Since his inauguration in February 2013, former President Sung-Mo Kang has shared his vision with the school for the past four years. In his inauguration speech, he emphasized two specific goals that the school will attempt to improve upon during his term: the establishment of an entrepreneurial culture like that of Silicon Valley, and improved communication between and among the administration, professors, and students. In an interview with The Korea Economic Daily, he expressed that he came to fix the lack of communication during the term of his predecessor, Dr. Nam Pyo Suh. He also showed dismay over the statistic that less than 1% of KAIST undergraduates move on to found their own startups, and offered Stanford University’s high rate of 21% as a goal.
In September, 2013, just months after his inauguration, he continued the newly implemented E*5 KAIST Program, which funds students aspiring to start their own companies. The Start-up KAIST Program followed next, with a goal of “catalyzing the startup renaissance” and continuously hosting related events, such as the JETS Conference and KAIST ISK Forum. In March 2014, the Creative Economy Innovation Center of Daejeon was established on campus to raise national awareness of and participation in the Creative Economy initiative. A year later, K-School, a master’s program, was initiated to provide education in the fundamentals of entrepreneurship with lectures from experienced entrepreneurs. There have been many other activities to promote startup culture, such as a special startup camp for freshmen and a Startup Village (W5-2).
The aforementioned programs have shown remarkable results. The startup club KAIST Entrepreneurs is continuously growing, applicants for K-School is increasing, and there have been 43 startups by students and 14 by professors since 2014. Statistically, 75% of students have responded to show a positive attitude regarding the culture in campus.
In terms of communication, reactions differed. A year into his presidency, a survey among undergraduates showed that only 28% agreed that there was sufficient communication between the administration and student body. Among the reasons were lack of representation of students and inadequate interaction regarding school affairs. The school has even been shown to be unresponsive towards its own departments. In 2014, it ignored the voices of smaller departments and tried to merge the Graduate School of Information Security with the School of Computing by appointing a department head unrepresentative of the professors. In December of the same year, the school unilaterally announced a revision to the school curriculum that would take place the immediate semester. This notice was met with fierce disapproval by the undergraduate student body, as the graduation requirements would become much more intensive. The student council organized petitions and many students actively protested, with one student even making the local news through his solitary demonstration. In the end, the school gave in to the requests but only delayed the implementation by a year. In 2015, nearly 50 percent voiced that the president’s open conferences were merely obligatory and that actual students’ opinions were not reflected well. Throughout his term, there have been other issues regarding allEnglish classes and membership fees that questioned the quality of communication.
While former President Kang’s period was not completely smooth, it would be safe to say he was more open and willing to listen to students than his predecessor. He also achieved his goal of instilling a startup-friendly culture in school, which received approval from people within and outside the school.