Montco Community College linking with S. Korean university

Joshua Chung, a Norristown lawyer, wants South Korean students in the community to be able to study abroad.
Joshua Chung, a Norristown lawyer, wants South Korean students in the community to be able to study abroad. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 04, 2013

BLUE BELL Montgomery County Community College has forged its first international partnership, with a university in South Korea, making it easier for students to transfer there for a bachelor's degree.

The "articulation agreement" between the college and Dongseo University in Busan may seem surprising, given a community college's traditionally local mission.

College president Karen A. Stout said the partnership grew out of community interest and is part of a growing effort to expand the college's reach and global awareness.

"It makes a statement that we're thinking beyond Montgomery County, and that's important for our students to know and for our community to know," she said.

The "articulation" agreement between a community college and a foreign institution is the only one of its kind in Pennsylvania, education officials said.

"Montgomery County has been innovative in initiating this," said Jim Linksz, interim executive director for the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

Articulation agreements are important in making sure that credits earned at a community college are accepted and counted toward a bachelor's degree at the transfer institution.

The partnership was spurred by Norristown lawyer Joshua Chung, a South Korean native who wanted an international option for the community's growing Korean population.

More than 100 South Korean students attend the college, the largest contingent from any country, Stout said. According to U.S. census data, the Korean population in Montgomery County has increased by 49 percent, from about 9,000 in 2000 to more than 13,400 in 2010.

"We want to provide the local students with the opportunity to open their eyes to the global market," said Chung, 48, who came to the Norristown area from Seoul in 1978.

The groundwork for the partnership was laid a few years ago when a group of officials from Dongseo visited Montgomery County at Chung's invitation. The university was looking at establishing a campus in the area.

"That's the ultimate goal," Chung said.

The new partnership is among more than 100 different types of transfer agreements that Montgomery County has with colleges and universities, Stout said. It recently signed one with Lehigh University. It also has them with Bucknell University and Dickinson and Bryn Mawr Colleges, among others.

In the case of the Dongseo agreement, all credits will transfer as long as students have earned a 2.0 GPA, Stout said.

"We have a number of Korean Americans who are very interested in getting their degree in Korea," said Stout, who plans to visit Dongseo in the next six months. "By starting at the local community college, they can get an associate degree that's affordable and save their money to go overseas and get their bachelor's."

Chung, a graduate of George Washington University and Temple Law, hopes one of his five children may consider the option.

"I'm always trying to broaden their horizons," he said.

Founded in 1992, Dongseo offers four majors in English and is known for its electronic gaming and film programs. It has about 12,000 undergraduate and 500 graduate students, including more than 600 international students. MCCC enrolls 14,000 credit students.



Inquirer staff writer Dylan Purcell contributed to this article.

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