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Dankook University president reflects on career

Chang Ho-sung leaves a legacy of transformation
June 22,2019
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Chang Ho-sung, the former president of Dankook University (DKU), poses in front of DKU’s bear statue at the school’s Jukjeon campus in Yongin, Gyeonggi. [JUN MIN-KYU]
The long-time president of Dankook University (DKU) stepped down last Sunday so that a new generation of leaders can step in to guide the school through the coming fourth industrial revolution.

Chang Ho-sung, former president of DKU, was originally scheduled to step down from his position in February 2020. His position will be filled by Eo Jin-woo, the senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, until a new president is elected.

“For the sake of a second reformation and progress, I will step down early from my position as president,” said Chang.

Chang had a positive assessment of the current government and its educational policy. However, he said that schools are hungry for more revenue, as tuition has been frozen for 11 years at a level that does not reflect current levels of inflation.

DKU underwent large-scale reform in 2007, when its main campus moved and split into two from Yongsan District in central Seoul to Jukjeon-dong in Yongin, Gyeonggi, and Cheonan, South Chungcheong. The move led to the one university, two campuses system. DKU’s Jukjeon campus specializes in information technology (IT) and cultural technology. Their Cheonan campus focuses on biotechnology and foreign language education.

Chang lead DKU’s reinvention as its president since 2008. He merged similar disciplines together and created 17 departments. Some of the new departments are mobile systems engineering, counseling and Middle Eastern studies. This is to make DKU specialize in certain fields and differentiate it from other universities. Chang thinks universities in Korea should change on a nationwide scale, which includes how the government regulates universities.

Chang graduated from Sogang University with a degree in electronic engineering. He got his master’s and doctoral degree in engineering at Oregon State University. He later became a professor at the department of electronic engineering at Hanyang University. He first came to DKU as a professor of electronics and electrical engineering in 2000.

The JoongAng Sunday sat down with Chang at his office in Yongin, Gyeonggi, on June 14, right before he resigned as president of DKU, to talk about his accomplishments.



Q. You still have time before your term is up. Why are you stepping down right now?

A
. I think that [DKU’s] rudimentary preparation for globalization is finished. The fourth industrial revolution, which is a historical turning point for civilization, needs a new leadership and [people with] new energy. I thought that it would be better for our cause that a new leader steps up to pave a new path for DKU, which has 72 years of history.



How will the new president be elected?

Previously, [presidents] were appointed by the school’s corporate body, but now they will be elected though an indirect electoral system. Only by having the current president step down from his position can we make sure the election process is fair and objective. It is also a chance for the remainder of my term to be used efficiently. There are a few things that need to be done, like overhauling a new educational course, but as the foundation for change has been laid, I look forward to the school running on a new engine that will lead it through its second reformation.



This is your goodbye interview, right?

It was a hectic journey. The biggest job I had was moving our initial campus in Seoul. Schools that suffer from a decreasing school-age population and frozen tuitions are envious of universities in Seoul. However, our school moved out of Seoul. Even when I look back on our school’s choice back then, I have no regrets.



What do you remember the most from while you were president?

I remember things like creating a college of pharmacy in 2010, combining our Jukjeon and Cheonan campuses, adjusting the scope of academic disciplines and revitalizing cooperation between the university and industries. My knowledge of IT helped me a lot in changing the school’s disposition. We have changed the academic atmosphere and environment so that the humanities and social science departments are not the only competitive departments in DKU. We made it so that the natural sciences and engineering departments are competitive as well. With the biggest system of cloud platforms and servers among all universities in the country, we have obtained a research grant of 458 billion won ($389 million) in the last 10 years from the government and companies. In the last three years, we were able to successfully carry out 215 technology transfers. In the process, our full-time teaching staff increased to 350 people and the number of thesis publications increased more than threefold.



What do the two campuses specialize in?

The Jukjeon campus is a place where IT and traditional humanities go together, and the Cheonan campus was changed into a hotspot where biotechnology like medical, dental and pharmaceutical colleges and 10 language departments meet each other. The core of global higher education is creativity. The process of deliberation, understanding and solving problems embodied in “design thinking” is important in order to find an [educational] alternative. Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data needs the sensibilities of the humanities in order to become competitive. That is why we created an Innovative Future Campus to foster talented individuals who are able to synthesize IT and software skills with big data and the humanities. We helped students get used to such an environment by creating DanAI, an AI chat bot that [helps them] browse information.



Tell us about DKU’s cultural technology, biotechnology and foreign language fields.

Of our freshmen, 16.7 percent study art, music and physical education. This may make it hard for us to receive a good evaluation [from the government], but the cultivation of the body, virtue and mind is DKU’s tradition. As BTS shows us, the influence of culture and art is enormous. This is why we need to specialize our strengths. Our Academy of Asian Studies published 16 volumes of a traditional Chinese character dictionary — the largest in the world — in 2008, surprising the academic world. By moving DKU’s natural sciences college to the Jukjeon campus, we have almost completed the establishment of our biotech field. It is part of making an “all-in-one” [campus] with colleges like medical, dental, pharmaceutical, nursing, health sciences, natural sciences and agricultural biology. We are every bit as good as Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in terms of foreign language education. We are training speakers of 10 languages, like English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian and Arabic.



How do you think universities across the country should change?

The government’s financial support project is a thing to be thankful of. However, if you look at it in another way, I wish public universities would invest in the natural sciences and private universities in the applied sciences and engineering. Because there is no distinction made between all the universities across the country, they are not interested in the natural sciences and instead focus on engineering, since that’s what creates jobs and thesis papers. We need to differentiate between the functions of public and private universities. That is the only way both kinds of schools can survive in the higher education market.



What do you think about the restrictions that the government places on the universities?

I wish [the government would enforce] “negative regulations,” which allow [schools] to do anything except things that they aren’t supposed to. For example, is there a reason why they insist on limiting online lectures to 20 percent [of all classes] in an era of open global lecturing? If they are so worried, why don’t they use a regulatory sandbox? Creating a state of coevolution gives universities freedom and holds them responsible for problems is important. Universities should put on different clothes.

BY YANG YOUNG-YU, JUNG MYUNG-SU [jung.myungsuk@joongang.co.kr]