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Dr. Mike Trevisan

Dean's Perspectives

Last reflections from Korea

Speaking at Pusan National University.
Speaking at Pusan National University.

July 21, 2015

My wife and I are sitting in Incheon Airport waiting for our flight to Seattle. This is a huge airport, with multiple levels, and includes shopping, a cultural center, restaurants, nursing rooms, and showers. So this is quite the place! I am also reflecting on my stay here in Korea and the experiences the sport management students had, and will continue to have, for the next two weeks.

One of the key learning experiences for students is navigating a new city on their own. This is an obvious and essential skill for anyone traveling internationally. The way to go is usually the subway. The subway system in Korea, particularly in Seoul, is world class. It is dependable, inexpensive, and logical — once a person figures out the logic. The challenge is that all signs are marked in Korean characters. Even though there is an English spelling associated with the characters, these are also in Korean. I am unable to adequately describe the initial difficulty in figuring out the system. Once the subway system has been used a couple of times, faculty Yong Chae Rhee and Chris Lebens give an assignment to students to figure out their way back to the dormitories from an excursion somewhere in the city. As if by magic, they all show up at the designated time.

Three days ago we went to the demilitarized zone – or DMZ – that separates North Korea from South Korea. From the demarcation line, North Korea owns two kilometers (1.25 miles) north that makes up half of the DMZ. South Korea owns two kilometers south for the other half of the DMZ. The area is controlled by the United Nations.

The visit to the DMZ was interesting, sobering, and tense. It is clear that the war between the two countries continues. The South Korean soldiers at the DMZ are on constant alert. The guards at the demarcation line that separates North Korea from South Korea remain in a posture ready to fight. All soldiers at the DMZ have a black belt in taekwondo and are college educated.

The plaques that mark various sites along the route tell a story of a long struggle, a tremendous fight, and unimaginable suffering. Koreans also give thanks for sacrifices that other countries endured, such as the U.S. with its military. Though actual fighting is rare between the two countries, the barbed wire fences and guard towers that line the route to and from the DMZ are constant reminders that the countries remain at war.
The last place we stayed was Yonsei University. This is a private, elite university with a top-flight medical school and hospital. The Yonsei Cancer Center holds 2,000 patient beds. The campus is beautiful with many lush green spaces and interesting architecture. Yonsei University is one of the hospitals that has dealt with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. Korea has experienced a decline in tourism this summer as many have been concerned about the MERS outbreak in this country that occurred a few weeks back. MERS is clearly contained and nearly nonexistent now. Chris mentioned that the country is so confident in its containment of this outbreak that they have offered free medical care and $100,000 for anyone contracting MERS, all as an enticement to gain tourists back.

As Yong Chae and Chris were planning and scheduling activities, many of them were canceled given the MERS outbreak. Thus, a number of changes were made to the schedule of excursions and experiences that the students received. The good news is that given the containment of MERS, some of the events that were canceled have become available again. Yong Chae and Chris are working to reschedule these activities. I think a takeaway for me is that summer-abroad programs require a good deal of flexibility and creativity.

The presentation at Pusan National University went quite well. There were about 40 students and faculty in attendance, in addition to our sport management students. Yong Chae acted as the interpreter during questions and answers at the end of the presentation. There was good attention and interaction. It was quite invigorating for me. The students were science education graduate students. We’ll see what comes of this. I am hopeful for continued collaboration with PNU.

Our experiences in Korea were uniformly positive. My wife and I found the Korean people to be respectful, cordial, and most willing to try and communicate with us, despite our lack of Korean language (except hello and thank you). I learned more about Korea and its history. And despite years of oppression by Asian neighbors, I found Korean people to be upbeat, positive, confident, and with a can-do attitude. Their success in the global economy is a poignant example of what can occur when people see the best in even the worst of circumstances.

Tae Ho Kim is a new faculty member in our sport management program. His in-laws took WSU faculty and their families out to dinner last night. It was a gracious and generous gesture, and quite a meal! Tae Ho’s mother-in-law is an epidemiologist at Yonsei University’s College of Nursing. She will retire next year. However, she will work another two years for a Korean government agency in Bangladesh helping to establish nursing schools in the country, work that she has been doing as a faculty member. Her comment to me is that, at one time, Korea needed and received assistance from other countries. But now Korea is giving back by helping other countries develop in positive ways, such as in Bangladesh. I think this best sums up my impression of Korea and communicates the enduring spirit of the country and its people. I hope everyone in the college gets an opportunity to visit Korea. I think you will be as impressed as I.

Here are some other photos:





Greetings from Busan, Korea!

Written Monday, July 13

As most of the college knows, I am traveling in Korea for a few days to discuss possible collaborations with a couple universities and to spend a little time with the sport management’s summer-abroad program. This is the second year of the summer-abroad program. The students have been here since mid-June and are clearly enjoying themselves. Dr. Yong Chae Rhee and Chris Lebens from sport management are the lead faculty here, teaching, making sure that students are supported, and that the schedule and logistics are appropriately dealt with.

Last week I stopped in the city of Chuncheon to visit Kangwon National University (KNU). Some will remember a faculty member from this university, Dr. Seok Pyo Hong, who spent his sabbatical with the college last year. He was my guide for the two days in Chuncheon. I was there to work with the KNU international affairs office (similar to WSU’s International Programs office) to sign a memorandum of understanding or MOU between KNU and WSU. Deans often represent the university in MOU negotiations when traveling abroad. There is a protocol to follow which is provided by International Programs. I met with the president of KNU and other deans and faculty to discuss the MOU and sign. We then went to a local restaurant that serves traditional Korean food. It was quite a spread!

Kangwon National University
Kangwon National University

And speaking of food! Korean food is wonderful. My wife Fran, who is traveling with me, and I are adventurous eaters. We are at lunch here in Busan while I write this blog at a small local café that serves Korean-style sushi and noodles. We are focused on sushi! Busan is an ocean city so before leaving we want to make sure that we have a seafood dinner somewhere near the waterfront. Much of Korean food is spicy which is something Fran and I enjoy. In fact, the hotter the better – at least to a certain level.

On Thursday I will give a one-hour presentation to Pusan National University (PNU) faculty, administrators, and students regarding STEM education and research at WSU. Like the U.S., STEM is a national priority in Korea. Also similar to the U.S., Korea sees STEM as key to its economic development. Advances in telecommunication and medicine, for example, have thrust Korea onto the world stage as a leading innovator in these areas. And also similar to the U.S., Korea is beginning to see the need to take a global perspective with regards to its STEM-related innovations. STEM education is thus receiving attention in Korea.

Last summer, Chris and Yong Chae met with administrators at PNU while here with the summer-abroad program. The administrators expressed interest in a STEM faculty exchange, and expressed interest in meeting to discuss that possibility further. Chris and Yong Chae brought this information and request to me in late September or early October, and that’s how this trip started. While all of this is exploratory, I have a draft MOU with me and, as per WSU protocol, my dean counterpart and I will discuss ideas and work them into a draft MOU. Should we come to some type of initial agreement on an exchange, I will bring details back to WSU for discussion with faculty. Assuming support, the MOU will then be provided to International Programs for approval.

The top STEM education faculty member in Korea is a faculty member at PNU. Her name is Dr. Jeonghee Nam. It turns out that she is a collaborator with two professors in our college: Andy Cavagnetto and Rich Lamb. She will be in Pullman in August to attend the international Argument-Based Inquiry Conference that the College of Education is sponsoring. Fran and I will have breakfast with her on Thursday.

We’ve seen several interesting places in Chuncheon and Busan. We spent a night in a Buddhist temple in Busan with the students. The temple stay was well worth the time. Also with the students we have attended a Korean baseball game. Now that was interesting! Koreans seem to know how to have good fun at these games. We’ve also seen a Korean soccer match. Interesting to me are the number of international players on professional sports teams, though most players are Korean.

Our every need in Chuncheon was met by KNU and particularly Dr. Hong. He was a most gracious host and we thanked him for his work on our behalf while there. Yong Chae and Chris are also working to meet our needs and facilitating the entire trip. These faculty members have done a wonderful job in preparing and implementing this trip. They are both working long hours to make this a special and memorable trip for these students.

The sport management summer-abroad program is the first of its kind in our college. The program has paved the way for others. In fact, kinesiology conducted its first summer-abroad program this summer in Costa Rica. The experiences students get from a program like this simply can’t be duplicated in any other way. Though the sport management students have only been in Korea for 4 weeks or so, it’s easy to see that the experiences have already broadened their perspectives on a variety of issues. I think it is fair to say that these experiences have changed and shaped their lives in significant ways. As the world “gets smaller” through the internet and quick travel abroad, and global concerns increase on a variety of issues, an international or global outlook will be essential in solving problems and improving the opportunities of people around the world.

Thanks sport management for taking the lead.