Interdisciplinary Program of Social Economy Graduate School conducted the first non-degree course for university students for nine months between March and November. The course, titled “Raising Change Makers with Empathy and Innovation,” aimed to help students gain insight on appropriately defining social economic problems and applying what they had learnt to improve them.
The leadership program was hosted by the Ministry of Employment and Labor, and the Korea Social Enterprise Promotion Agency, and was organized by Ewha Womans University. The course welcomed students from all universities who were interested. A total of 102 students applied from 17 different universities and 30 different majors.
“We were worried that university students wouldn’t be interested in a non-degree course, since they were already preoccupied with their own majors,” said Cho Sang-mi, a professor of Social Welfare and Social Economy, and founder of Interdisciplinary Program of Social Economy Graduate School. “Thankfully, many students took interest. The withdrawal rate is also extremely low, proving the program’s success.”
Students delve into interdisciplinary problem-solving
The course was divided into three stages: Empowerment, Exploration, and Engagement. In the Empowerment stage, students received interrelated education from professors of 14 majors. Students visited specific regional sites to engage in the Hackathon Program, the first attempt to apply their learning in real life. They also went to Goesan-gun to practice asking questions in order to correctly assess real life problems.
“We asked the question ‘why’ five times,” said Lim Ye-ji, a junior student in the Department of Science and Political Relations. “When we found the answer for the first question, we would ask ‘why’ again. We would repeat this process until pinpointing the fundamental cause. This lesson reinforced the importance of correctly defining the problem.”
In the Exploration stage, students were assigned to their mentor professors, who trained them to tackle issues. Students who were interested received further experience by engaging in a two-week internship and was given an opportunity to go on an overseas tour in Vietnam.
“Going to Vietnam was a nurturing experience,” said Lee Si-won, a freshman from the Department of Social Welfare. “The most memorable social enterprise we visited was Imagtor, which hired disabled workers. The employees used advanced IT to edit real estate videos. It broke the social prejudice that the disabled can only engage in primary or secondary industries.”
“I was able to contemplate the future of Korea’s social enterprises,” Lim added. “If there are other agendas apart from IT where the disabled can produce good results, it would be effective to apply this case to Korea as well.”
In the Engagement stage, students were involved in a Social Impact project. On Nov. 21, each team will be showcasing what they have learnt and some societal problems they have pinpointed. The nominated two teams will engage in the Ewha SI (Social Impact) Review Forum and present their work in front of a larger audience.
“This was a very meaningful project to raise intelligent leaders who can truly make an impact in the world,” Cho said. “A lot of people are very empathetic, but we hope to produce leaders who will actively use that empathy as a drive to make a difference in society.”