“Learning should enable us to solve meaningful problems in a new way.”
Seoul National University of Science and Technology (President Kim Jongho, hereinafter referred to as SeoulTech) held the Entrance Ceremony at the university gymnasium for freshmen entering the university in 2018 on February 20. About 2,500 freshmen and their parents participated in the ceremony, during which clubs held congratulatory performances to welcome the entering freshmen. This was followed by learning the school song and the introduction of the independent student body as part of events held before the ceremony.
The main ceremony, presided by Ahn Seo-won, the head of the Department of Student Affairs, kicked off with President Kim Jongho pronouncing the freshmen’s admission to the school and freshmen representatives’ (Heo Yu-bin of the Department of Mechanical System and Design Engineering and Shin Su-bin of the Department of Creative Writing) oath-taking. Afterward, President Kim delivered his congratulatory message, and Professor Jeon Tae-seong (Department of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics, Incheon National University), who is a graduate of SeoulTech’s Department of Mechanical System and Design Engineering, gave a special lecture titled “Taking Up Challenges to Realize Dreams.”
During the congratulatory message, President Kim said, “SeoulTech’s educational goal is to teach creativity to pursue integrated creativity, humanities to instill ethical judgment, and practical knowledge in each major field to enhance the students’ practical skills in order to educate creative and ethical talents equipped with practical skills.” He then called on the students to “spend time at the university sincerely pondering and studying hard so that you [they] may solve meaningful problems in a new way and contribute to future societies through studies.”
Full text of President Kim Jongho’s congratulatory message for the Entrance Ceremony
Dear 2018 freshmen of Seoul National University of Science and Technology
Welcome! Today is a great day of welcoming about 2,300 freshmen to the university. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all of you joining our university. I also extend my warm welcome to distinguished guests and parents who came here today to congratulate your entrance to the university.
Seoul National University of Science and Technology or SeoulTech has 108 years of history; during which, it has continuously changed and developed to meet the demands of each era. The university became a general university in 2012 and changed its name from Seoul National University of Technology to Seoul National University of Science and Technology. Since then, it has settled as the only national university in Seoul and developed its competency as a higher education institution. As a result, in a university evaluation conducted by JoongAng Ilbo in 2017, it was comprehensively ranked 21st nationwide, 4th among 39 national universities, and within the top 3% among universities worldwide, which are remarkable achievements.
Our university’s educational goal is to teach creativity to pursue integrated creativity, humanities to instill ethical judgment, and practical knowledge in each major field to enhance the students’ practical skills in order to educate creative and ethical talents equipped with practical skills. As you study at our university for the next four years, you will grow into competent people who will contribute to the future of the Republic of Korea.
Like most people, when you were young, you probably wanted to become adults as soon as possible. You probably thought that you could do anything you wanted once you became adults. Although this is partially true, for you to do anything you want, you must work in a clear direction and take full responsibility for the outcome. You are still students and will study at the university under the protection and support of your parents to a certain extent. However, once you graduate, you must become adults who are fully responsible for your lives. Therefore, your life at the university will determine the kind of adult that you will become.
Until now, you studied to be admitted to this university. Therefore, it was relatively clear to you what you had to study and what your goal was. However, university studies are far different. Of course, what you must study in each major is somewhat defined. However, unlike high school, the quantity and content of your studies will largely differ depending on your interests and what you want to do. In addition, your experiences, thinking breadth, and interpersonal relations will largely differ depending on not only your major studies but also the club and external activities you engage in. Furthermore, you will be given more moral autonomy at the university than the education you have had so far. It will be solely up to you to decide how to make use of the autonomy.
Kang Sang-jung, a tenured professor at the University of Tokyo, the first among ethnic Koreans, wrote in his recently published book that the “school degree-based social model” is collapsing, and “personal experiences-based social model” has become mainstream. In the past, one could land a good job at a prestigious company upon graduating from a good university; it is no longer the case at present. The development of new technologies is rapidly changing societies, and our present societies are full of uncertainties as to how they will change in the future. Therefore, we need “competent people who can think on their own, flexibly handle situations, and appropriately manage their activities on their own than people with a good school degree.”
Our university molds creative and competent people with practical skills to correspond to such present demand. Being creative means being capable of making something “unique, new, and useful.” We do not say that something is creative when it is just unique and new. It must primarily solve problems that are relevant to us in a novel way and benefit the world. To discern what is new and useful, one needs knowledge of the existing. Therefore, you must study and think hard to be capable of making something new and useful.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is widely talked about these days. It is qualitatively different to the first, second, and third. Bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari states that many revolutionary changes have been made in the history of humankind, but nothing changed us human beings. However, new technologies, such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and brain-machine interface, will change the human body and mind, and even redefine death as a technological problem. In addition, the development of artificial intelligence will reduce jobs. Therefore, the ability to think creatively will become more important. Such social changes largely challenge you to find out what you need to prepare and how to live your lives in the future.
A job is important to modern people. It is not just a means to make money and a living. Of course, it is very important to make money to become financially independent. However, a job means more than that. As you will spend plenty of time at work, what you think, who you meet, and the relations you have with society will depend on the job that you have. Through your work, you will be able to express yourself, find the meaning in life, and grow. Your life at the university will precisely be the time to explore and prepare for such an important part of your life. If you lived like a fish in a fishbowl or a bird in a cage until your high school years, now, you will pioneer on your own and decide your life’s direction in a wider environment, like a bird in a zoo or a fish in an aquarium during your life at the university.
You need to exert an effort to find a job that fits you. You must expose yourselves to various situations, as well as newly learn and attempt what is required in them. You should then examine when you felt the most excited, when you voluntarily pondered how to solve problems and found solutions without having anyone asking you to do so, how effective the solutions were, what you needed to do if the solutions were inadequate, and what was worth putting more effort into. Once you repeatedly follow these processes in various ways, and ponder on the processes and their outcome, you will realize “what kind of person you are,” “what you like and what you are good at,” and “what makes your life meaningful,” among others.
Our university provides diverse extracurricular programs other than studies in each major field. Professors in each department are pondering hard on the best way to educate students so that you do not only learn knowledge but become capable of solving actual problems. Thus, they conduct studies in major fields in various ways. At the university level, we provide liberal arts education to widen the scope of thinking, various competency-enhancing classes, career counseling, and employment and business start-up programs. As such, we are continuously working hard to grasp what is necessary for you to grow into competent adults in the rapidly changing society and to prepare you accordingly. However, unless you take interest and participate in our programs, you will not be able to enjoy their value. Therefore, please make the best use of the various programs we provide at the university for you to discover yourselves and grow. Your dreams are the future of SeoulTech. I hope you will make the best use of the time given to you in the next few years to enjoy learning and growing together with SeoulTech. Once again, please accept my heartfelt congratulations for your entrance to our university. I wish you much success.
February 20, 2018
SeoulTech President Kim Jongho