Global Survivability Studies Program at Kyoto University aims to develop global leaders who will pioneer the future

By Jen Yoshikawa WG ’95, Assistant Professor, MBA, PhD
Inter-Graduate School Unit for Sustainable Development and Survival Societies

kyotogsslogoKyoto University Assistant Professor Dr. Jen Yoshikawa attended the 17th Annual Leadership Conference and spent some time with the Wharton Leadership Program and the Center for Leadership and Change Management.

Kyoto University’s Inter-Graduate School Program for Sustainable Development and Survivable Societies (GSS) is looking to add leadership development to the current curriculum. GSS, started in 2011 is a five year doctoral program. Students graduate with a PhD in a specific discipline and are encouraged to go on to become global leaders tasked with solving the world’s most complex social issues.

The Inter-Graduate School Program for Sustainable Development and Survivable Societies, or the Global Survivability Studies (GSS) Program in short, is supported by 25 departments from nine graduate schools, as well as three research institutes in Kyoto University, Japan. Backed by the Program for Leading Graduate Schools of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT), the GSS Program has committed to providing multi-disciplinary education since its inception in late 2011.

Leadership education components are keys to the success of this young program. With the aim to incorporate approaches from management disciplines, I recently attended the 17th Annual Wharton Leadership Conference and learned various useful ways to advance leadership education. The GSS Program will continue to refer to leadership education programs conducted at business schools and schools of government for the purpose of tailor-making a sui generis leadership curriculum that meets the demands for leaders in safety and security issues in a global society.

GSS addresses four critical issues of global concern in safety and security: large-scale natural disasters and catastrophes, man-made disasters and accidents, regional environmental changes and social instability, and food security. While GSS students (approximately 20 are accepted each year) are expected to excel in doctoral-level research at their respective graduate schools, they will also be trained in the five-year GSS Program to understand the mechanisms of natural and social phenomena, acquire scientific knowledge for incident prevention and resilience in the face of adversity, and analyze human and social adaptability. In particular, each student is taught not only to acquire expertise as a specialist of safety and security, but also to cultivate human qualities and gain social perspectives in order to take a leadership role in the very near future in providing solutions to global threats.

Faculty members with diverse expertise, experiences, and nationalities have been assembled to work with advisors from international organizations, business enterprises, governmental bodies, and other academic institutions. This unique multi-disciplinary graduate education program aims to prepare students to become ready, upon completion of the program, to embark on future challenges that global leaders are likely to face. The GSS students are, therefore, provided with a variety of opportunities for learning environments in English, including lectures, seminars, conferences, field training, internships, and group projects. This enables the students to comprehensively study and practice theory, application, and approach; i.e., to simultaneously enhance knowledge of safety and security problems while gaining hands-on experiences in actual problem solving. The students are especially motivated to aspire to become leaders in the following: social and safety system science; crisis management in international organizations; addressing disasters, accidents and economic crises in business enterprises; policy making at local and national governmental institutions; effective science communication; and entrepreneurial innovation. In essence, the GSS curriculum is designed to foster future leaders who possess requisite characteristics including flexible thinking, strong determination and the ability to take action.

For more information on the program, visit