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On Aug. 31 more than 120 students began classes at the University of Utah Asia Campus in Songdo, South Korea. The campus opened last fall and offers three undergraduate degrees and one master’s degree.

By Jana Cunningham

On Aug. 31 the University of Utah Asia Campus in Incheon, South Korea, opened its doors to more than 125 students (up from 81 last semester and just 13 in fall 2014). The new students were welcomed with orientation activities prior to beginning classes and joined faculty, staff and administrators to learn more about the campus, academic opportunities and college life.

At orientation, the students received their Stoles of Gratitude, a U tradition extended to the Asia Campus. They’re given to students at the launch of their college careers and are told to gift them to someone at graduation who has made a significant contribution during their educational journey. The stoles act as reminders that no one successfully completes college alone and it takes a community of support.

The Asia Campus assures students access to the the U’s high quality faculty, staff and academic culture. Undergraduate degrees are offered in communication, psychology and social work. The U’s School of Medicine offers a Master of Public Health. All students attending the Asia Campus spend at least one year on the main campus in Salt Lake City, meet the same admissions and program degree requirements as main campus students, are taught and mentored by qualified U faculty and receive a U degree.

In his inaugural address as the new Asia Campus Chief Administrative Officer Chris Ireland said, “As we look to the future of this institution, I would like to highlight the University of Utah Asia Campus’ commitment to providing a unique approach for higher education – a hub for problem solving, innovation and creativity. We’re excited to create an environment where students are provided with remarkable opportunities, innovative culture, and in turn, are encouraged to imagine, then do.”

Ireland was recently appointed as chief administrative officer and also serves as the associate vice president for Research. He is a U distinguished professor of medicinal chemistry and the former dean of the College of Pharmacy. He is a researcher in the Experimental Therapeutics Program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and has served as member of the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Counselors for Basic Sciences (2008-2013).

“As we start a new chapter for the University of Utah Asia Campus, I am excited about the challenges our students will face and galvanizing ideas they’ll bring to the table.  I give you all the challenge to become innovators and leaders – question the norm and the status quo – to lead the next generation of disruptive change in Asia,” added Ireland, during his address.

Two new members of the U Asia Campus senior leadership team will join Ireland in the coming year. Kari Ellingson will serve as the associate vice president for Student Affairs. Ellingson is currently the associate vice president for Student Development on the main campus and former director of the U’s Counseling Center. Stephen Walston will serve as vice president for Academic Affairs. His is a professor of public health at the U and prior to going to Korea, he served as a professor and associate dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration.


Jana Cunningham is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at