University Asia Campus celebrates 5 years

If you just saw photos of one U satellite campus celebrating its five-year anniversary, you might not realize it’s on the other side of the world. At the University of Utah Asia Campus, U logos are everywhere, and classrooms are filled with eager students and thoughtful professors. The diploma for attending classes at the campus in Incheon, South Korea, is even identical to diplomas awarded to students in Salt Lake City.

“The real goal is to recreate the University of Utah in Korea. We’re just another campus—just like there’s a Sandy campus, there’s also a Korea campus,” says Todd Kent, chief administrative officer and dean of faculty for the Asia campus.

So how’s it going five years in? Well, the largest class—68 students—graduated last spring, up from just 13 in the first cohort. Now 337 students are enrolled in five undergraduate and two graduate programs.

“We’re on the upward trend,” says Randy McCrillis, the dean of students at the Asia campus. “We’re strong and getting stronger. We have strong incoming classes, strong faculty, and strong programming for students”

The world is smaller than ever, and the U has an obligation to help students think on a global scale, says Chris Ireland, interim chief global officer. “We’re a pioneer state. That culture of exploration and innovation is woven into who the University of Utah is—it’s a part of us. And thinking globally is a part of that pioneer spirit.”

So, with all the similarities between the two campuses, how would you know you were on a U campus in East Asia? Well, here are six surefire signs you were still at the U, just on the other side of the world.

1. Almost everyone lives on campus.

And we mean almost everyone. In fact, in Utah, 14 percent of students live on campus, where in Korea it's closer to 75 percent. The dorms are located next to the campus and near a large shopping and entertainment complex called Triple Street. That’s where you’ll find students grabbing a bite between classes, watching the latest blockbuster or singing at their favorite karaoke bar.

2. Things are tight.

Space is a premium in South Korea; in fact, Seoul was ranked the world's seventh most expensive place to live—beating out New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco—in a worldwide cost of living survey. Dorms are small. And bathrooms are small. And kitchens are small. "I went out more often when I was at the UAC," says Sojung Lim, a communications student who has studied at both campuses. "There just wasn't space to cook, and there's so much good food a short walk away," she says.

3. Letterman jackets are everywhere.

School pride is huge. U logos adorn windows. There’s even a big red U where you can take a selfie. But one of the most popular ways to show school pride is by wearing a letterman jacket. Each incoming freshman is given a letterman jacket, which is funded by alumni and friends of the university.

4. It’s easy to get chummy.

Whether it’s in the small classes—averaging just 21 students—or in one of 36 after-school clubs, such as dancing and gaming, there’s plenty of time for students to get to know one another. And since the classes are in English, which is a second language for many on campus, the professors often take extra time with the students. “I got to know my professors very well. Small classes, fewer professors, it was great to have the one-on-one time with them,” says Lim.

5. It’s a melting pot of cultures.

About 80 percent of students are Korean. Students also come from the U.S., and around the world. In fact, it’s a terrific opportunity for U students in Utah to get the same high quality education they’d receive in the Beehive State, while experiencing a new culture. Between being an English-speaking campus in the heart of South Korea, and the diverse student body, it’s a different—and valuable—experience, says McCrillis. “Many of our students have been abroad, lived abroad and studied abroad. Oftentimes our students come here because they have a global perspective and see potential all over the world.”  And students who study in Korea are encouraged to take at least two semesters of classes in Utah, which helps the Salt Lake campus be enriched with an even more diverse population of students, he says.

6. Students think big.

Traditional Korean education emphasizes that students learn a little about everything, and it’s all test-driven, says Kent. Students usually take a test to get into college, take a test to get a job, etc. But the U’s Asia campus focuses on helping students develop problem-solving skills and to be innovative and entrepreneurial. This attracts a globally minded student who is thinking big and wants to go out and make a difference in the world, he says.

University of Utah South Korea Fast Facts at a Glance:

  • Total enrollment: 337
  • Number of students from the U.S.: 39
  • Size of most recent graduating class: 68
  • Average class size: 21
  • Number of faculty: 23
  • Number of undergraduate degrees: 5
  • Number of graduate degrees: 2