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 Home > Teaching Support > Teaching at Handong > Teacher Talk > [interview]Professor Cordell Schulten
 [interview]Professor Cordell Schulten

Q: Tell us about yourself including where you are from and which department you teach in.


A: My name is Cordell Schulten and I’m from Saint Louis, Missouri. I have taught for 15 years at two different universities in the United States. I taught at Missouri Baptist University for about 9 years and most recently at Fontbonne Univeristy in Saint Louis for about 5 years before receiving an invitation to come and serve as a visiting professor here in the undergraduate school of law. I teach in the UIL: the U.S. International Law program.


Q: What made you come to Handong Global University?


A: Well, I had first learned about Handong about 7 years ago. I was giving a talk at an academic conference and, I teach in law, so I was doing a talk on the death penalty in recent Supreme Court cases dealing with the death penalty, and in the audience, at that academic conference, were two professors from Handong: Professor Hee Eun Lee from HILS and Professor Kok-Woon Lee, Kyper Lee, from the school of law here in the undergraduate department. And they approached me, I think, in the spring of 2003 or 2004, and told me about Handong; I learned about it for the very first time. They then invited me to come for a short summer, for a teaching opportunity, and I came in the summer of 2004 and taught a course at HILS in U.S. Antitrust Law. Through my experience here during that summer short-term teaching, I got to know many other professors and maintained a relationship with the folks from Handong since that time, and then about a year and a half ago, I was contacted, during the course of my communication with Professor S. K. Lee, and also Hee Eun Lee, I learned about the opportunity to come and serve as a visiting professor.


Q: Tell us about your teaching experience at Handong Global University, including hardships or joys you’ve faced.


A: Well… I, um, I’ve taught international students before at my prior university; I taught an international MBA program, so I was somewhat familiar with some of the different approaches in the education that I had anticipated encountering, but probably, one of the chief challenges that I encountered early on last semester when I began in the fall of last year was: I had a hard time engaging my students in the class. I teach in a way where I like to pose questions to my students, get them to think about what we’re talking about, and engage in a more of a conversation, as opposed to a traditional, just strict lecture format. I found that that was a bit challenging at first because the students, the majority of whom were predominantly Asian students; a few who had had some educational experiences outside of Asia, but those who were predominantly from the Asian educational background were not as inclined to either ask questions or respond to my questions. So that was a particular challenge at first. But then, everybody started warming up, they started understanding the way that I taught, my teaching style, and they realized that even if they didn’t have right answer, I wasn’t going to get upset with them and I wasn’t gonna bite their head off or anything like that. Instead, we were learning together, and I think that I was able to encourage them to make an effort at both posing good questions in class, and also answering questions that I would pose and engaging in a more of a conversation. It took a while to develop that and I’m still, you know, after my second semester, I’m still sensing that sometimes I can be halfway through a class and realize ‘I’ve been talking the entire time’ and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be talking the entire time; I want to be engaging in a conversation and prompting my students to think about what we are learning and not simply have the attitude that ‘I just need to memorize facts in order to pass an exam’. I want them to think about getting a deeper understanding of what we’re talking about.


A challenge that I faced was, you know, I am the only international faculty member in the school of law. So I have six other colleagues on the school of law faculty, but they are all Korean. So, I go to faculty meetings in my department, but the faculty meeting is conducted entirely in Korean. Usually, I sit there patiently and wait and hope that someone will give me an idea of what the topic of the discussion is, and occasionally, someone will lean over and say, “We’re talking about this now.” So, you know, I’ll say, “Fine,” and acknowledge them. And then, on other occasions they will say, “Well then, what do you think?” and they invite me to make a comment, but I found that I had a sense that I was very isolated, because I was the only international faculty member on the undergraduate school of law faculty. Often times, I felt as if I really wasn’t a part of… although, I have to say, at the end of last semester when we were discussing making some changes to the curriculum in the UIL program, I was very much brought into that, and my suggestions were taken into consideration. I felt as though I was made very much a part of that process. So even though at times, I felt as though I was isolated because of my language barrier, when it came to matters that specifically related to my program of study, my ideas and opinions and suggestions were asked for and were implemented in the whole process of revising the curriculum. In fact, a couple of new courses were added which I’m teaching this semester, which had not been a part of UIL before. We’re teaching Criminal Law, Criminal Justice course; we’re also teaching a course on legal argumentation which had not been a part of the curriculum before this semester. So, I think that those are strong plusses. And I’ve seen also other efforts to try to expand and improve the UIL curriculum to have an undergraduate law major, even though the Korean educational system has now shifted to a graduate law degree in preparation for even the Korean bar. There’s a very important process that the undergraduate law faculty is undertaking to make the undergraduate law majors a very relevant to students and helping them in preparation for their further legal studies. So I think that that’s a plus also.


Q: Tell us about your cultural experience in Korea.


A: Probably one of the things in terms of the general cultural experience is that while I sensed and was aware that there was a very strong element in Asian culture in general, and in Korean culture in particular, for respect for older people, that sort of stands out of the Confucian heritage and tradition of Korean culture, I noticed that while I was attempting to ride the Handong bus, that although I was there obviously as an international person and pretty obviously a faculty member, it didn’t really make a difference in terms of politeness. People still seemed to run and push to get on the bus, in order to get to their seats, and if they were sitting in their seats, it was THEIR seat, and they didn’t think about offering—a young student didn’t think about offering a seat to an older professor. Which sort of struck me as unusual; it seemed inconsistent with the idea that younger people should show respect to older people. While it was done with the ritualistic bowing—which I wasn’t particularly impressed with—it seems more like what we do in the United States and saying, when we see somebody, “How ya doin’.” You’re really not asking them how they’re doing. It’s just a greeting. It’s a formality. You would be surprised for someone to stop and say, “Well, let me tell you, really, what’s happening in my life right now.” You don’t expect that. You just say, “How ya doing?” you know, as a passing greeting. So it seemed to me like the bow was more like a “How ya doing” type of greeting that really wasn’t a thoughtful engagement of expression of respect; it was more a formality. So those were some things.

And then just learning to get around—I don’t have a car. When my wife came, we decided that we wouldn’t get a car for the first semester here, so learning to get around was a little bit challenging sometimes. Also, although there are few Korean foods that I do like and enjoy, the majority of the seafood, especially being in Pohang, I can’t enjoy, because even though I may like to eat it; I have an allergy to whatever is in shellfish, and the like. It gives me very bad migraine headaches. So if I eat something that has seafood in it, I run the risk—and I’ve had like about 5 spells of having very severe headaches over the course of two semesters, that require me just to go to bed and turn out all the lights, and it takes about 8-10 hours to relieve and basically get whatever it is out of my system that has triggered the headache. And I don’t know if all of those were allergies to seafood or shellfish or the like, some of them may have been allergies to certain preservative that is used, like MSG. MSG is pretty prominent in a lot of restaurants. That also triggers very bad headaches for me. I’ve had a few bouts of severe migraine headaches that have put me out of commission for a while. That sort of debilitates a person. So those are a few experiences along the way.

Overall, it’s been a very, very positive experience. I thoroughly enjoy having the opportunity to be here and to teach here and I look forward to the opportunities in the future. I’m going to be returning to Fontbonne to teach this fall, and I’m also in the middle of working on a Ph. D., so I’m returning to finish up my Ph. D. in the States. But I anticipate that maybe two or three years down the road, I’ll have another opportunity to possibly come and teach for another year or even longer and I look forward to those opportunities in the future. All in all, I’ve been very encouraged. You know, I’ve taught at a Baptist university and I’ve taught at a Catholic university and now I’ve taught at Handong—all private Christian institutions—and I’ve very much appreciated, and especially I’ve appreciated the hard work and desire of the students to learn; learn not simply to get a job, but learn to be equipped to do what they’re called to do in the service of others whether that’d be here in Korea or in some other place around the world. So that’s been very challenging and rewarding.


Q: What is the vision for your life?


A: I really believe that teaching is my calling. I practiced law for ten years before returning to teaching. I had taught for a few years, got interested in law, and going on to law school. So I went back into school and went on to law school and then practiced law for ten years, but through those ten years of practice, I came into a real clear realization that the full-time practice of law was not MY calling. I believe that God does call people to the full-time practice of law and I think it’s very noble profession and one that’s particularly suited to serve other people. So I think it’s a great profession for Christians to be called to perform, to do, but for me, my core calling is teaching so I see myself continuing to teach, and hopefully to continue to write and write a little bit more extensively. With working on my Ph. D., I’m hoping to do more work in the area of the intersection of law and theology—law and religion—and particularly at that intersecting point: ethics. My major area of concern is ethics, and I’m working with the ideas of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 20th century German theologian, and what to explore his ideas on ethics and especially the ethics of resistance: the resistance by a citizen against a government that laws that have become unjust or even have been a means for perpetuating an evil. This is what Bonhoeffer did in Nazi Germany; he was one of the first pastors and professors to stand up against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and their efforts, especially their efforts to annihilate the Jewish people in Germany. So, that’s the type of thing that I’m interested in, and I’m interested in continuing to teach. I’ll be teaching a course this fall at Fontbonne on civil disobedience, and the whole semester will be looking at examples of non-violent resistance throughout the 20th century all throughout the world: the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, Ghandi’s movement for Indian independence in India in the early part of the 20th century, South Africa’s movement against apartheid, and the like. Those are some examples of what my students and I will be looking at this coming fall in my seminar on civil disobedience.


Q: You are leaving in about 4 weeks! What are some of your prayer requests?


A: Wow, I appreciate that very much! Please pray that the Lord give me strength and wisdom in finishing well here: finishing the courses well, serving my students, completing all of the coursework and the scoring, a fair scoring of the examinations and getting all that, and wrapping things up here. My wife actually departs in two days, so I’d appreciate prayer for her safe travel and making the appropriate connections so that she gets back to Saint Louis. We have four grandchildren, and she’s going to be responsible for babysitting three out of our four grandchildren beginning a week from today, in fact, because our daughter, the mother of our grandchildren, and our son-in-law both have full-time jobs. Our daughter is starting a full-time job teaching at a local high school a week from today. Sandy’s going back early to once again resume the calling that she values the most in life; and that is the calling to be a grandmother. So praying for her and praying for a smooth transition. Also, just in general, praying that the Lord will continue to help us to understand his will and for us to be ready and willing to do it: whether that means continuing to teach in the States or the opportunity to see a time where we might have an occasion to return here to Handong. We want to keep an ongoing relationship with Handong and so we’re looking forward to that and seeking God’s direction and blessing on that.

Picture source : www.fontbonne.edu 

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