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New Year’s Greetings for 2020 2020.01.02

The New Year of 2020 has dawned upon us. May God’s everlasting love and grace be with you and your families this year.

As I approach the end of my term as President, I reflect on a passage in my inaugural address four years ago. "Yonsei University is a university that belongs to God; further, with the grace of God, Yonsei University is a university that belongs to all of us. Early on in Yonsei’s history, Dr. Oliver Avison appointed a Korean to the position of Principal in spite of opposition from his colleagues and declared that the owners of the school are Koreans. After admitting the first class of 67 students, Horace Underwood worked alongside the students, baking the bricks to erect the first building. He wanted the students to be able to say, “I built this building!” and thus nurture in them a sense of ownership of their school.”

Indeed Yonsei University belongs to no one, but it is a university where all members contribute to its development with the spirit of ownership. That is the unique tradition of Yonsei University. I have spent my four years as President trying to honor and spread the Yonsei spirit by introducing and implementing presidential slogans to cultivate a “university that values respect," "next-generation talent with empathy," and a "middle-up-down" governance structure. As I step down as President, I would like to emphasize once more that the Yonsei legacy instilled by founders Horace Underwood and Oliver Avison and inherited by alumni Yun Dong-ju and Lee Han-yeol is the most precious blessing of the University. I am confident that the future of Yonsei University will shine brightly if it advances as an academic community that nurtures leaders of service and sharing while practicing the love of God to its neighbors.

Respected Yonsei community,

As I look back on the past four years, I feel both fulfilled while heavyhearted. When I first began my term as President, our University was facing many challenges. Above all, financial difficulties and a decline in research performance raised serious concerns to the point that the phrase "the crisis of Yonsei" was often mentioned. Due to the commitment and sacrifice of the entire Yonsei organization and its members during the last four years, we have secured about 60 billion won in university funds to address these issues. At the same time, Yonsei has made significant investments in key areas for future development, such as hiring outstanding faculty members (335 full-time, 48 part-time, 118 adjunct professors). We also amended standards for faculty evaluation and incentivized exceptional research performance to prioritize quality over quantity in research, already seeing slow but steady improvements. Overcoming financial difficulties while strengthening research capacity at the same time is a double-edged sword. However, I believe that these are the two most important missions we must continue to achieve for the sustainable development of our University.

Furthermore, as a result of our efforts to encourage faculty start-ups, approximately 20 faculty members have successfully initiated their start-ups over the past four years in progress. Just last year, 5.7 billion won was generated from the stake sale, of which 1 billion won was returned to the professor’s affiliated College and Department for the purpose of research fund. I firmly believe that the main source of income for our university will change when Department and College actively support faculty members’ start-ups. In addition, there is great news that our university was selected at the end of year 2019 for the ‘2020 Seoul Campus Town Comprehensive Project,’ with a total grant of 10 billion won. Our university aims to create a base for youth start-ups in the northwestern region to foster 200 start-ups and ultimately unicorn companies.

Another commitment as important as advancing research is innovating education at Yonsei University. The Fourth Industrial Revolution we currently face calls for a revolutionary change in higher education. Yonsei launched the Institute for Higher Education Innovation and the Institute for Global Engagement & Empowerment as part of a university-wide initiative to change the current paradigm of education. Instead of simply providing information in the classroom, we are educating students to solve real-world issues and drive social impact. As a result, many Yonsei students have become social innovators that identify social injustice and empathize with the troubles of their community, learning their own lessons as they explore solutions to problems. Today, student club associations are also emerging as change agents that play a leading role in creating social values.

Beloved Yonsei family,

Over the past four years, Yonsei University implemented and developed various digital convergence programs to nurture future leaders that can respond to the rapidly changing digital environment. Through these programs, students learn to analyze and utilize big data while advancing digital literacy capabilities. We also expanded entrepreneurship opportunities for students; the Central Library opened a startup ecosystem area in the heart of Yonsei-Samsung Library, while the Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation and numerous colleges launched startup support programs. Yonsei witnessed the fruits of its widespread efforts, having won global awards for teaching and learning innovation by QS and Times Higher Education, compilers of world university rankings.

After overcoming many challenges and dedicating four years of effort, Yonsei signed the Second Stage development agreement for the International Campus in Songdo last year to secure funding for the construction of Yonsei Science Park - a manifestation of the future university concept and campus. As part of the First Stage, Yonsei had established the Institute of Bio-Medical Health Care Convergence and opened the Integrative Biotechnology & Translational Medicine program. We also plan to commence full-scale translational research and startup programs at the research-oriented Severance Hospital upon construction in Songdo as a source of financial income for the University. By further developing the initial merge of Chosun Christian College and Severance Union Medical College in 1957, which brought about the beginning of Yonsei University through mutual collaboration, the International Campus will soon await ultimate unity of the University.

Yonsei University also continued efforts to fulfill its duty as a socially engaged university. Under the leadership of Honorary President Ban Ki-Moon, the Institute of Global Engagement & Empowerment centralized social contribution activities within the University and Yonsei University Health System to actively engage with the international community. Yonsei invited world leaders and stakeholders to its campus to initiate discussions in sustainable development for the future of humankind and respond to pending challenges. Also, we jointly launched the University Global Compact, a collaborative platform created in partnership with the United Nations, to bring together universities from around the globe to collaborate in solving global issues. The Mirae Campus in Wonju was selected to organize a major project to build a university in Ghana, gaining the opportunity to the honor of the founding spirit of missionaries Horace Allen and Horace Underwood to deliver the grace of God far abroad.

I am too humbled to suggest that I have left an indelible mark on the University. Since the beginning of my term as President, I had presented my aim to alter the direction of Yonsei’s path towards the future by a slight 0.5 degrees, and I believe that this has been achieved. Of course, I could not have done this on my own. I extend my sincere gratitude to our administrative leadership, including the Provost, three Senior Vice Presidents, and the Chancellor of Mirae Campus, as well as the Academic Deans and Administrative Vice Presidents, for sharing the profound weight of responsibility with me. Above all, I wish to express my deepest respect and recognition to the faculty and staff members who have worked tirelessly amid difficult circumstances to honor the spirit of Yonsei University. I would also like to thank ourmaintenance staff that quietly serve the University throughout campus. Yonsei was able to weather through difficult times due to its excellent community, and I am forever grateful for their dedication and passion.

With the inauguration of the 19th President of Yonsei University approaching, a new chapter in “the historic future” of the University will soon begin. This history both represents the traditions that our seniors have embraced and the legacy that we will pass on to our juniors. As poet Yun Dong-ju walked from the gates of Yonhi College on "my path, a new one, I walked along yesterday and so will I today," we will also continue on the path of the Yonsei spirit. I pray that under the stewardship of the new President, the entire Yonsei community will receive the bountiful grace of God on its "new path" towards the renaissance of Yonsei University. Happy New Year.