SUNY Albany and Korea: A Well-Established Relationship, Now Moving into New Areas
Alex Jensen discusses international education, and the increasingly popular areas of study with John D. Pomeroy, Director of International Admissions and Recruitment at SUNY, Albany.
SUNY Albany has a strong history with Korea with a strong alumni. This relationship has been built by John over 25 years by frequent visits, and during COVID many zoom calls with prospective students and their parents. The Provost of SUNY Albany, Carol H. Kim is keen to develop this relationship and expand it into new areas.
As a part of this expansion, Hailey Yang, Co-Chair of KBLA, led a strong delegation to SUNY Albany early this year to study Cybersecurity. This delegation was able to learn the latest ideas from world-class professors in the area.
Cybersecurity is a key STEM field, which has become an increasingly more popular for Koreans is studying in the STEM fields: Science, technology, engineering, and math, Graduates in the STEM areas are eligible for a three-year work permit, and the initial rewards in these areas are quite high. This is because there is a clear need for these skills in America.
As we the world reopens, more Korean students will look to universities such as SUNY Albany to develop the skills and begin their careers.
Today’s episode is brought to you by Innovation Center Denmark, Seoul
D-2 Korean Presidential Election: Merger, Major Pledges & Record Early Voting
Alex Jenson 0:08
You’re listening to koreabizcast with the KBLA. I’m your host Alex Jensen, and it’s Thursday, March 17. Let me first thank for making today’s episode possible Innovation Center Denmark, Seoul, which seeks to create innovation and business opportunities and build up relations between Korean and Danish r&d intensive companies, research institutes, and universities. And speaking of the latter, today, we’re going to connect with an overseas university that’s been working hard to build a bridge with Korea, with Korean students in particular through a new special admissions program. John D Pomeroy is the director of international admissions and recruitment at the University of Albany, part of the State University of New York or SUNY, and joins us at a very different timezone from New York itself. Thank you so much.
John D Pomeroy 0:56
Thanks so much, Alex. Nice to join. You had my coffee, so I could be wide awake here and participate actively.
Alex Jenson 1:03
Yeah. Well, as we record this, it’s nighttime in Korea. And by the time morning comes around this podcast will have been released. So enjoy your coffee. And by the time you’re having dinner, maybe you can listen back. Sorry. Yeah. So your own story. You’re from Canada, originally, which I think some people will be able to pick up from your accent, but you once upon a time a student at Albany, tell us a bit more about your path.
John D Pomeroy 1:30
Yeah, I think my accent is fairly soft. Now. I I came as a graduate student to do a master’s degree in Albany, 27 years ago, my and my wife and I had just got married, and she happened to be a dual citizen with both Canadian and US citizenship. And although we had come for a couple of years, and we had a plan to maybe work for just a couple of years, it turned into probably a lifetime at this point that I won’t I won’t leave the university, but I was doing some research in the area of International Education. And they happen to be looking to establish a more formal office to recruit international students, we in English, we talked about armchair recruiting, so not not being that active in the area. And like I said, probably two or three year plan has has become a 25 year plus plan to work at the university. So it’s been exciting. And I’ve visited Korea probably 25 times over that 25 years. So I’m pretty familiar with with the culture and what to expect when you get off the plane and Incheon and make your way around.
Alex Jenson 2:39
So traveling to Korea, did that start with this particular mission to get students over to Albany? Or did you happen to visit here for other purposes in the first place?
John D Pomeroy 2:49
No, it did come for recruitment purposes. And it’s funny because you mentioned that this will be broadcast on St. Patrick’s Day. And I recall that March 17, for my Korean friends, just in case you’re not seeing that, but I I was staying in Seoul once in Namdaemoon at the Hilton and one of my first visits to Korea. And it happened to be on March 17. And I had forgotten that it was St. Patrick’s Day. And they were using the, I think the Irish embassy was using the hotel was the St. Patrick’s Day luncheon. And I was waiting for my taxi at the hotel. And I saw all sorts of people walking in and out dressed in green. So I thought I’d just throw that topical out there since that will be the broadcast event but I I went to recruit in Korea. For the first time I used to go once a year at pre COVID that we had probably visited maybe three times a year. The Provost or the the senior executive vice president of the university is Korean American. And she’s proud of her roots. And we’ve brought her over a few times. And I think that that’s always a plus when you have someone that has a strong connection to the to the country that you’re in Korean moms and Korean dads, like knowing that, that the senior vice president will help take care of their students if needed. So somewhere over that 25 years span or so we’ve done that interesting. My dad was a Korean War veteran from Canada, which was kind of an interesting contact to see Korea after listening to my dad and looking at some pictures that I guess were probably close to 70 years ago. So a little bit of history there, Alex.
Alex Jenson 4:31
Yeah, it’s really nice to hear about that connection. But I know that you’ve also been traveling to China, Cyprus, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore. Those are just some of the places listed on the Albany website. So is there anything in particular that makes Korean students stand out?
John D Pomeroy 4:51
of the university Albany’s had a long history with Korea going back into the 60s were 1960s where we’ve had Pretty high numbers. One of the Dr. Park one of the I guess the president of the Bank of Korea in the 1980s did his PhD in the early 70s. At the University of Albany in economics, there’s I forget the alumni his name, but there was also one of the governors of the Bank of Korea, former chief of staff to the Blue House, I think we have a lot of alumni that have that are prominent in Korea. And that’s attracted fairly large numbers from past reputation to Albany is the capital in New York about two and a half hours by New York City or, or New Jersey and a lot of the Korean diaspora living in the United States live in that New York, New Jersey area. So perhaps a small city safe area to study has joined a lot of interest, but kind of close enough to go to your aunts or uncles or cousins for for holidays possibly has helped us also, if that makes a little bit of sense.
Alex Jenson 6:07
Yeah, it does. I mean, I have no doubt about the Aleo of going to study in the US based on the conversations I have with various different Korean young people, and actually people from around the world. But I’m curious what you think about the Korean students having come out of the Korean education system, if there’s anything that that makes them stand out, either because of their rigorous education background, or perhaps focus on memorization, which has been a big feature of Korean education in the past? I don’t know how long that image will take to change. But But are there any factors that have to be taken into consideration when When Korean students make that journey over to Albany?
John D Pomeroy 6:48
Yeah, I mean, a couple of points, I think, with traditional Korea us alliance that English is, is pretty prominent, obviously. And in Seoul, especially in the bigger cities, but Korean students as a whole tend to be more bilingual than China, say and, and some other countries. So I think having a bit of a leg up with, with language to start is a little bit of a success factor. But I definitely agree the rigor of the Korean education system has blended well with success in the US, they are prepared. I think the discipline of Koreans, in general expectations from families to to succeed, makes the students come and excel ultimately, when when they arrive in the US whether it’s at Albany, or at at other campuses. So it’s it’s prepped them well for success.
Alex Jenson 7:49
You know, we speak to various different people from a lot of different backgrounds, about their own businesses, either CEOs or co founders, entrepreneurs, or people who’ve made their way in larger corporations. But for you personally, not only are you seeking recruitment numbers, which is a very clear target in itself, but it’s also in that world of education, which never has a purely business motivation, if you see what I mean, you know, there’s a lot of money involved, but it’s also about the livelihoods and well being and future these people. How do you approach that part of your world?
John D Pomeroy 8:25
Yeah, I mean, that the first part that you talk is interesting, because we’re numbers driven. So I think most people in missions, you know, we’re part of a team, I have five people, that including myself that work on my team. So we have these goals, and it’s like we’re competing in a sport to succeed. But the people part which, which is ultimately the most important part. I think we we get a lot of personal return and validation. When we help a student if you know, instead of doing a podcast, if I was doing a zoom interview with a family from Incheon, say, and don’t try and try to answer their questions, you can see that maybe they’re struggling a little bit to understand the university. But after you spend a half an hour or 45 minutes with someone, and you help them get in a certain direction to maybe pursue their education to better understand business degrees in the US versus Korea, self satisfaction ultimately, I think, is what drives those of us that are in the education business with helping other people knowing that they’re going to succeed. Our alumni that you and I were chatting about a little bit earlier Hailey that it has brought a fairly large group to the US. That’s great validation for me to think that she came to the university 2008 or 2009 and turned out highly successful and able to run her own business and work.
Alex Jenson 10:00
By the way, I should just jump in to clarify for anyone who’s not familiar, Hailey Yang is who we’re referring to there she is KBLA co chair has been on this podcast before. And in the last few weeks just came back from New York, she taken a delegation of students there from various different institutions in Korea to show off her old stomping ground, having attended Albany, as you just stated, John, but I also perhaps shouldn’t mention that they were traveling at a very perilous time taking on the pandemic quite bravely. So that, you know, despite some of the students being affected by COVID, how successful was their trip?
John D Pomeroy 10:43
It, um, you know, the thing, the students had a huge exposure to the area of cybersecurity. And we’re also able to study some English in the midst of it. Not the traditional sense when we’re all masked up. And if someone has a, you know, unfortunately test positive for COVID, they end up or suspected, you know, they have to have to self isolate, and then have a test. But everybody left energetically afterwards. And, you know, we were talking about return programs over the summer and next spring again. So obviously, the energy and enthusiasm was there for that.
Alex Jenson 11:21
Yeah, it’s nice, isn’t it to think ahead to the summer and imagine that a lot of these problems will have gone away, but Korea has just set one new record after another passing 400,000 daily infections this week. Conversely, though, soon, we’ll be lifting the quarantine restrictions for inbound travelers. So there are some positives, despite these rising infections, what’s the situation where you are, if you want to travel back and forth from Korea are things loosening up more and more as normality starting to come back into your job is the hope of you traveling more also starting to return?
John D Pomeroy 11:55
They are indeed loosening up but the US was ahead of Korea on the on the last big wave that came that has happened to come just after New Year’s. So within the last couple of weeks, we we stopped the mask mandates in the US. And it looks like society is kind of returning back toward towards normal. One of my employees is actually traveling in the Middle East this week, which is in kind of selected countries and Qatar in the UAE where they’ve had minimal exposure, and all actually go out a week from Sunday to Latin America on a 10 day trip. So we’re slowly returning we’ve been waiting for Korea, I haven’t been able to have my Korean barbecue with any alumni for over a couple of years. So hopefully, hopefully in the fall, I’ll be back in Korea again and can get my fix of my Korean needs. How’s that?
Alex Jenson 12:56
Well, it does sound great, I’m on the ground, I should probably make more use of it myself. There is this connection with Korea, though. And I want to ask on behalf of some of our younger listeners, or perhaps some of the older listeners who are still considering studying further, what advice you might have for people who are thinking of going overseas and making that leap and, and the financial factors involved. I’m sure in some of your meetings, they’re weighing up, you know, should I be spending this much money on this kind of qualification, when the world is changing fast, the job market is changing fast. They’re saying that we’re gonna have to reinvent ourselves in a new AI era, and then perhaps reinvent ourselves again, multiple times. So I know there’s a very big question to answer, but I’m just wondering whether you think that there’s still this big value in a traditional university education and spending that much money to do so overseas?
John D Pomeroy 13:55
I think that the desire for it hasn’t still hasn’t shifted off. I mean, pre pre COVID We wondered a lot about online learning and were we offering enough, the thing that we learned from COVID, students may do with the online option, because travel has been so tough between our countries yet as we survey people as we met in person again. It you know, the indication of see and applications everybody still wants this in person learning I think the outside of just the classroom though, I think the cultural aspects the ability to, you know, to really practice language to be able to sit, have a coffee and discuss issues or talk about your class, lessons or whatever. I think in person definitely is is that preferred from what we’re hearing of students and parents to that question. Cost is, is always an issue. When I first started coming to Korea low is much cheaper. We were still faced with it. And we’ve tried to my university, I think you’ll see other US universities have tried to increase their scholarships to make it a little bit more attractive. But the reality is at a bachelor’s degree, the expectation is a student still pays for the majority of their cost. An interesting option in the US and we see more Koreans choosing it is anybody in the STEM fields in science, technology, engineering, and math is eligible and will get a three year work permit. If they graduate with an approved degree in the STEM areas. I think at my university, we have close to 40 of these approved areas. So to student who might be struggling a little bit with their family to reach the cost for a bachelor’s degree, the return is certainly high in the STEM fields. And it’s misleading to say we could guarantee you a job, but there are a clear lack of Americans to fill STEM jobs. And that’s why we offer this three year work permit. So student could stay in the US work for three years, and get a return on their, on their degree, perhaps pretty nicely, and then be able to return back back to Korea, get a job be close to their families. So some payback options immediately, depending on the area that you study.
Alex Jenson 16:24
It’s really good to hear. And let’s finish by also hearing more about this special admissions program that I referred to at the beginning that Hailey told me about when introducing you to be in the first place.
John D Pomeroy 16:36
Yeah, um, I mean, we have a few a few different options that students can come for. We can do a conditional mission for students that can come and study English maybe if they need English to succeed before they do their program. Hailey is affiliated with some groups that can help you submit submit your application, assist in in, in the application process. We’re also now also accepting students with a high score in the English section of the Korean SAT, so that we can waive the visa, sorry, waive the English language test TOEFL or IELTS. And we have some of the shorter term programs that are kind of a chance for, for students to come in and test drive if they work with, with Hailey and a cooperating university, they can come for maybe three weeks, acclimate to the campus a little bit. And then and then apply for a degree program. A lot of these students are actually applying for master’s programs potentially, after they finish their bachelor’s degree in Korea. So kind of the best of both worlds maybe if you had a degree from from the two countries, and we will continue to work to develop some other programs. So kind of in English language, test, Alex, but stay tuned right to keep see what feature news may come about.
Alex Jenson 18:14
Yeah, we will do. John, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us explaining more about what you’re doing. They’re at university in Albany, part of SUNY or State University of New York, as I said before, and we will follow your progress. I hope that there will be some people out there who will be inspired by your words, perhaps they’ve got kids, they’ll be inspired on behalf of or they themselves are either young enough, or curious enough to continue to be interested in pursuing an education. And best of luck on your next trip here to Korea make sure you connect with us.
John D Pomeroy 18:49
Thanks so much. Appreciate it. Good luck.
Alex Jenson 18:51
Thank you again. And thank you also to Innovation Center Denmark, Seoul for making today’s episode possible. We’ll be back for the post St. Patrick’s Day preview of a big event that we’re hosting next week on tomorrow’s show.