Korean UCLA dean gives take on higher ed

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Korean UCLA dean gives take on higher ed


Dr. Park No-hee

Dr. Park No-hee, 66, dean of the University of California Los Angeles’ School of Dentistry, who is in his 13th year at the school’s helm, said that universities must stick to their mission of “creating new knowledge through research, disseminating knowledge through teaching programs and preserving knowledge through publications” to “create a better global society.”

Park, who is the first Korean dean of the school, visited Seoul this week to attend Kyung Hee University’s “Global 2020” program.

In an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily yesterday, Park said that Korean universities must “establish financial stability by active fund-raising, expand transparency especially in financial management and educate students to have self-learning capabilities.”

“In Korea, education is still focused in one way, and it’s a big problem,” said Park.

“Universities should teach students how to self-learn. Students must learn how to ask questions and also they should increase their curiosity intellectually, particularly these days when new knowledge and new technology appear rapidly.”

One of Park’s achievements as dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry was reforming the school’s curriculum to make it more relevant to modern practice and encourage critical thinking.

“In UCLA, the curriculum is completely changed now. It is entirely about problem solving,” said Park. “It’s tough to change the curriculum in university, but in order to encourage lifelong learning, it’s inevitable.”

Following are the excerpts from the interview:

Q. You said one of the missions of a university is to create new knowledge. How can universities do that?

A. Through research. To me, research has three components. First is new knowledge. Second is training a new generation of scientists. And lastly, technology transfer. From knowledge, you have to transfer knowledge as product. If you don’t do that, knowledge doesn’t mean anything. You have to utilize that for the well being of the public.

How do you focus on research at UCLA’s School of Dentistry?

We dedicate one day a year as “Research Day.” This year, our research theme is cancer. So I brought top notch scientists in cancer as keynote speakers, and faculty members hold symposiums. Students also participate in research competitions, and we select top students and award them. Through this kind of culture, students as well as professors begin to understand the importance of research. During the past 13 years, I increased the research fund of our school from $2 million a year to $20 million today.

High tuition is always an issue at Korean universities.

Universities should not depend on tuition to fund research or pay salaries for professors. Depending on tuition too much is the problem of Korean universities. You have to create ways to stabilize funding and finance them. You have to learn how to raise funds and develop money.

In Korea, there are a lot of opportunities as there are large corporations and a lot of rich people. You have to ask them. If you don’t ask, you are never going to get the funding.

Park said universities are more than just places to get educated. “UCLA is the 10th largest employer in LA,” said Park. “Our school receives about $350 million but UCLA’s economic impact is around $9 billion. Universities should be able to market themselves to show the people that they are doing a lot for the society.”

By Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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