While summer may be a quieter time on Indiana University’s campuses, President Pamela Whitten was able to see first-hand the excitement of international engagement and education abroad as part of a week-long trip to Japan and South Korea. The visit was Whitten’s first experience in Asia as IU’s 19th President and included a wide-ranging itinerary that celebrated the diversity of IU’s expertise and experience in the region.
The visit began in Japan, where President Whitten and Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum met with Waseda University President Aiji Tanaka. Waseda is a global university, ranking first in Japan for the number of international students and students studying abroad, and is regarded as one of the most selective and prestigious universities in the country. The discussion centered on the active faculty and student exchanges between the universities and opportunities for further expansion of the partnership, including on the IU Indianapolis campus.
Next, the team met with President Umemoto Kazuyoshi at the Japan Foundation, a fifty-year old institution dedicated to comprehensive and effective development of the country’s international cultural exchange programs. The Japan Foundation has played a critical role in supporting IU’s 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. The meeting was an opportunity for President Whitten to thank the foundation for its generous support and discuss future priorities and opportunities for collaboration.
The visit ended with an alumni dinner hosted by the president of IU’s alumni chapter in Japan, Toru Hanakawa, class of 1969. It included McKinney School of Law alum Paul Roland, director of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s international office in Japan, highlighting the close connections and ongoing impact that IU has in the state, nation, and beyond.
Upon arriving in Seoul, the delegation grew to include Professor Seung-kyung Kim, director of IU’s Institute for Korean Studies. The group received a warm welcome to South Korea at an alumni dinner hosted by Young-Jin Kim, Chairman and CEO of Handok and William Joo, Chairman of Mediawill.
On the first full day in Korea, the group visited Ewha Woman’s University to meet President Kim Eun-mee and Vice President for International Affairs Professor Inhan Kim to re-sign the undergraduate research agreement with IU Bloomington’s University Graduate School. This highly competitive program offers students the opportunity to get hands-on experience in scientific labs with the mentorship of IU faculty. Additionally, the delegation was able to meet with two Hamilton Lugar School East Asian Languages and Cultures alums who are currently studying at Ehwa and are supported by the Korean Government.
The renewal of this longstanding collaboration comes just weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met for the first time and announced the launch the KorUS Educational Exchange Initiative for Youth in STEM, a large-scale exchange initiative for students from the two countries. Both countries will invest $30 million each to support the exchange of 2,300 students majoring in humanities, social sciences and STEM as part of a broader effort to deepen dialogue and partnership between South Korea and the United States.
The IU Global group continued to build upon those partnerships in their next stop, heading across the city to link up with colleagues from the Kelley School of Business at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU),https://www.skku.edu/eng/index.do where they were joined by Kelley School of Business Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs Patrick E. Hopkins. SKKU is a private research university in Seoul, often credited as the oldest university in Asia. It is led by President Dr. Ji Beom Yoo, who welcomed IU for lunch with key leadership from SKKU’s international affairs office and business school. Both schools have long enjoyed an exchange relationship which has led to more than 300 students from SKKU and IU’s Maurer School of Law, College of Arts and Sciences, and Kelley School of Business studying at each other’s institutions in the past five years. Immediately after lunch, President Whitten had the opportunity to hear directly from the IU students currently studying at SKKU as a part of that exchange and tour the historic campus, including 5 students studying for a full semester as well as 24 students participating in Kelley X272: Business trends and solutions in Korea
Moving from students in business to the innovative business of tech, the team left SKKU to share tea with Samsung SDI CEO Mr. Yoonho Choi. Samsung SDI has recently invested in a multi-billion-dollar electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana, which President Whitten and Mr. Choi discussed. IU, and the Institute for Korean Studies in particular, is already providing invaluable intercultural training and linguistic support to Samsung SDI, their partner organization Stellantis and the city of Kokomo, but there are opportunities for further engagement. President Whitten’s reception reciprocated Samsung SDI’s vice president’s visit to Bloomington last year, strengthening IU’s commitment to powering Indiana’s innovative manufacturing and tech sector with capable, intercultural IU alumni.
To top off a productive day, President Whitten and had the honor of meeting solo violinist, grammy winner, and IU Jacob’s School of Music alumni Joshua Bell. Members of the IU delegation also had the chance to attend his debut performance with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra at the Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall.
On their last full day of travel, the IU delegation, joined by Dean Abra Bush of the Jacobs School of Music, visited Seoul National University (SNU) and met with President Honglim Ryu and Vice President of International Affairs Prof. Seung Ah Theresa Cho. Considered to be one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea, SNU currently shares a Masters of Public Affairs degree with IU’s O’Neill School for Public and Environmental Affairs. Whitten and Ryu discussed how the two schools can expand the program between O’Neill’s top ranked MPA and SNU’s Graduate School of Public Administration for greater impact. Dean Bush met with Ensik Choi, dean of the SNU College of Music to discuss our rich history as partners and explore future opportunities for collaboration.
From SNU, the group left for the final afternoon of meetings, all of which have allowed IU to expand access to the expert Korean language instruction of the Hamilton Lugar School. First, the King Sejong Institute Foundation (KSIF) hosted a lunch where President Whitten met with Ehwa Women’s University professor and KSIF President Dr. Haiyoung Lee. Support from KSIF has allowed IU’s Institute of Korean Studies to establish the Bloomington Sejong Institute, which offers free Korean lessons to the Bloomington community as well as IU Northwest, IU Kokomo, and IU’s Indianapolis campus.
Finally, the delegation met with the Korea Foundation whose support has allowed IU’s Institute for Korean Studies to fund three faculty positions and expand its capacity for research, study, and instruction. With Samsung SDI’s arrival, a dozen Korean companies have U.S. facilities in Indiana, making the support of the Korea Foundation Global Center and the creation of the Bloomington Sejong Institute timely and critical to the success of Indiana’s multi-national economy.
To wrap up the whirlwind trip, the delegation once again returned to its core purpose: students. Both the delegation and Jacobs School of Music admitted students ended the evening with an alumni concert. Students and their families were able to meet Dean Bush, President Whitten, and Jacobs Korean alumni before joining Bloomington’s community in the fall.