Graduate School of International Development

Aya OKADA
Dean of the Graduate School of International Development

Faculty Introduction

Established in 1991 at Nagoya University in Japan, GSID is a pioneering and leading graduate school specializing in international development. Over the last thirty years, GSID has been engaged in research and education in international development in developing countries, particularly in Asia, focusing on a wide range of issues that constrain the promotion of socioeconomic development such as poverty, inequality, and conflict, while proposing various strategies for solving these issues.

In 2018, GSID reconfigured itself by merging two departments into one in order to make our education programs more multidisciplinary, flexible, and responsive to the fast-changing development agenda and cross-cutting issues that can be approached from diverse disciplines and schools of thought. We consolidated our curriculum into five educational programs, each with a revised curriculum: the Program in Economic Development Policy and Management; the Program in Peace and Governance; the Program in Inclusive Society and State; the Program in Education and Human Resource Development; and the Program in Poverty and Social Policy. These programs offer a wide range of subjects that are relevant to and concerned with many concepts and topics addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In addition, in 2018, we launched a new special program and special course: the Special Program for Global Business Professionals (SPGBP), which is a one-year Master’s program for mid-career business professionals who are expected to take up overseas assignments in Asian developing countries and other regions in the future, and the Global Leaders Career Course (GLCC), which is a special course for Master’s students who are interested in pursuing careers at international organizations in the future. SPGBP is designed to serve the needs of local Japanese businesses that have rapidly been promoting the internationalization of their operations. Furthermore, although we have many graduates who have successfully advanced their careers in international organizations, GLCC is designed to better prepare highly motivated students by offering additional coursework that provides them with hands-on skills and practices deemed useful to work at international organizations.

In 2020, the global crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic posed enormous challenges to all of us, as individuals, communities, and society at large. It also significantly affected our research and education activities at GSID. We opted to offer a combination of online and in-person teaching and learning because some international students faced difficulties in entering or returning to Japan, and many of our faculty members had to cancel their overseas research as the national border largely remained closed. But, over the past year, we have also developed alternative—and innovative—ways of carrying out our research and education activities, allowing ourselves to stay connected with our students, graduates, and colleagues around the world. I hope that these innovative experiences, including online conferences and seminars, can be continued even after the pandemic is over.

On a positive note, this global pandemic has made us rethink what really matters in life, reexamine many things that we have taken for granted, and reconsider what social systems we need to make our society more resilient. On the other hand, the process of coping with the pandemic has led to a disproportionate allocation of resources to fight against the pandemic, growing social divides and disparities, and worsening economic and political turmoil—offsetting the fruits of past development efforts in many parts of the world. All these occurrences have made us realize the importance of research and education in international development more than ever. Scholars and professionals in this field have plenty of work to do as we move forward to rebuild our communities, regions, and nations, and to create a more peaceful, resilient, and equitable global society.  

Finally, I am happy to assume the role of the dean of GSID, especially as 2021 marks GSID’s 30th anniversary! We are planning to organize some special events to celebrate the 30th anniversary involving our students, faculty, and over 2,300 alumni from 94 countries who successfully completed the Master’s and Doctoral Programs at GSID. Please stay connected and keep watch for how GSID continues to strive for excellence in research and education in international development. Your continued support of GSID is greatly appreciated.

Message from the Dean

We asked 5 questions to Dean Aya Okada.

1. Would you mind telling the strengths of the Graduate School of International Development (GSID)?

I am Aya Okada, Dean of the Graduate School of International Development.

There are many strengths of the Graduate School of International Development (GSID).

First, GSID was established in 1991 as the first graduate school in Japan specializing in international development. GSID offers top-level research and education in international development, as many faculty members have rich experience in research and teaching at top universities inside and outside of Japan, and some have practical experience working with international organizations and aid agencies.

Second, at GSID, all the course subjects have been offered in English, and we highly respect multi-cultural understanding and diversity. Over 70% of our student body are international students, mainly from Asia, but increasingly from other regions as well, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. So, GSID offers a highly international learning environment. Currently, students from 47 countries are studying at GSID, creating an environment like a mini-United Nations.

Third, GSID is proud of its extensive alumni network, as it has produced more than 2,300 Master’s degree and Ph.D. degree holders from 98 countries over the last 30 years. Many of them return to their home countries after graduation, and work as senior government officials, university faculty members, and staff members of international organizations. In fact, many graduates work as top leaders in the government, universities, and international organizations.

2. How do you want your students to grow through their university life?

International Development is an academic field with a strong orientation towards policy studies, concerning a wide range of global issues faced by society, to identify their causes and consider solutions, while applying theories and analytical techniques drawing from social science disciplines. Globally, various issues exist such as poverty, inequality, regional conflicts, gender, slow industrial development, lack of access to social services, unemployment, disaster, energy and migration. Not only during their classes, but also in their everyday lives, I hope students will stay interested in and think about these issues, and act toward solving them.

At GSID, many opportunities are offered outside the classrooms, such as participation in international seminars and events, overseas fieldwork and training, and internships with international organizations. I hope students will act proactively and make good use of such opportunities to equip themselves to become professionals who can contribute to the advancement of the global society in future.

3. Would you mind telling the vision of the Graduate School of International Development (GSID)?

The mission of GSID is to engage in research to analyze various issues that the world is faced with and suggest solutions to them. It also aims at contributing to the creation of a sustainable society, by joining policy making and implementation processes by international organizations, governments, and civil society.

In 2015, the global society adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and set 17 goals to achieve by 2030. To achieve these global goals, inquiries in social sciences with policy orientation are necessary.

So, GSID contributes to suggesting evidence-based solutions to these global issues, through inter-disciplinary research and education in social sciences, in cooperation with our partner universities and research institutes, and policy making organizations.

4. What is the most memorable lecture when you were a student?

I studied in a Master’s program at Sussex University in the UK, and after working with a couple of UN agencies, I studied in a doctoral program at MIT in the US. Both programs were very international with many international students, just like GSID!

There were many lectures and classes that I still remember.

For example, in the Master’s program, 30 students, including myself, from over 25 countries were attending the same lecture classes throughout the program. Classes were organized in a classroom with a large round table, and from the first class, every week, we had to read classic works, which were all voluminous and rich, written by the giants of early modern social sciences, scholars such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, and Max Weber. I must say it was so hard.

Both at Sussex and MIT, we had to read difficult reading materials every week for each class, and the lectures by the top-level researchers were all very inspiring and stimulating. In all the classes, much time was allocated for class discussions, but honestly speaking, I found it very hard to find a good timing to jump in and speak up in class.

I still maintain friendships and contacts with my professors at Sussex and MIT, and classmates from various countries. My experiences in studying at such great academic institutions laid the foundation for my professional career that followed, and they are a great asset that I am grateful for.

5. Please give some words to those who are interested in joining.

Over the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected people around the world in many ways so severely and seriously. In particular, developing countries with fragile economic and social systems are faced with not only such infectious diseases but also many other issues. There are many things that each one of us can do to solve these global issues and contribute to the realization of sustainable development.

Are you not interested in becoming a professional to contribute to the solution of such global issues by acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills? GSID is a graduate school that trains such highly motivated students and prepares them to become global professionals. I hope you will join GSID in future!

(June 3, 2022)

Graduate School of International Development


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