our community at OIST and across the globe, our past and current members of the Board of Governors and Councilors, and our partners in Japan and worldwide. In particular, I want to express my appreciation to the Japanese Government for investing in OIST so that we can nurture fundamental research and work to uplift society. And I want to thank the Okinawa Prefectural Government for the support they have provided to help start the science and technology hub and co-create the innovation ecosystem step by step. Onna-son allowed us to convert the jungle into a striving science and technology university. All the members of the OIST family, whose daily hard work and devotion is leading OIST to a promising future. And to all the others whose contributions were critical in leading us to this day today. Thank you!

We should all honor the trust that these young Graduates put in OIST’s vision for their future. Honor it by showing the same courage, strength, and persistence, by creating the future of this university.

If we all work together, in 20 years, OIST is a world-leading university fueling innovation in Okinawa and belonging to one of the most innovative regions worldwide.

You, my dear Graduates, will aways belong to the distinguished group of individuals who were part of this journey early on. On behalf of the entire OIST community – our faculty, administrators, trustees, and alumni, I offer you best wishes as you go forth.