MPA Students participate in Seoul Case Study Program

The Seoul Case Study Program gives MPA students an opportunity to become immersed in an international study abroad environment that examines Public Administration. Florida International University’s (FIU) Study Abroad program is unique, as it alternates university professors to participate in various study abroad programs that are offered throughout the year. This year’s session was the 19th Seoul Case Study Program and was from March 26th through April 2nd, 2016. Students had the pleasure of having Associate Professor N. Emel Ganapati, Ph.D. to accompany and assist them during the program. Notably, FIU had the largest group to participate in the case study, with nine MPA students from various cohorts and MPA programs at the university.

In partnership with the University of Seoul, members of FIU, California State University at San Bernardino, Central Michigan University and the University of Washington, students had the opportunity to study Public Administration from the viewpoint of the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Prior to the trip, students learned interesting information about the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the country, and its culture. There was a requirement for all participants to make pre-trip presentations, in preparation for the visit and to satisfy course requirements. Additionally, students were required to present various group presentations during the session. The week-long in-country program provided an opportunity for students to obtain in-depth briefings from various public and NGO officials and university representatives. Though the majority of the briefings were presented in Korean, there were a few officials who gave briefings or answered questions in English. Though language was no barrier to the exchange of information, as the University of Seoul provided excellent translation services and digital interpretation systems throughout the stay.

Briefings were varied in subject and touched on Urban Planning, Inter-Korean Policy Issues, Housing and Public Transportation policies, Water Management, e-Government and Human Resources Management; allowing for a meaningful question and answer session at the end of each briefing. Surprisingly, most of the policy issues, though presented from the vantage point of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the challenges, practices and successes of most of these topics could easily be replicated in many communities throughout South Florida or other metropolitan areas of America.

The briefings were augmented with fascinating site visits to government facilities, traditional Korean communities, museums and cultural sites. These field trips truly enriched our appreciation for the challenges, as well as the accomplishments of the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the people of Seoul.

Most impressive, from my perspective, was the Transport Operation and Information Service (TOPIS) at Seoul’s City Hall complex. From the beginning of the presentation, we were wowed by the switchable privacy glass, the integrated video wall, along with the intricate traffic and flood control and transportation management system that seem to work so seamlessly, without glitches. As with any nation, there are still complicated problems that must be worked out. However, Seoul has clearly demonstrated a commitment to improving the delivery of services to their citizens and the efficiency of their government.

The experience wasn’t all academic, during the trip most evenings were free, allowing students several opportunities to hop on the subway, to take a cab, or simply walk to restaurants or street side stands, shopping venues, or sites that were not on the university’s itinerary.

From a financial standpoint, the experience was surprisingly affordable, as our hosts covered the lodging expenses at the Best Western Premier Kukdo Hotel, motor coach transportation around Seoul during the day, and three meals a day.

This overall experience gave us a chance to learn from Seoul’s government, as well as the university’s faculty and students. My overall impression of the experience was overwhelmingly positive, allowing me to share with you that the Seoul Case Study Program is an excellent conduit to learn Public Administration from an international standpoint while giving students an opportunity to collectively develop knowledge and relationships that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

If I had to do it again, I would, and encourage you to be a part of a study abroad program during your tenure at FIU, even though the downside of jet lag has yet to be conquered by me or many of my classmates.

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Written by Alfred Lewers Jr., MPA Candidate