[Vol.19] The True Nature of Convergence Is to Think about Love for Humankind (Hwan-Jin Nho, Dean of Academic Affairs)
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- Registration Date : 2016-09-29
“Convergence” has been the talk of the town in recent years, a fad spreading like wildfire. In particular, academia and universities are in a race to promote their capabilities in fostering talents of converged disciplines. However, no one has ever given a clear explanation as to why convergence or talents trained in converged disciplines deserve a huge attention. Thus, the Dean of Academic Affairs of UST, Hwan-Jin Noh, steps forward to give a clear answer to the question and present a plan to establish UST as a new role model of universities.
“Convergence can be compared to a process of melting metals in a smelting furnace to create an alloy with new and superior properties. Thus, in the same sense, talents of converged disciplines refer to people who study various subjects diverse fields to create innovation. Today, our society is ridden with many problems that cannot be solved with solutions devised by one discipline. To resolve these issues and make advancements, we definitely need talents of convergence who can come up with creative solutions, and universities should turn into smelting furnaces to combine such talents based on their academic freedom. UST has the strongest potential because it has the flexibility of hiring thousands of researchers as teaching professors as less than ten years have passed since the foundation of the university. Moreover, approximately 30 percent of its students are from overseas countries. I decided to work for USTbecause I have the confidence, the vision, and the plan to transform UST into a school that fosters talents and leaders of convergence by maximizing its potential.”
Hwan-Jin Noh, who has a background in engineering, has already been making contributions to the establishment and implementation of policies for the nation’s development of science and technology. With his focus on converging the fields of science and technology with the humanities and research ethics, he set up a new plan when he joined UST as the Dean of Academic Affairs.
The first step in educating talents of converged disciplines is to create an ethical environment
His first step toward actualizing his plan is of course the academic affairs of the school, and accordingly, the ethical innovation of the affairs will be the first phase of his plan to educate talents in converged disciplines.
“The faculty assessment system of Korean universities quantify and numerate the various qualities of professors in very limited ways. It gives scores for the number of theses they release and the classes they teach for the whole year. The accumulated scores function as credentials when researchers apply for positions as formal faculty members. However, the US has a different system. It has descriptive requirements. Here, I am translating the qualification requirements for professors of the University of Hawaii. They only require that ‘professors should have qualifications on par with other experts in the same discipline.’ This means that they have more freedom to do what they want and only need to prove that they possess the qualifications at the same or at a higher level compared to other experts in their discipline. So, when a serious social problem arises, American professors are free to step forward to settle the issue if it is related to their own expertise. It’s kind of a virtuous cycle where the system enables professors to execute ethical behaviors, and ethical behaviors solve social problems and help society to advance. As a result, confidence in professors and universities is built. The differences in the assessment systems make a huge difference in the results. I will introduce this American-style assessment system to UST. And in this context, it will bring systemized ethics into the process of research and education. The reason that we focus on convergence is creativity. Where does creativity come from? It originates from freedom, the freedom to think outside the box. Freedom can come from trust, and trust can be earned by ethical behaviors. We trust people who behave ethically. I think we need to take various measures to this end, but first of all, I will embark on revising the mentoring system, which is included in our school curriculum.”
ICT and the humanities, the two wings to prevent the fall of future scientists
The professor management system that Mr. Noh is now pushing ahead with is more than an innovation and closer to a revolution. How does the structure of a class, which is one of the key elements in nurturing talents in converged disciplines, change according to his plan?
“The world is now changing so rapidly that it is referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, Korean universities are not making preparations for the coming changes. Along with the old professor assessment system, a few sheets of paper and things such as registration on SCI determine everything. Thus, I am preparing to launch a whole new management system called ‘PROUD,’ which integrates the education philosophy of UST.
The system is about teaching all the current technologies of ICT, such as artificial intelligence, big data, and IOT to all students in doctoral courses regardless of their major, to help them combine and converge the technologies with their major and to gain a commanding knowledge of them. When the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerates, individuals will obtain more advanced skills in science and technology, but more and more people will probably feel alienated. If I were to add a little exaggeration to this, I could say that we will face an era where an individual will be able to produce weapons of mass destruction. Our goal is to bring up scientists who can love and give considerations to humankind, and at the same time, encourage other scientists to refrain from such destructive actions in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. After all, the true nature of convergence is for resolving social issues, but the ideas or thoughts to do it should include the love for humankind.”
As a final comment, he advised students to not be obsessed with achieving academic degrees but to look toward the ultimate goal. “A doctorate is just the beginning, not the end. It is important to discover their own skills and capabilities that are differentiated from those of others and lay the foundation for pioneering research with originality. If you have a PhD, you are potentially one of the leaders in society. Thus, you should have the abilities of critical thinking and judgment. I also hope students have patriotism, and professors should distinguish students from subordinates to lead them as they do with their own children. The goal of education should be the betterment of students and ultimately humankind.”
Mr. Noh, the new dean once gave a test question asking, “It is said that the history that we fail to remember happens again. If this is the case, what is the history we have to remember?” What he asked the students did not have a single correct answer, but it was meant for science majors to consider what they usually do not think about. He said his goal was helping students to build their power of thinking and their affection for humankind, and as a foregoer on the path of convergence, he wishes his students and colleagues to join him in the pursuit of a common goal.