Exclusive Interview with Former President of APU, Prof. Monte Cassim

As a part of the change in the executive postings of the Ritsumeikan Trust, Professor Monte Cassim will end his tenure as the President of APU. This time, The APU Times had an opportunity to know more about his experience, ideas and opinions on the development in Asia Pacific.

First of all, can you tell briefly about yourself and your career history?

Initially I enrolled in the course of natural science with focus on physics and chemistry. At that time, the new department of architecture was opened. I was attracted to architecture because it combines various aspects from science, engineering and arts. So I decided to study architecture. Upon graduation, I decided to work as an architect.

Why you decided to go to Japan? What is the most interesting thing about Japan for you?

At first, I went to Japan for graduate study. However, I realized that I learned more by observing the surrounding situation outside the classroom. I started to fall in love with Japanese industries. The most important question for me was why everywhere you go in Japan you can find lots of small industries that they can proud of? Then I started to learn more about Japan’s industrial history, process and technology in relation to its rapid development.

And after that?

I began to work for a frontline think-tank in Japan. The unique thing about it was its ‘hybrid’ team of young foreign scholars and Japanese professionals under the lead of professors. Our work was to find some particular regions and research how those regions grow. The result of this will be applied to other regions especially in developing areas. In other words, our task was to search for industrial development model for Asia. That was why we chose rural areas because it would be more ideal for developing countries. It was in 1970s, and what we did was thinking about what Asia will be in 1990s.

That must be really fascinating! So you continued to work on that field?

Because I was interested to work immediately after finishing my study, I quitted the job. I took up teaching position in Penang, Malaysia for one year. After that, I continued my study to PhD in Japan level and worked for Mitsui Corporation for another two years. Actually it was difficult to me to move around for working and I was kind of reluctant to move again for another job. Besides, I already had family at that time and I had to take care of my children. Nevertheless, various opportunities kept coming to me. A head of UN organization in Tokyo offered me another job. After a long time of contemplating, I agreed to take that job and work for 10 years in the field of urban development, housing and industrial development. I conducted strategic assistant programs in Indonesia, Latin America and Africa.

Hearing your rich and diverse experience will surely motivate every one of us. Having experienced various kinds of responsibilities, what is the most important learning point for you?

Looking back to my experience, especially during my time as a researcher, I was really impressed by the enabling learning environment. It was a rare opportunity to have variety of people with different backgrounds, nationalities and field of studies to think and work together and do something meaningful. This experience is the reason why I am interested in education. This is why I received another chance from the Ritsumeikan Trust to teach at Ritsumeikan University.

How long have you been working with the Ritsumeikan Trust and APU? What did you do during that time?

I worked at Ritsumeikan for six years and developed Ritsumeikan International Division and Discovery Research Laboratory. My work mainly focused on health and environmental science. During my time we transformed the international division into one of the biggest administrative unit, and I also dealt with the development of human and environmentally friendly technology in the laboratory.

Then, I took up the position of president at APU for six years term. Of course I did few mistakes, but I really learned many things from this experience.

As a former president of APU, what is one of the most remarkable achievements of our university from your perspective?

We allocate 64% of our budget for education, research and scholarship, and now we are the number nine private university in Japan in terms of financial health.

What is your advice for our university students and community?

The sky is the limit. Dream and dare to do what you dream of!

*By Iqra Anugrah. Published in The APU Times 21 January 2010 http://aputimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=197:exclusive-interview-with-former-president-of-apu,-prof.-monte-cassim&catid=1:academic-news&Itemid=187&lang=en