DAEJEON -- Being able to deal deftly with people from different countries with varied cultural and religious backgrounds is one of the requirements for becoming a full-fledged business leader on the global stage.
In this regard, SolBridge International School of Business, offering BBA (bachelor of business administration) and MBA courses, is leading the way with its faculty members and students from more than 20 countries, creating a unique learning environment scarcely seen in any local universities.
"We have people from India, Canada, Singapore, South Africa and so forth. It is a melting pot," said John E. Endicott, vice chancellor of the Daejeon school.
"First of all, students here deal with the lingua franca of the world. The most important thing is getting that language. The second most important is overcoming cultural barriers to make friends with other people. The third benefit is once you make friends here; it will be the school tie for life."
Currently, some 30 faculty members from eight countries teach at the school, which started with only 26 students with eight professors in September 2007 with a focus on Asian business and the relationships between Asian economies and the rest of the world.
The faculty members, who are well-versed both in practice and theory, hold degrees from world-renowned universities including Harvard, Yale, Tufts and Brown. A total of 400 students from 24 countries, including 30 Koreans, attend SolBridge.
The 73-year-old vice chancellor, who also serves as president of Woosong University, the mother school of SolBridge, told The Korea Herald that while promoting diversity, integration among students is also one of the key issues the school is paying close attention to.
"One of the major problems was food. Russians don`t like any spices. Indians and Koreans enjoy spices. Muslims don`t want any pork. So we have really worked on it. We have redone our cafeteria to offer Western, Asian and Muslim cuisines," Endicott said.
"We have 22 clubs, including a public speaking club, dance club and drama club. We use these as a way (to promote integration). We are trying to get the spirit of the use of English everywhere in the building and make sure differences don`t cause any problem."
Since he took office last January as head of Woosong, Endicott has brought about some crucial changes to the school. Among them was a new professor evaluation system that he believes would eventually enhance the quality of education at Woosong.
"We set our goal for teaching, research and service. We judge our faculty -- how much teaching they were doing and how well they do it. Students play a major role in assessing our faculty. Not all faculty members are happy to be judged by the students but it is good for the soul," he said.
"What you are doing is you are making a contract with the faculty. You expect if they succeed they get an incentive. In the world of today, life without obligations or contract is the thing of the past."
Endicott is a specialist on Northeast Asia, having introduced the concept of the "Limited Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone for Northeast Asia" in 1991. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 and this year for his efforts to promote regional peace through the concept.
He said that humanitarian aid to North Korea should continue and be "above politics."
"South Korea needs to go forward as (North Korea`s) relationship with the United Sates improves and the relationship with Japan will improve," he said.
"This is another opportunity with a new government in Japan and a new cabinet in South Korea and with the possible successor being identified in North Korea."
The SolBridge faculty, which uses English as its language of instruction, provides students with hands-on training on the various aspects of contemporary business practice supplemented with their experience in various fields ranging from telecommunications to corporate governance, and science and technology to marketing and management.
The school also ensures that students obtain first-hand contact with real-world situations through the help of its "Corporate Advisory Council."
Members of the council, which consists of a group of senior executives based in China, India, Korea and the United States, are regularly invited to the school and share their in-depth knowledge and industry experience with students. The members include executives of world-famous corporations such as DHL, ESTEE LAUDER, AIG Investments and Samsung SDS.
The school also runs dual-degree programs with the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States and Beijing Foreign Studies University in China.
Endicott graduated from Ohio State University in 1958. He earned his master`s degree in law and diplomacy in 1973 and a Ph.D. in international relations in 1974 from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
He served in the U.S. Air Force for 28 years and in the U.S. Defense Department for three years. He was a professor and director of the Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta for 18 years from 1989.
By Song Sang-ho