After her first year as Ewha's president, Kim Eun mee sat down in her reception room with Ewha Voice, the Ewha Weekly and EUBS to reflect on the past year.
Since she began her presidency in June 2021, Kim has played a role in reshaping and making groundbreaking changes at Ewha. From Ewha Voice 2030+ to concluding a partnership with a global brand Dior, Kim's job has revolved around carrying out initiatives to empower Ewha.
At the Ewha Womans University 135th Anniversary Commemoration last May, Kim laid out five goals for Ewha Vision 2030+:
1. Revitalizing Ewha's status as a research-oriented university
2. Embracing a revolution in digitalization,
3. Strengthening student support,
4. Developing administration efficiency and fiscal health,
5. Creating a friendly campus by spreading E(wha)-Culture of sympathy, love, and consideration.
Regarding the first goal of Ewha Vision 2030+, Kim aimed to revitalize the graduate school in order to raise research competitiveness by reaching a 93.3% enrollment rate, marking the highest percentage in the past ten years. Furthermore, Kim highlighted the Frontier 10-10 program, which strives to raise approximately 20 research teams soon to be internationally renowned.
Over the past year, Kim has spent substantial time building bridges between digital transformation and education models. Starting from this semester, the school is running a test operation of "THE BEST" exclusive education model by adopting the system in roughly 230 courses. This new on-off convergence education system plans to divide the standard three hours class into two: conceptual learning being conducted online, and discussion-oriented in-depth classes performed offline.
"The school is also on track to support students academically and socially," Kim remarked. "'Chat-E,' an AI bot aiding students academically and socially aims to establish an integrated student management system. Starting from 'Chat-E,' we plan to improve student counseling by meeting the demands of students: in-person student counseling programs."
Along with such efforts, Kim also strives to achieve administrative efficiency by soliciting donations from students and using the collected funds for the betterment of the campus. Additionally, concerning the aims of E(wha)-Culture, the school has signed an MOU with the Korea Employment Agency for Persons with Disabilities to establish a subsidiary-type standard workplace to support the independence of the disabled.
When asked about how Ewha has been weathering the pandemic, Kim answered that the storm is not over, but the school has responded extremely well.
"I am proud of the role that the Ewha Safe Station(ESS) has played in allowing Ewha to operate safely throughout the pandemic," Kim noted. "We succeeded in landing a contract with Seegene to be provided with 100,000 COVID-19 diagnostic tests. At first, I was worried that the station would not gain much attention from students and faculty, but I am relieved and delighted to see it being used efficiently."
Nonetheless, Kim confided that it was not at all easy to accomplish such an achievement. To begin with, the landing of the agreement with Seegene started with a one-month trial. In the end, Kim succeeded in coming to an agreement by offering the data collected with ESS at Ewha to help Seegene investigate how medical foundations can conduct testing more stably in the pandemic.
Kim's momentum to construct a COVID-19 testing station on campus came from her overseas business trip last year. After her visit to Stanford, Kim was shocked by in-person classes being held on campus and soon realized that students were required to do self-tests twice a week. Subsequently, Kim pointed out that Ewha is also taking a step towards a safe campus thanks to ESS.
President Kim answers Ewha's Questions
Q. Recently, Ewha Womans University successfully arranged a partnership with Dior. Can you explain in detail about this arrangement?
A: I am proud to announce the partnership with the global brand Dior. Thanks to Dior's proposal to Ewha, we conducted several conferences and became aware that Dior was fully committed to the values Ewha is pursuing such as the empowerment of women. As Dior is currently focusing on leadership shaping for the young generation and environmental sustainability, we felt that Ewha and Dior shared the same values and could work together. Along this line, I would like to mention the Ewha Harvard Summer School Program(EHSSP), a yearly international summer program that Ewha has conducted with Harvard since 2006 as the first and only university in Korea. I hope that Ewha's steps toward becoming a more global university can encourage students to take on new challenges and get out of their comfort zone.
Q. What are your thoughts about Ewha's reputation?
A: I wish to take the student voice into account and act together when it comes to the image of the school. Many students have expressed concerns about this issue through diverse means such as student satisfaction survey and the recent Post-it requests. I am fully aware of such challenges and wish to emphasize that we are currently striving to reshape Ewha's image with the vice president taking the lead and student representatives supporting us.
Another issue is that we, the school, are not actively informing the students of our efforts to enhance the school's reputation. As a part of our endeavors to tackle the issue of image, I would like to mention the upcoming strategy project to promote Ewha's external, domestic, and global reputation. In this process, it is pivotal that students become partners with us and help shape Ewha's representative message as a community.
I had the same concerns as a student and know what it is like to face such issues. Nonetheless, at times like this, we should become stronger and handle things in a resolute manner.
Q. How can Ewha shape the future as a university which plays an important role in women's rights and higher education for women?
A: The Global Gender Gap Index 2021 conducted by the World Economic Forum shows South Korea ranking 102nd out of 156 countries along with Cambodia and Senegal. While the education and health gaps are acceptable, the wage gap and the political gap brings the rank all the way down to 102. The gender gap remains unfinished business and is affecting women in every single aspect in our society.
I believe that Ewha needs to support women and help them secure leadership positions until the term ‘glass ceiling’ is no longer needed. Some people ask me when Ewha is becoming a coeducational university. The response of past presidents has always been, “Come back when 50 percent of parliament are women. Then will I consider it.” I feel the same way.
Nevertheless, there are challenges ahead. While there are some who approach this issue in a combative manner, the right way will be for all genders to come together and discuss the hardships and solutions. I hope Ewha serves as an environment where students can learn the need to experience and learn about various roles in order to be a leader.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts for students at Ewha?
A: Please do not let fear limit you. Believe in yourself. Sometimes we are overly critical of ourselves and put limits on ourselves by saying, "You cannot do this," "You have never done this before," "What if something goes wrong?" I hope that all students at Ewha will believe in themselves and their possibilities. Follow your passion no matter where it leads and let Ewha help you realize your goal no matter what. Be a trail-blazer, not simply following others, but forging your own path.