Kim: ‘I don’t lose my enthusiasm for Columbia’


Kevin Tiongson

President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim said he will continue to add improvements, such as new security measures, to the campus next semester. 

By Tessa Brubaker

President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim has experienced what he sees as a year of triumphs and challenges. In his final interview with The Chronicle for the 2017–2018 academic year, Kim discussed the new student center, increased campus security measures and his goals for next year.

THE CHRONICLE: What are highlights for you and the college over the past year?

KWANG-WU KIM: One of the things I’m excited about, even though it has been challenging getting started, is the new student center. It’s been challenging because the construction’s been delayed because of problems underground. So, that’s been a little frustrating. It’s underway, and I’m hoping that’s going to be transformative for the experience of our students.

Is there anything you wish you could change from the past two semesters?

One of the things we learned is sometimes when we make decisions we think are good, if we had more conversations in advance, we would have made better decisions. The perfect example this year was the decision made over the summer to shut down some labs without taking into consideration how that was going to affect students’ experience. We ended up having to go back and revise and reopen. It was probably a good learning experience, but now that we’ve gone through that once, I’d rather do it the right way first.

Some of the challenges the college has faced over this year include part-time faculty relations, campus security and rising tuition. With those in mind, how is the college preparing for next year?                               

We’re making some new investments in campus safety, some new blue light cameras. We’re talking about exploring the possibility of some limited security escort services in the evenings. Security is a big focus for me because obviously we have to take care of our students.  

With P-Fac, we’re in negotiations now and we’re hoping we can get to a point where we can agree on a new contract so that everyone can feel comfortable and taken care of. 

The cost of college is the combination of the actual tuition and then a level of scholarship the college can provide to a student. We have to do a better job of figuring out a way to provide more scholarship assistance to our students.

What are some of your other goals for the upcoming fall semester?                                                                                                                          

I need to spend as much time as possible out and about bragging about this college and our students and really helping people understand the quality that’s actually here. I’m going to be leading a search for a new provost, and that’s a big piece because the provost is the chief academic officer in charge of the core of the institution. That’s an exciting challenge, but it’s a big one. 

Is there anything you would like to say to the college?                                                                                        

We have had some challenging times at Columbia, in part because we’ve had declining enrollments but also because we’re really trying to fundamentally make this a stronger institution. People at Columbia have been experiencing a feeling of some disruption. I hope people understand the purpose of that is to try to get us to this next level where we all feel like we’re at an even better version of Columbia. I just want people to know how, in spite of the things we’ve dealt with, I’m encouraged on a daily basis. I don’t lose my enthusiasm for Columbia.