Towards a “Global Value-Creative World-Leading University”
[Interview] Sung-Chul Shin, President of KAIST
“It’s time to lower barriers and move forward together. We’re no longer living in an age where local organizations compete with each other. We should think about how to maximize our resources to survive in the world and work together as one.”
The new vision of KAIST, proposed by President Sung-Chul Shin, is to become a “Global Value-Creative World-Leading University.” This means that KAIST should develop into an institute that consistently generates world-class value-addedness for economic growth and technological innovation, instead of being satisfied as one of the world’s top 40 universities.
President Shin is the first alumni president in 46 years since the founding of KAIST. He has served KAIST as a professor and vice president for 22 years. Through his past roles as the president of DGIST, the vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology, and the president of Daedeok Club, President Shin has acquired a solid understanding of the science and technology scene in Korea.
To achieve common goals, the new president is concentrating on sharing his vision of KAIST with students, faculty, and staff. The Vision 2031 Committee was launched to focus on innovation in five areas: education, research, technology commercialization, globalization, and future strategies. A new platform is being established in preparation for KAIST’s 60th anniversary in 2031.
President Shin has adopted a bottom-up approach rather than the conventional top-down approach. He encourages members of KAIST to voluntarily participate in activities and bond with one another instead of simply following instructions. Under the newly introduced dual head system, the president appointed one co-chair from among faculty holding administrative positions, and accepted volunteers for the remaining position.
“More than 60 applied to a single division. This favorable response to the new policy shows that there is hope for KAIST,” said President Shin.
To nurture global talent, the president plans to establish a global campus that supports bilingual communication in Korean and English, and to expand the number of international students and faculty. International students will have the opportunity to learn the Korean language and culture, and more resources will be invested into globalization.
KAIST will foster talent through team-based learning and other interdisciplinary projects. The interdisciplinary major track will be available as an option for students beginning next year. The goal is to develop textbooks based on interdisciplinary values and subject-matter knowledge, and to foster non-conventional talent capable of thinking outside of the box. The president hopes that KAIST will produce experts in various fields such as entrepreneurship, journalism, science policy, and patent law.
Japan’s faculty system will be benchmarked for the development of basic disciplines. Since the Meiji Restoration, Japan has maintained a system comprising professors, associate professors, teaching assistants, and students. Under this system, the most outstanding individual is selected as the successor, which ensures that knowledge continues to be accumulated even after a faculty member retires. This is cited as one of the main reasons for the continuous increase in Japanese Nobel laureates.
According to President Shin, the closing down of laboratories after faculty retirement is a national waste. He said, “KAIST will form teams of about three to five professors with similar research interests. More experienced professors will present research directions, and younger professors will be able to develop their ideas without having to worry about funding.”
Emphasizing the importance of pursuing BFO (Best, First, Only) research, President Shin announced that the institute will conduct large-scale convergence flagship projects. Key areas of BFO research include artificial intelligence, national defense, bio, and military drones. He added, “Faculty and students must participate actively in BFO research, so as to generate new academic and technological value.”
One new event at KAIST is the “Happy birthday breakfast with the president.” During breakfast with students, President Shin gives them hand-written birthday cards and provides invaluable advice. The birthday breakfast event, which will soon be expanded to include graduate students, allows students to take pride in the school and the region. To help students grow familiar with the local community, visits to research institutes to local industry tours will be organized for the upcoming summer semester.
“The students at KAIST must have a solid understanding of the region in order to become leaders of global enterprises and to succeed as startup founders in Silicon Valley. In the next thirty years, I expect to see our graduates serving as presidents of top universities such as MIT and Stanford. It’s time for us to set trends not only for Korea, but for the world.”
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