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Leadership in uncertain times

The dean of Student Affairs at UAC speaks on COVID-19, online education in South Korea and new leadership positions.

Dean of Student Affairs at University Asia Campus Randy McCrillis.

During the most disruptive and unpredictable semester in the history of higher education across the world, Randy McCrillis, dean of students at University of Utah Asia Campus (UAC) in Songdo, South Korea led the campus with vision and purpose. After serving UAC for nearly four years, McCrillis has returned to Utah this summer and will continue to oversee student success in his new role as executive director.

McCrillis sat down with a few UAC students to discuss COVID-19, online education and new leadership coming to the Asia Campus.

What were your primary concerns as the outbreak was spreading to Korea and beyond?

The most important priority for me and my leadership team—and the leadership in Utah has always been the safety of our campus community. Critical safety decisions had to be quickly implemented based on advice from Korea’s Ministry of Education and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Seoul.

The hardest decision, for me, was to transition to online courses for the rest of the semester. We had to ensure that students could continue their academic paths. My team and all faculty members worked around the clock so we could continue to deliver a high-quality education in the safest way possible.

What were some obstacles you had to face?

The most difficult obstacle was being on the other side of the world from our parent-campus in Utah, no question. But I knew I had the full support the University of Utah administration to make the tough decisions. Knowing that was a weight off my mind and I kept the administration updated daily.

What leadership changes will be in place for the Fall 2020 Semester?

First, I’ve loved my time in Korea and I will always reflect fondly over the past four years. However, I will still work closely with the campus as the executive director and continue the work to provide our UAC students with a great education.

Second, Dr. Greg Hill will join the University of Utah Asia Campus as our new chief administrative officer and dean of faculty at the end of June. Dr. Hill joins us from Boise State, where he currently serves as the director of the Idaho Policy Institute.

And third, I am pleased to announce the promotion of Dr. Kevin D’Arco and Brian Byun to new key leadership roles on campus. D’Arco will assume the role of assistant dean of students, providing oversight for the Student Leadership & Involvement Center, residence life, international student programs and career services. Byun will serve as the assistant dean of admissions and marketing, providing oversight for admissions, recruitment, marketing, public relations and enrollment management. Both commenced their new positions on July 1.

What do you anticipate for the Fall 2020 Semester?

After a long-fought battle to contain the virus, President Moon Jae-In’s government has achieved remarkable success in flattening the curve to the extent that life has returned to normal in Korea. The upcoming fall semester at the UAC 80% will be in-person classes with 20% as interactive video classes.

Thank you for meeting with us and sharing your thoughts. Is there anything else you would like to say?

I just want to express my gratitude and appreciation to everyone for enduring these difficult times. I know how much energy it took to become familiar with the new learning environment in such a short amount of time. It required hours of self-studying and self-determination.

I’m certain that all of our University of Utah students—on both campuses—have learned extremely valuable lessons. Some have been welcome, others less so, but all have added to their educational journey. I know our students can look forward to positive and bright futures ahead.