Today, I stand here before you with a great sense of responsibility. Ewha is an institution that was founded with a single student but grew into the largest and foremost women’s university in the world in 124 years. Looking at its history, I am reminded of all the past students and faculty of Ewha, because it is to their great accomplishments and undaunting spirit to which we owe the status and prestige Ewha enjoys today. With great pride, we inherit from them Ewha’s greatest wealth - the vision and wisdom that preserved and nurtured the Ewha community throughout the years. The responsibility to succeed this great tradition is a heavy responsibility that I will never forget throughout my term. As a member of and together with the whole Ewha community, I will do my best to fulfill this responsibility.
We can be proud of Ewha’s past accomplishments. The 124 years of Ewha history is a history of improving the human condition for oppressed women, or what we call the ‘humanization of women.’ Ewha always swiftly responded to challenges imposed by the times. Instead of letting history be written, Ewha chose to write her own story.
The raison-d’tre of a university should not stop at passively meeting the social demand for higher education. Universities must raise questions even if these are questions society ‘has not raised’ or ‘does not want to raise.’ I believe it is the responsibility of universities to present visions and ideals for the future, along with the way in which we can arrive there. In this respect, despite great accomplishments in terms of improving the status of women and the inequitable structure of our society, Ewha’s mission as the premier institution of higher education for women is far from complete.
Many social indicators prove better educational and social opportunities for women and lead us to believe that gender inequality has been addressed. Equal opportunity, however, is only the basic foundation for humanization of women. We now need to build upon that foundation to create new value while maintaining our academic excellence and distinction. Ewha’s effort toward humanization of women must encompass women in other countries who still suffer from discrimination and oppression. We are called upon to succeed what Mary Scranton envisioned and taught 124 years ago. We must now engage the world in practicing Ewha’s values which are anchored by the Christian spirit of sharing and serving.
While the world awaits the emergence of new alternative values to guide us through the times, it is also engaged in intense competition unfettered by national boundaries. As an institute of higher education for women, Ewha needs to look beyond quantitative growth and competition, and look to the ‘guidepost that lies before us,’ as our beloved and revered teacher Kim Okgil used to emphasize. Instead of focusing only on immediate tasks that we face at the moment, we need to lift our eyes toward the distant horizon.
Korea now needs, more than anything, social capital formation. Social capital refers to intangible assets such as trust, norms, and networks among individual members of society promoting cooperation. Establishing social capital is integral to consolidating mature democracy and economic growth Korea has pursued so far. This is precisely where Ewha can make a contribution and fulfill its social responsibility as a university. The traditional values of Ewha emphasizing devotion, honesty, caring and love are all closely linked to the essential aspects of social capital. The academic community of Ewha must engage with the outside world with openness so that its ideals based on cooperation over competition, community orientation over individualism, and Christian and feminine/feminist values can become the new spirit of the times (zeitgeist). As we face new challenges in a rapidly changing world, I envision the future of Ewha education as follows.
Firstly, we must nurture creative talents equipped with ‘multi-cultural and multi-lingual capacities’ and a commitment toward humanization of women at the global level. Now, Ewha is called upon to broaden its perspective and engage globally to cooperate, compete, and grow together. Higher education should not focus only on the qualities required by today’s society: it must also focus on the qualities required by the future society. Ewhaians of tomorrow will be thinking and acting globally. They must be able to understand and easily adapt to different cultures. Meanwhile, the Ewha campus must be more open, diverse, and multi-cultural in order to embrace and educate women from around the world.
Secondly, we need to enable students to play a pivotal role in the formation of social capital. Ewha-educated women will ensure that feminine/feminist values based on cooperation, compassion, and togetherness can be a counterforce to fierce global competition. Ewha’s education is not just about making individual students more competent. It is about fostering empathy and caring consciousness for others, the powerless and the marginalized. It is about cultivating capacity to relate and communicate with others. It is about building up leadership to mediate conflicts and initiate cooperation as an active member of society.
Thirdly, we need to cultivate true intellectuals who are creative, sensitive, and embody the Christian spirit. Future talents are not defined by pure professional and technical skills without spirit and heart. Future talents need to be equipped with intellect, cultural sensitivity, appreciation for nature and life, and the Christian spirit of caring for others. Because these will be the characteristics of people who will be needed in society and lead tomorrow’s world. At the same time wherever there are women who are still subject to discrimination and oppression, we should be ready to share our experience and efforts with them no matter where they might be. I believe this is the way we can practice Ewha’s values in the global community.
For over a century, Ewha has faithfully followed the path God had prepared for us. Now it is time to envisage the next century. In order to build a solid point of take-off for the next 100 years, I have set a few areas of focus to pursue during my term.
Firstly, I will work to enhance the collective capacity of the Ewha community by building a new governance structure. When undertaking projects, I will value the process as much as the end-result. More than anything, the procedure of openness, disclosure, and decentralization will be implemented to ensure that all decisions are made fairly on principle. The capacity of Ewha as a community will only be maximized when people, projects, and all internal workings rely on democratic communication. As part of the new governance structure in Ewha, I will listen to various views of members of Ewha communities through various fora and platforms. And the interests and voices of the 180,000 Ewha alumnae around the world will be heard and reflected as well.
Secondly, we will strive for academic excellence through an educational setting that is women-friendly. The administration of the school will aim to provide an enabling environment for all students so that they can maximize their potential. In order to produce open-minded, innovative, and compassionate female leaders of the future, we need to encourage then to take risks and challenge themselves without having to be afraid of failure. Here at Ewha, mistakes and errors will be recognized as precious experiences and lessons where students are encouraged not to give up easily. Ewha has to be a center in which a creative pioneering spirit is fostered so that all potentiality can be actualized. The future of Ewha leading women’s global networks depends on this.
Furthermore, we will introduce various educational programs tailored to women’s different stages of life. This means that women no longer have to suspend or give up education and self-realization because of external factors. Various programs will be introduced to allow, not only students, but also faculty and administrative staff to combine learning, research, and work with their home life, thereby presenting a new model for ‘work-life balance.’
Thirdly, I will work hard to enhance our research capacity and quality. We can only achieve our goal of academic excellence when the outcome of research is fed back into education loop. The quality of higher education is ultimately decided by the quality and performance of the faculty. We will invite the leading scholars irrespective of gender, age, and educational affiliation, and create an environment to attract the best of best from around the world. More administrative and financial support as well as other support systems relevant to various disciplines need to be extended to incumbent faculty, so that they can focus their energy on research and teaching. Particular support shall be provided for interdisciplinary research involving our areas of specialization. And throughout this process, qualitative enhancement will always have priority over quantitative expansion. If Ewha is to consolidate its position as a true research university, we need to establish a support system to nurture next generation scholars. This means more scholarships and expanded childcare facilities to support our younger researchers.
Fourthly, I will do my best to create an environment conducive to academic achievements, including an efficient administrative system, and support programs for various constituencies of Ewha. We need to enhance the personal capacity of individual staff members, and introduce a more rational personnel management system by reclassifying job titles and responsibilities, and reassigning people to appropriate positions. A better HR system will motivate and energize the administrative staff, and in the end, strengthen the research and education capacity of Ewha as a whole.
All of these tasks, however, cannot be achieved without the aspiration, support, and cooperation of all Ewhaians. And I plan to pursue these plans one by one based on horizontal and open dialogue and communication.
As the Latin phrase ‘Non nobis solum’ says we are ‘not for ourselves alone.’ As such, our university does not exist for us alone but for the society as a whole. As no one can live alone in society, universities cannot fulfill its due role as an ivory tower when they are distanced from reality. We need to become a Ewha that meets its social and historic calling. Ewha’s extraordinary growth over the past 124 years was possible because we always had great vision based on the Christian ideals of equality, peace, love, and justice, and because we had ‘guideposts’ to follow. I will do my part to uphold that vision and continue to move forward. Because of the great service and sacrifice of our forerunners, our teachers, and all Ewhaians, I am confident in the God’s blessing in the first steps taken toward a new future. Once again, I thank our guests and everyone from the Ewha community for being here. May God bless you all. Thank you.