Professor Choi Kyung-hee was appointed the 15th president of Ewha on April 24. Choi graduated from Ewha in 1985 as a Science Education major, and went on to acquire a master’s degree in Physics Education in 1987. She went further in pursuing academic achievements, acquiring another master’s degree in Physics Education from Temple University in 1991, and a Ph. D in Science Education in 1994. Choi is the youngest to be elected among inaugurated presidents since 1979. Ewha Voice held an interview with president Choi on Sept. 4.
Ewha Voice (EV): How has your life changed after becoming the president of Ewha?
Choi Kyung-hee (Choi): Most importantly, my awareness toward Ewha has undergone great changes after the election. The responsibility and pride that I had felt being as an ordinary professor or the dean is totally different from that of the president. It motivates me to take a step further to face new challenges, which could demonstrate Ewha’s motto: Ewha, where change begins. Regarding my personal life, I do not sleep much lately. My daily life pattern has changed as well along with the schedule filled with various appointments and meetings. All of these changes reduced the amount of time spent for myself.
EV: “Innovation Ewha” is your new slogan for Ewha. In what specific ways are you trying to achieve the innovation within the school?
Choi: Ewha Womans University itself has shown pure innovation through its existence, since it is filled with challenge, change and progress. With 128 years of history, it is difficult to define the word “innovation” in limited terms inside Ewha. Therefore, I selected four main areas that the school plans to focus: "organization," "talent," "infrastructure" and "communication/network." There are numerous organizations at school such as academic departments and student associations. If we look at competitive universities in the current society, most of them place importance in the future by providing innovative courses for students. The school needs to be more future-oriented, since it is impossible to correspond with the fast-changing society if we only adhere to the traditional ways. In the context of “talent,” my first question is “How can Ewha attract more female students who prefer co-educational schools to women’s universities?” I think this can be acquired through advertising Ewha’s own value and program. According to my understanding, students’ satisfaction levels toward Ewha tend to be low during their freshmen and sophomore years. However, it increases greatly after they become seniors and juniors. It proves that Ewha maximizes one’s potential and capability throughout school years. Ewha does not only accept talented individuals but also welcomes ordinary students as well. The goal is to make those average students into competitive leaders through Ewha’s education. In terms of "infrastructure," I will do my best to provide immaculate surroundings for students and professors to pursue their academic studies. The school has undergone great changes lately, and there will be more throughout my presidential term. Last but not least, "communication/network" is one of Ewha’s strengths. I want to create “Ewha DNA Network,” which stands for “dream and achievement” as well as the initial meaning of “DNA,” since all of us have Ewha’s spirit and lessons in our consciousness. I plan to connect Ewha graduates with students so they can seek help from their seniors whenever they face problems in the future.
EV: What are your plans for international students at Ewha?
Choi: Speaking of the globe, all of us must know that Ewha started the very first globalization in Korea. When Ewha initiated as Ewha Haktang, Mary Scranton started with only one student, and she helped the students to go abroad and pursue their studies in foreign countries. It resulted in the first woman overseas student, the first woman scholar along with the first woman doctor. Ewha is the most globalized university. Additionally, the school actively interacts with universities around the world. Numerous Memorandum of Understandings (MOU) that Ewha signed with other competitive foreign schools prove the point. Therefore, Ewha welcomes all international students and guarantees to provide the best care and support for their studies. Ewha already has the systems, but I plan to enlarge them in the future.
EV: Recently, it is said that the status of women’s universities in the Korean society is facing crisis. At this point, what are the strengths of Ewha and how are you planning to maximize them?
Choi: I have been asked questions whether I have plans to change Ewha into a co-educational school, or delete the word “Womans” in the name. Toward those questions, my answer always has been “definitely not.” The value of Ewha is different from that of other universities in Korea. Ewha is strong in areas such as college of engineering or law school, not to speak of humanities and social sciences. These strengths differenciate Ewha from other female schools. I plan to emphasize the value of Ewha throughout my term. The importance of academia cannot be judged by economic means. We can reform or change the traditional aspects to fit the needs of the current society, but shutting down the department just because of the low employment rate does not make sense. Personally, I felt the true value of Ewha after becoming president, and realized that how much I owe to the school. Not just me, but other Ewha graduates also feel the same pride toward Ewha. I think the fact that Ewha remained as a women’s university makes this possible. It is undeniable that there are threats from the outside, since most of the university evaluation criteria are based on the co-educational schools. Korean society still prefers men to women in various areas and it is Ewha’s goal to overcome those prejudices. When I attended Ewha, the range of experience that I could earn was somewhat limited. However, different from the past, current Ewha students can acquire broader spectrum of experience and activities. All of us should take advantage of this change, and use this fact to reinforce the school’s image in the society. Innovation of Ewha can be achieved under our hands.
EV: How do your past careers such as professor and vice president for Office of Student Affairs contribute to the presidential term?
Choi: Being a Vice president for Office of Student Affairs and Office of Research helped me to understand both students and professors. It allowed me to meet numerous students and I continued to pay attention to those affairs even when I was no longer in the job. Furthermore, I also learn to communicate with outside organizations to pursue the further development of Ewha as a whole while serving as the Vice president for the Office of Research. Overall, my career at Ewha contributes to better understanding toward every member in and out of the school.
EV: Any last words or advice that you want to share with Ewha students?
Choi: Students, be proud of the fact that you belong to the Ewha Community. It is an invaluable asset that solidifies through time. You will be able to understand the true value of Ewha as you step into the society. Trust the school and try your best. I can guarantee that the result will be beyond your expectations.