U expands to Asia Campus


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(Photo Courtesy of ASUU)

(Photo Courtesy of ASUU)
(Photo Courtesy of ASUU)

When ASUU president Justin Spangler stepped off his 20-hour flight in Seoul, South Korea, he knew he was embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Spangler set off for a one-week journey, Aug. 25 through Sept. 3, to help welcome new U students to the campus and establish the school’s constitution. Jean Oh, the director of Students Affairs for the U’s Asia Campus had previously arrived in South Korea to begin setting up orientation.
Songdo Global University, also known as Incheon Global Campus, opened in 2012 with the first school, SUNY Korea. The campus, surrounded by high-rise, multi-story buildings set across the skyline of the city of Songdo, includes a guest house and a concert hall immediately adjacent to the classroom building.
The new Asia Campus will be under U President David Pershing, but the student government will not be directly tied to ASUU. There will be a separate student government there, and the relationship between the two student governments will continue to grow, especially during the first few formative years.
However, the U is not the only satellite campus located here. George Mason University Korea and Ghent University were added this year, and plans are currently in effect to add a university from St. Petersburg, Russia in 2015.
All four of the current universities share a building on campus, each with their own floor of the building. This set-up is conducive to supporting global fellowship and learning across borders. Spangler spent this last summer drafting a constitution for the new Asia Campus.
Oliver Anderson, director of the Student Advocacy Board at the U, joined Spangler and Oh to run orientation for the 18 new U students in South Korea. The typical school year in Korea begins in the spring, so the student population is expected to rise next semester.
“The week began with orientation,” Spangler said. “We wanted to let them know all of the opportunities and experiences they could take part of as new students to the U. We explained in detail the importance of ASUU and its purpose, including bringing concerts and guest lecturers to campus, as well as passing initiatives.”
An ice cream social was also arranged for students to meet each other and learn more about what the new student government can provide for campus life.
“The ice cream social was a great experience,” Anderson said. “We invited all of the students at the campus, not just the U students, to join us for a great mixer. It really allowed everyone to get to know each other.”
More than 200 people showed up for the social, added Spangler.
“None of the other three universities have a student government presence on campus,” he said. “This was the first time there had ever been a collaborative event on the campus. You could see that it was the first time it clicked in the student’s minds that student government is a great resource to have.”
The next day, students gathered to listen to the reading of the constitution. The guidelines for holding a student government election were explained in detail, and matters of business for getting the program up and running were enacted.
“The first president of the U Asia campus is going to have to create a way to develop student groups, design student fees and arrange meetings,” Spangler said. “The Asia campus is holding its first election this week. It will be exciting and interesting to see the results.”
Dedication of the campus was held the following Monday. Spangler noted that this dedication was especially important because these students are going to have an impact on the campus for the next 30 years. He said they are going to be making decisions that will help shape the future of the campus and they have the power to leave a lasting fingerprint on its future.
After the dedication there was a Western-themed barbeque, complete with kebobs and line dancing.
Anderson, who taught the students how to line dance, said he thoroughly enjoyed the event.
“We got red University of Utah cowboy hats and red bandanas for each of the students,” Anderson said. “I taught them how to dance the Boot Scootin’ Boogie. About 20 to 30 students from other schools joined in, and we performed it at the barbeque.”
While there, Spangler arranged to have the U football games broadcast live to an auditorium at the Asia campus. Together, the students and ASUU members gathered to watch the game.
Anderson said he noticed a transformation in the students during his week in South Korea.
“When we first arrived the students were shy and unsure,” Anderson said. “You could tell they were nervous and didn’t really know what to expect. They didn’t know much about the U and what it could offer them. By the end of the week their perspective had completely transformed. They were enthusiastic and energetic. They started approaching us with their own ideas of how they envisioned campus life. It was awesome to see.”
Anderson also worked with the campus to explain how to create an on-campus service group that would benefit both the local community and the international community.
Beyond the growing student life, the University of Utah Asia Campus also provides excellent academic opportunities for students. Programs currently offered include undergraduate degrees in sociology, psychology, strategic communication, social work and journalism as well as a master’s program in Public Health.
Spangler and Anderson both strongly encourage any student at the U to travel to Songdo and take part in a study abroad program.
“The whole experience was amazing,” Spangler said. “The opportunity to have a campus near one of the top 10 biggest mega cities in the world is incredible. The mentality is vastly different than the American mentality.”
Having the opportunity to work with the Asia Campus, Anderson said, has been one of the hallmark experiences of his college career.
Spangler said he is excited for what is to come this year with the campus.
“The concept of a global campus is genius,” Spangler said. “Not only are you getting a valuable higher learning education, but you are doing so inside the realm of four other cultures.”
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