York University undergraduate students collaborate with students in Korea to study social policy

Korea
An urban street in Korea

School of Public Policy and Administration Professor Thomas Klassen from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LAPS) worked with Professor Sophia Lee at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea, to provide undergraduate students in their respective classes with a unique international learning opportunity. Klassen teaches Canada’s Social Policy (PPAS 3761) while Lee teaches a course on Social Security in Korea.

Thomas Klassen
Thomas Klassen

The students in the two courses created teams – of three York students and five Chung-Ang students – based on shared interests and complementary skills. Each team selected one social policy to study both in Canada and Korea. The policies include student financial assistance, mental health, childcare, social housing, unemployment insurance, education and elder care.

The mission for each group during this current course is to draw lessons from examining the policy in both Korea and Canada. That is, are there things that Canadian policymakers could learn from Korea and Korean decision makers from Canada, to improve social policies? At the conclusion of the course each team will create a multi-media presentation of findings. The top groups will receive prizes.

Sophia Lee
Sophia Lee

“The course is an exciting opportunity to expand my network, improve my cultural awareness, refine my interpersonal skills, and add policy analysis to my undergraduate portfolio,” says York student Dael Vasquez-Hernandez.

Jeongmin Kim, one of the Chung-Ang students, adds that β€œat first I was worried because we don’t speak the same first languages and there are also cultural differences. However, in getting to know my Canadian team members, I find that we are experiencing many of the same problems in our two countries and that we can start to solve these by learning from, and cooperating with, each other.”

York student Katharine Schoenfeldt says that “having the opportunity to participate in a collaborative project is not something I would have expected especially during the pandemic. What I am taking away from this unique experience is how many possibilities lie ahead of us as individuals and societies.”

As part of the partnership between the two courses, Lee has also given a guest lecture to York students, and Klassen has reciprocated for the Korean students.

“It is amazing to see students using SNS and online meeting platforms to exchange ideas and collaborate,” says Lee. “They are interacting effectively and enjoying cooperating with new team mates especially during this time of COVID.”

Screen shot of guest lecture by Professor Sophia Lee
Screen shot of guest lecture by Professor Sophia Lee

“Students are experiencing international collaboration first-hand including how to work across a 14-hour time difference,” adds Klassen, noting that “although the York students are learning about Korea and its social policies, they will through the comparison learn far more about Canada.”

The collaboration is made possible due to funding from the Korean Office for Research and Education at York University.