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CBPA takes on a South Korean challenge

Creating a cross-cultural course for South Korean students required collaboration

Students aren’t the only Drake University constituents who are up for an academic challenge. Drake faculty frequently embrace unique opportunities that can elevate the profile of the University and stretch their teaching skills.

This summer, professors in the College of Business and Public Administration joined forces to host 19 South Korean students for a three-week seminar that introduced the international visitors to the health care system in the U.S., insurance industry operations and the American culture.

The opportunity came to Drake through connections that Inchul Suh, associate professor of finance, has with Kim Shin Dong, vice president of community outreach and international affairs at Hallym University in Chuncheon, South Korea. The two have kept in touch since they met at the Indiana University-Bloomington as graduate students. So, when Kim’s university received a Korean government’s grant to study medical tourism last year he turned to Suh.

“South Korea has a very strong medical service sector,” Suh says. “They want to educate young college students to be future administrators and marketers for the industry so that they can serve medical tourists better by not only providing access to medical services, but also anticipating and resolving any cultural and communication issues that they might have.”

Drake’s location in Des Moines — both a state and insurance capital — and the strong programs offered through the CBPA Center for Professional Studies provided a good fit for the program. Creating curriculum required contributions from Drake’s Center for International Programs and Services and several academic units in the CBPA including public administration, finance, international business and marketing.

In addition to classroom work, organizers coordinated trips to the Wellmark corporate headquarters, Methodist hospitals, the state capitol and even outings to Adventureland, an Iowa Cubs game for some downtime fun.

“I think there was a cultural connection,” says Dr. Allen Zagoren, associate professor of practice in public administration, who also works as a surgeon for Iowa Health System. “It transcended the topic. Hopefully they took away a certain understanding of our healthcare system, policy and new law. I learned a lot about South Korea that I would not have known.”

Faculty didn’t miss an opportunity to include a student in the experience. Drake actuarial science major Erika JeeMin Yang was also instrumental in the success of the program. Born in Korea and fluent in the language, Yang acted as interpreter for the group.

“I was trying to narrow the gap between U.S. culture and Korean culture,” she says. “In Korean classrooms, lectures don’t involve as much student participation. Here, I saw how the professor was really trying to bring the reactions out and make the students engaged in the lecture.”

Yang even pulled an all-nighter with the Korean students on the eve of their final presentation, offering them support in their studies.

“I learned a lot,” she says. “The trip to Wellmark was especially helpful to me. Being an actuarial science student, it has broadened my perspective on the path for my future. I feel very privileged that I had the opportunity to be part of this program.”