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Siyoung Park and Patti Jones visit with Gwangju University President and WIU Alumnus Dr. Hyuk-Jong Kim
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Former WIU WESL Instructor and Gwangju faculty member Don Murray and students from Gwangju visit with Patti Jones during a recent trip to Korea. The students participated in an intensive five-week ESL program at WIU earlier this year.
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WIU Hosts Alumni Event in Korea

November 28, 2012

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MACOMB, IL -- To continue Western Illinois University's internationalization efforts, and to celebrate one of the University's largest organized alumni groups, two former WIU faculty recently hosted a series of alumni events in Korea.

Patti Jones, former assistant director of the University Advising and Academic Support Center, interim director of Western's English as a Second Language (WESL) program and WESL faculty member, and Siyoung Park, geography professor emerita, met earlier this month in Korea, where Park is currently teaching at Gwangju University, to visit with former students and friends of Western. The pair visited WIU Alumnus Dr. Hyuk-Jong Kim, president of Gwangju University and International Alumni Award recipient, at his office, and also later visited with four WIU alumni who are on faculty at Gwangju University.

Dr. Kim has a long-standing relationship with Western: his son, Dong-jin is currently a graduate student at Western, his wife Sook-nam took print-making classes at WIU during their time in Macomb, and his father, In-Kon Kim, received an honorary doctorate from Western in 1983. In addition to visiting Kim and Gwangju faculty, Park and Jones met with Gwangju students who had attended Western for five weeks earlier this year as part of an exchange program between the two institutions. The finale to the trip was a formal alumni event in Seoul, with graduates from as long ago as 1973 to as recent as May 2012 in attendance.

Jones' contact with Korea extends back to 1981 when she was teaching English as a Second Language classes in Seoul. That experience, coupled with her years of working with international students at Western, and Park's many connections from her time at Western, has kept the Korea alumni relationship thriving.

"There are 1,400 WIU alumni from Korea. The Korean alumni group is the largest organized international alumni cohort from Western, and the group keeps in contact through a website and listserv," Jones said. "It's an important part of the culture to connect and network with those individuals who attended the same school. It's wonderful to visit our alumni and see the connections they have."

Jones said the favorite memories of WIU that come up time and time again among the Korean contingent include Lake Argyle and the beauty of the Illinois landscape, and their affinity for Western's professors, including Park and the late Jai Lee, a longtime journalism professor.

Western currently has 10 students enrolled from Korea, and recently, Rick Carter, executive director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach visited the Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C. to strengthen the University's ties with Korea. An inaugural WIU-hosted alumni event was held Korea. President Emeritus Al Goldfarb and other University officials traveled to the country to meet with alumni and friends, and host a series of events in various cities.

"We are so pleased with the relationships we've established over the years, and the wonderful commitment to Western from our Korean alumni," Jones added. "The friendships and support are incredible, and illustrate the lifelong connection that alumni should have with their alma mater."

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