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The Songdo Venture

The Songdo Venture

After more than two years negotiation, plans for the possible opening of a Mason campus in Songdo, South Korea, in the Incheon Free Economic Zone, are now rapidly moving ahead. We are filing an application with the Korean ministry of education. I must stress that there is still some negotiation needed before a real launch, so there is no final plan as yet. But arrangements are moving forward, including designs for a building in Songdo, and we are certainly excited about the prospect.

The Songdo “global university” campus itself is an exciting development in a new planned urban center whose growth is itself astonishing.  The physical facilities, now taking shape, as well as the overall location are tremendous spurs to our interest.

The idea is for Mason to offer undergraduate degree programs in Economics, Management, and Global Affairs, probably beginning in January, 2013. We would recruit students not only in Korea, but in the surrounding region, with the Incheon airport’s proximity to huge population centers a huge factor here. Students would spend time at our Virginia campus as well as Songdo, emerging with a Mason degree.  We would also send American students to Songdo to work on issues in the North Pacific area.

The goals are several. First, obviously, we’re interested in seeking a larger number of East Asian students and their contributions to our educational operations more generally. But we will also be working on the relevant study opportunities for Mason students, using Songdo as a base. Faculty participation will enhance other educational and scholarly collaborations, and we expect a significant research effort as well.

Most important, the Songdo location provides an obvious opportunity to spur greater study of the complex relationships (economic, diplomatic and cultural) in the North Pacific, where dual relationships, as between the United States and China, now predominate. Songdo could be a center for analysis of multidimensional dynamics in a region of the world almost certain to become steadily more important. The subject areas that will first represent us in Songdo provide a splendid foundation for this kind of work, along with a new North Pacific minor program at Mason in Virginia. Obviously, the opportunity to build research collaborations on this base would prove exciting as well.

So, on the strength of a recent team visit to Songdo to move the project forward, in cooperation with our Korean colleagues, we’re hoping for an interesting new chapter for Mason as a global university, and we’re eager to move to the next phase of implementation.