Big Ten KOR-US Fellows Program Connects Korean Studies Students with Senior Policymakers

In Spring 2021, Korean studies students at three Big Ten universities had the opportunity to participate in a new pilot program of the UW–Madison Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) that connected them with senior policymakers with decades of experience in US-Korean relations.

Called the Big Ten KOR-US Fellows Program, this new initiative built on infrastructure already developed by the Big Ten Academic Alliance and the Korea Foundation Global e-School programs that allows Big Ten universities to share Korean studies courses. Students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, University of Illinois, and University of Maryland enrolled in a course on US-Korean relations taught by CEAS Associate Director, David Fields. In addition to readings (1,392 pages!) and lectures about US-Korean relations, students in this course had the opportunity to engage with policymakers who have devoted their careers to this relationship and who actually lived many of the events the students were studying.

These KOR-US Fellows included former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (KOR) Kathleen Stephens, Lt General (Ret) ROK Army In Bum CHUN, and former North Korea country director for World Vision International Edward Reed. Three more fellows with decades of experience in the intelligence community, the U.S. Treasury Department, and the United Nations also participated.

These fellows met with students virtually over the course of the semester to discuss their path into working in U.S.-Korean relations, to offer their perspectives on the past and future of the relationship, and to answer students’ academic and professional development questions. These fellows also provided written feedback on students’ final exams.

“These fellows added a priceless element to the course,” said Fields. “They put a human face on this relationship. By sharing their career trajectories, they also provided students with several different models of how you can turn an academic interest in Korea into a career working in U.S.-Korean relations.”

“Being able to meet with the Big Ten KOR-US Fellows provided me with both the opportunity to speak with individuals who work with the consequences of the history we studied in this course, and the ability to learn about different career paths and opportunities related to Korea and Korean politics” said UW senior Anitha Quintin. “In what was a particularly difficult year of online learning, this course gave me access to not only high-level academic literature, but also the practical applications of such work.”

Fields hopes this new course, taught as IS 401 at UW-Madison, and the Big Ten KORUS-Fellows program will become a regular part of CEAS’ offerings.

This program was partially funded by a National Resource Grant from the US Department of Education.