People CHA University focuses on staying agile amid global changes

CHA University focuses on staying agile amid global changes
Lee Hoon-gyu, the head of CHA University, emphasizes happiness as an essential part of education. [PARK JONG-GEUN]
Lee Hoon-gyu, the head of CHA University, emphasizes happiness as an essential part of education. [PARK JONG-GEUN]
Despite the school's small size, CHA University is well positioned to adapt to emerging medical disciplines while offering its students a unique selection of majors, says its president, Lee Hoon-gyu.
A former judge who sat on the bench for 30 years, Lee believes the university can differentiate itself from other similarly sized schools with its 11 undergraduate programs that include pharmacy, nursing, biotechnology and business intelligence along with nine majors for graduates such as integrated medicine and sports medicine.
Based on the words of the founder Cha Kwang-yul, “CHA” of CHA University stands for “Christianity”, “Humanism” and “Academia," and the school continues to focus on a Christian love for neighbors, human respect and the importance of study and research.
Through these principles, according to Lee, the school pushes its students to bring hope and well-being to humanity, and most importantly, to strive for happiness.
“Specialization and student happiness are the two main factors in education”, he said.
This year is the school’s 23rd anniversary. What has changed over those 23 years?
Considering that the school started with 40 medical school students in 1997, what we have now is the result of many developments over a very short period. Since its opening, the school has consistently created new departments including sciences, biomedical sciences and pharmacy. We also established an interdisciplinary department for the sciences and expanded our scope. Our ministry has grown by a factor of roughly 100 over 23 years.
What is your strategy to compete with other schools with similar departments?
Major universities in Korea have over 60 majors. To compete with them, a window-dressing style education does not work. We should play it smart, with specially designed majors. Let’s take a look at the department of business administration for example. There are so many branches in the department — business management, finance, accounting, marketing, logistics, international business and so on. We definitely cannot compete with Seoul, Yonsei, or Korea University, as an individual department at one of those schools is about the same size as CHA University as a whole. So we decided to focus on a specific topic of mass data — business intelligence. It was BlueDot Inc., a big data analytics startup company in Canada, that first predicted the spread of Covid-19 before the World Health Organization. That’s how important data are nowadays.  
How did your strategy turn out? Was it a success?
Definitely. Our sports medicine and art therapy majors are now the best in the country. Health and Strategic Communications is the sole health care major specializing in the field of media communications. Furthermore, our counseling psychology department includes the country's only such major that focuses on clinical studies. This year, we created a new major called “[Artificial Intelligence] AI Health and Medical Sciences” by combining health care and social welfare. Once again, window-dressing style majors don’t work anymore.
You mentioned “change” several times. How does the school system adapt to a rapidly changing world?
After every semester, we hold a strategy meeting for every major, examine successes and fix problems. Most of our majors deal with key aspects of the fourth industrial revolution, so we have to quickly adapt to changes in academia and business. We also improve our strategies and curriculum every six months. The “3S” principle is fairly important in this process.
What is the "3S" principle?
Small but powerful universities are commonly addressed as “SBS" [small but strong], but I like to emphasize "3S" — speedy, special and strong. Being small in size is not a flaw, but rather a quality that allows for fast transitions. The first S is speed. Typically, we set up strategies for the following semester after each term. The second S refers to our strong expertise. We don’t create a major without clear characteristics. The third S refers to our strong initiative — we do not fear starting new policies.
The school was a viral topic at the time of its foundation because of its scholarship -- for which all students are eligible. Is there a similar strategy you use to keep some of your best students?
To keep top students enrolled, we have a medical school that allows them to continue their studies. With the course, we educate top medical scientists and global health practitioners. Through a research ability advancement support program, we motivate students to engage in research. We also actively support overseas studies. Nursing, medical studies and pharmacy students perform clinical demonstrations at the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles and learn how to use the newest medical systems. The students can also use the LA Global Center as a free dormitory.  
Looking around the campus, the word “happiness” is quite noticeable. Is it related to the school morale too?
Happiness, education and specialization form the core principles of CHA University. We believe that education is incomplete without learning, growing and sharing happiness. We take a lot of care to teach all students what happiness tastes like.  
Are there any specific measures the school uses to deliver this message to students?
There are four main divisions: a committee that decides on student happiness policies; a head office that brings such policies into practice; the happiness education center; and the student happiness center. Five of nine student happiness committee members are students, and they have been actively making suggestions for themselves. Some results of such initiatives include the establishment of a café style library, an indoor rock climbing center and a drone soccer field.
Despite the positive effects of “happiness education”, the school must have struggled recently due to the Covid-19 crisis. How is the school overcoming these obstacles?
We have been investing in a future college environment since last year, so online classes have been a success. We educated teachers in advance on online content production. We also built a learning management system, a smart lecture room and an online learning studio that helped us a lot to cope with the current situation. Experiments are conducted through face-to-face meetings. There is also a medical team at the infirmary. This is a chance to adapt to a new teaching style and the combination of online and offline classes. During summer break, we will have a special session for professors about online teaching.
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