Claremont McKenna deepens its Yonsei ties
|Pamela Gann President of Claremont McKenna College|
In times of economic crisis and low employment rates, a successful liberal arts education can get you a job or help you pursue post-graduate or professional degrees, according to the head of a prestigious liberal arts college.
“They say, how do you take your learning in the liberal arts and make it apply to jobs or making you more successful in getting into professional schools?” Pamela Gann, president of the Claremont McKenna College, told the Korea JoongAng Daily on Monday in central Seoul.
“I call it a hand-tailored education,” said Gann, who also previously served as dean of Duke University School of Law School for 11 years. “We can literally tailor the education of every student to what he or she is trying to accomplish.”
Gann, who has been president of the college for 14 years, said during that time the school has expanded its student body and education opportunities and has actively promoted internship experiences, leadership training and overseas studies, including in Korea.
The private liberal arts college, which is 35 kilometers away from downtown Los Angeles, is a member of The Claremont Colleges, a group of institutions that has a total student body of 5,300. It includes five undergraduate schools such as Pomona and Scripps as well as two graduate schools. The colleges operate independently but share courses, resources and extra-curricular activities, and students can cross-register.
Claremont McKenna has a very low acceptance rate - 12.6 percent in 2012. Gann said this year saw the biggest applicant pool ever, estimating a 10-11 percent acceptance rate for some 300 slots.
Gann, an expert in international law and trade, arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a three-day visit to Yonsei University and the Korea Foundation, which supports a comparative politics professor position at Claremont McKenna.
Since taking the presidency in 1999, Gann has overseen the hiring of 65-66 percent of the faculty during a time of high retirement levels in American higher education. She also pushed forward an aggressive internationalizing of the school’s student body and an expansion in exchanges with schools abroad.
“Outside the United States, we have been trying to deepen our partnerships with just a small number of very good, select universities. Yonsei falls into that category,” said Gann.
The school has had a partnership with Yonsei for years, said Gann, but their enhanced partnership is in its third year. Claremont McKenna also has faculty who were Yonsei graduates, deeping the connection.
“At the undergraduate level, [Yonsei] has the Underwood International College. It also has a very renowned business school and one of our key areas is preparing young men and women to go into business although we are a liberal arts college,” said Gann.
The partnership enables Claremont students to study abroad at Yonsei. In a five-week summer program, CMC students are billeted with Yonsei students and are co-taught by a faculty member from both CMC and Yonsei. They’re usually more oriented towards economics and international political economics, and also are encouraged to participate in leadership development projects.
CMC students have also been admitted to Yonsei School of Business’ MBA program, while Yonsei students have been accepted into Claremont’s Robert Day School Master’s of Finance Program.
“There is a huge interest in Asia generally in liberal arts right now,” said Gann. “We have a good message about liberal arts. We, I think, do the balance as well as anyone between a genuine, residential American-style liberal arts [education] while preparing people for the world of work.”
Gann majored in mathematics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, graduated from Duke University School of Law, and has worked with the International Monetary Fund and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
“We are very committed to taking liberal arts but also preparing students to be ready for work, to be ready for graduate schools,” said Gann. “We work on internships and employer relations.”
The school pays special focus to internship opportunities in government and the non-governmental and corporate sectors, especially ones that can segue into jobs after graduation.
They opened an off-campus semester program in Silicon Valley where 16-20 students spend an intensive semester working at a technology company and take two courses and submit a paper project.
“One of our best Korean students is in this very program as we speak,” said Gann, and is doing an internship at eBay.
Gann plans to retire this summer. After taking a one-year sabbatical, she’ll return to the college as a professor of legal studies.
By Sarah Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]