Posted : 2013-07-31 19:11
Updated : 2013-07-31 19:11

'Try to be well-rounded students'

Students participate in a class at Northwestern University in Chicago in the U.S. / Courtesy of Northwestern University

Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University
By Bahk Eun-ji

For Korean and other students around the world, Northwestern University in the United States is definitely at the top of their wish list.

To get into prestigious universities like Northwestern, students work hard to improve their credentials ― they work to get good high school grades and good TOEFL and SAT scores.

However, Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University, stressed that students need to demonstrate a passion not just for academics but for other areas as well.

"It's not just your test scores that can show your sincere love of learning," Schapiro said, adding that what he is looking for is real passion for any area of interest such as music or theater.

He also thinks highly of students who can contribute broadly to the community. He said the university doesn't want students who spend their time only in the library. Instead, it wants those who participate in sports, clubs and community service.

Students walk around the campus of Northwestern University in Chicago in the U.S.
/ Courtesy of Northwestern University

"It's really great to see the students who are really focused on their classroom. I teach undergraduate students, and I like to see the fact that they work really hard.

"But we look for students who are not too narrow. That's a little bit of a challenge for international students. There are so many students not only from Korea but also Shanghai and Mumbai who do not participate in other activities.

"It's sometimes hard to get them to be more like American students. You know, work hard and have a good time, have some fun too," he said.

Schapiro is the 16th president of the Chicago-based university. He concurrently serves as a professor of economics in Northwestern's Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

He visited Korea from July 25 to 28 to meet alumni and attend other promotional events. Northwestern has a growing number of students from Korea, many of whom return to their home country after graduation.

The number of Northwestern alumni in Korea has been increasing; in fact, a new alumni club was recently formed here. Northwestern undergraduate and graduate students from Korea are outstanding, making Schapiro's visit very important.

The following is an excerpt of The Korea Times' interview with President Schapiro.

(Q): What does it take for Korean students to be successful at Northwestern?

(A): They work so hard that they become very successful. My only worry about Korean students and other international students is that they don't enjoy themselves more. They work all the time. It's great, but we are in Chicago. We should have fun as well like by attending sports games.

One thing I have learned from having a fair number of Korean students over my academic career is that you don't have to tell them to work harder in the classroom. They are going to work hard, they are going to read everything, they are going to be prepared and they are really going to be brilliant students.

What you have to tell them is to relax a little bit more, try to enjoy their time in Northwestern, and don't focus only on academic achievement. Play sports! Play soccer or play basketball. Don't be obsessed just with studying.

Get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, peer students come from the same countries, some of them even come from the same high school and said they want to be roommates. Don't just get a Korean roommate.

The reason you go 10,000 miles away is to fully engage yourself in the U.S. educational system. And if you go there and you have an insular experience, it might be comfortable for you, but it's not as good an investment you can make.

(Q): How has your school evolved to meet the needs of a more global environment?

(A): We have a number of global programs including a very big, global health program. We also have a brand new department, the East Asian language department, starting from this September. So, with those foreign language courses, I think we have a pretty good global presence.

Some of our schools ― we have 12 schools in Northwestern ― we have all kinds of programs such as the Kellogg School of Management, which is a very famous business school. We award a master's degree in partnership with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which is a great program.

In fact, The Economist came out with the ranking of all the executive MBA programs. Of the top eight in the world, four of programs are listed in the rankings. In that sense, we give our students opportunities to study abroad. We welcome students from the rest of the world.

(Q): What do students learn at Northwestern that they can apply internationally?

(A): I think we are a school that really takes sort of a quantitative approach.

All students, even those who take music or theater courses ― they can't graduate without a number of courses in quantitative areas. I think that our students are very good quantitatively. They are very good at math and statistics, which helps them in the job market. But they also, even the engineering, math and economics students ― they can't graduate without taking philosophy, history, literature and languages.

One thing with Northwestern students, virtually every Northwestern student that comes out has some experience of public speaking. They typically know how to write well, many of them have competency in a second language and they are very good at quantitative analysis. I think we prepare students so that they are good at both sides. It makes us a little unusual. It's not unique, it's unusual.

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