Logo: University of Southern California

USC and Korean Engineering Students Kick-Off a Semester of Global Interaction

USC students and their classmates from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) participate in iPodia, a unique program that ushers in a truly global classroom
By: Conrad Wilton
February 21, 2013 —
USC and KAIST Students Bond Over Great Food
iPodia Director Stephen Lu
Students Discuss Global Innovation

USC and KAIST may be 6,000 miles apart, but for the first time, students at both universities this Spring will take “Principle and Practice of Global Innovation,” an interactive course taught in what will seem like a giant Skype conference. Lecture halls will be outfitted with three large projection screens where USC students in Los Angeles are able to see and interact in real-time with their KAIST classmates in Korea.

In addition to USC and KAIST, the iPodia Alliance includes Peking University in China (PKU), the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, RWTH Aachen University in Germany, National Taiwan University (NTU) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai. In May, all of the students in the program will assemble at KAIST to attend the 2013 USC Global Conference in Seoul, South Korea.

“This program has been great,” said Jieun Joo, a fourth year KAIST student studying nuclear and quantum engineering. “I’ve met so many great friends, and Americans are so energetic, athletic and free. Students at KAIST are very different.”

iPodia was created in 2008 at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, the first two partners being USC and PKU. “iPodia is the classroom of the future,” said Professor Stephen Lu, iPodia Director and Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “Our mission is to use cultural diversity to inspire innovation, and cross-cultural learning has to be based on an equal platform.”

In a typical exchange program where a KAIST student visits USC, he/she naturally might be more reticent expressing ideas in a class full of Trojans than in a class with fellow Koreans. In addition, the cultural experience is one-sided because, although the Korean student can learn a great deal about American culture by living in Los Angeles, American students do not learn nearly as much about Korean culture.
 iPodia offers students an international program where there is no “host school.”

“What you learn depends on with whom you learn it,” Lu said. “With iPodia there is an equal exchange between students. It is a classroom without borders.”

To kick off the iPodia class this semester KAIST students visited USC for a two-week period. Among a number of events, students from both institutions gathered on the roof of Gateway Apartments Tuesday, February 5th, to enjoy lively conversation and fine Indian cuisine with their new friends from KAIST. “I love the weather,” said Jiyoon Lee, a second year KAIST student studying industrial and systems engineering. “In Korea it’s so cold, but in (Los Angeles) it’s warm and sunny.” 

 iPodia has become increasingly popular among USC students. Last year twenty Trojans participated in the program. This Semester because of an increase in applications, thirty-six students were selected for the course. Participating students were from a number of different majors.

“I really like meeting new people and traveling abroad,” said Kes Rittenberg, a USC freshman majoring in business administration. “My goal is to do international finance in China so this program seemed like a great opportunity to network with Chinese students.”