Over the summer, the Lynch School of Education and Human Development took the first steps toward creating an exchange program with Yonsei University College of Educational Sciences in Seoul, South Korea. The program allows for two master’s students from each school to participate in an exchange program for up to a year in the dual degree program at either Yonsei or Boston College.
In the last two years, Lynch has signed similar memoranda of understanding with the College of Education at Seoul National University and Seoul National University of Education, both of which are in South Korea, and Mary Immaculate College in Ireland.
Founded in 1885, Yonsei University is a private research university that offers a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate academic courses to over 27,000 undergraduate students. It is one of South Korea’s three “SKY” universities, which are the country’s most prestigious schools. Seoul National University is also in the group.
“We’ve been trying to build relationships with Korean universities since I got here, so three years now,” Dean of Lynch Stanton Wortham said. “We’ve been trying to build links with Korea, because Korea is a country that has had a lot of economic development. They have many interesting ideas and aspirations about research activities and training their students, and it’s a place where we can have something of an impact.”
“They have high quality education and quality infrastructure, but they’re still looking for something from the U.S. They’re looking to us as a resource in higher education to some extent,” Wortham said.
Wortham anticipates that that more South Korean students will pursue the exchange opportunity because they are more likely to know English than BC students are to speak the Korean language
Yonsei and BC do share similar practices in terms of an emphasis on the complete development of a student by hosting retreats, service trips, and ethical activities, according to Wortham.
“It’s probably not going to be large scale to start,” Wortham said. “Yonsei is an excellent university … so philosophically and ethically the university is aligned with a lot of what BC values.”
Wortham plans to speak further with the administration at Yonsei University to assess the viability of English-speaking students studying at Yonsei. Yonsei offers classes in both Korean and English.
The two universities also need to establish which programs are viable for the dual-degree program since the Lynch School offers rigid programs that certify students for jobs in the U.S., which would not be accessible for Korean students, and Yonsei offers courses that would likely not be beneficial for American students, Wortham said.
“I hope that maybe down the road we could build more extensive collaborations,“ Wortham said. “Something that would involve further cooperation around research, around student exchanges.”
South Korea is enticing because other American universities do not have ties with it yet, according to Wortham. Wortham said that his own connections in South Korea, in addition to the visibility that Lynch has due to its Center for International Higher Education, made the country an obvious choice for developing academic connections.
“It’s a strong economy that has done very well over the last few decades,” Wortham said.
Wortham hopes that faculty and student exchanges could be future products of the memorandum, because traditionally these agreements are centered around research opportunities.
“It’s a little unclear at the beginning what is actually going to come out of it, but the agreements sometimes yield research collaborations,” Wortham said. “Two faculty and I will be traveling to Korea in [two] weeks to work on a big collaborative research project.”
Wortham and his colleagues received a grant from the Seoul Metropolitan Office, the government organization that runs the school system, to study whether recently-implemented reforms within the system are having a positive effect. In two weeks, they will make the trip to conduct the research, while also meeting with officials from Yonsei to hammer out the details of the agreement.
A problem that Wortham is facing is that Deans at Korean universities are elected by their peers to serve three-year terms, so turnover between Deans has been a challenge of creating agreements such as the one that has been signed with Yonsei.
“We’re going to keep going over there, we’re going in October, and then we’ll go again in the summer after or the academic year after,” Wortham said. “We’ll try to maintain these connections.
There are other potential collaboration opportunities for the Lynch School in Korea and abroad, with Chile as a leading target for future agreements, according to Wortham.
“We have a lot of relationships with Chilean universities,” Wortham said. “So we’re trying to pick a couple of target locations and do more intensive stuff with those locations.”
Featured Image by Artur Braun / Wikimedia Commons