Mason Boosts Global Presence with New Campus in Korea

Posted: March 3, 2014 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: March 13, 2014 at 5:29 pm

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By Michele McDonald

The inaugural class of Mason Korea

The inaugural class of Mason Korea, Class of 2018. Photo provided by Burson-Marsteller

After years of thoughtful planning, George Mason University is opening a new campus today, March 3, in one of the most crucial economic regions in the world — Korea.

Mason Korea is a part of the university’s strategic vision to prepare Mason students for a changing global economy,” says Provost Peter N. Stearns.

Students start classes for the very first time March 3 at Mason Korea. About 40 students — six from Mason’s Fairfax campus — comprise the inaugural class that is studying management and economics.

Mason planning teams led by faculty, staff and students scrutinized every detail from the South Korea location with views of the West Sea to the gathering of U.S. and international universities in a technologically gleaming global campus. As a result, Mason students and faculty now have a firsthand view of a key economic and cultural region, says Stearns, who also wrote about the campus in a recent blog post.

Matt Zingraff, Interim President and Provost of Mason Korea, speaks with students during orientation, of the inaugural class of 2018,  at Mason Korea. Photo provided by Burson-Marsteller

Matt Zingraff, interim president and provost of Mason Korea, joins the Patriot in greeting students during orientation of the inaugural class of 2018 at Mason Korea. Photo provided by Burson-Marsteller

The campus is located in Songdo, which is part of South Korea’s Incheon Free Economic Zone, a 42,000-acre site designed for 850,000 people. It’s 25 miles from Seoul and a two-hour flight from China and Japan.

Mason Korea is part of the Songdo Global University Campus. The University of Utah plans to open later this year. The State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook started classes in 2012. Belgium’s Ghent University also intends to add a campus.

Stearns and Mason President Ángel Cabrera will be at Songdo for opening festivities, which include a talk by Stearns about world history and regional powers on March 9 and the official opening ceremony on March 10.

Mason’s newest campus may be 7,000 miles away, but current students want to close the gap by making sure their new Mason Korea classmates understand what it means to be a Patriot. The Mason Patriot even flew over for the first day.

One Mason U.S. student studying at the new campus this spring is Gabrielle Hanley, a sophomore in Mason’s Honors College, who studied in Korea as a high school student. “While here, I am working hard to improve my Korean language proficiency, as well as help the inaugural Mason Korea students to feel the Mason spirit,” she wrote in an email last week after arriving in Incheon.

Mason Korea students receive orientation packets by the Patriot, while James Burke, center, welcomes them at Mason Korea.  Photo provided by Burson-Marsteller

Mason Korea students receive orientation packets from the Patriot and Mason staff members. Photo provided by Burson-Marsteller

At orientation last week, the class of 2018 and their parents mingled with faculty members and Mason Korea staff. They also enjoyed a video greeting that featured Fairfax students welcoming their new international classmates to the Mason experience. “I already feel like I am part of the Mason Community,” says Siheang Lee, a management major at Mason Korea. “It is a community that stretches across the globe. I am looking forward to making international friendships and having a great education.”

Mason Korea and Mason U.S. students are planning activities together and helping one another, says Matthew Zingraff, president and provost of Mason Korea. “Our new campus in Korea enhances the educational opportunities that are available to every Mason student,” he says. “A truly international learning experience is now much more accessible to all.”

Students attending Mason Korea will earn a Mason degree just as they would if they took classes on Mason’s Fairfax, Arlington, or Prince William Campuses. Mason Korea students will spend the fourth and fifth semesters (third year) on the Fairfax Campus, with all other course work to be completed in Songdo. Economics and management are the first course offerings and were specifically requested by Korea’s Ministry of Education.

Future degrees include global affairs, conflict analysis and resolution and computer gaming. U.S.-based students are encouraged to sign up for a semester or year at Mason Korea as well. In summer 2015, the Office of Global and International Strategies will launch a new summer program at Songdo.

The South Korean government approached Mason in 2008 about opening a Mason campus in Songdo. A $1 million grant in 2009 from the Korean government made it possible for Mason to begin detailed planning. The Korean government will subsidize Mason’s Songdo campus for at least the first five years, including free use of buildings and utilities, officials have said.

Anne Schiller, vice president for Global and International Strategies, is delighted with the world-class facilities that the government has provided for students and faculty. “The classrooms, dormitories, and signature buildings such as the concert hall are all top-notch,” Schiller says. “And our student lounge has spectacular views of the West Sea.”

Write to Michele McDonald at mmcdon15@gmu.edu

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