The Institute of Higher Education and Innovation: Towards Social Innovation

June 28, 2020 by Minjung Kim


“If there is a huge wave coming towards you, do not be afraid and ride it. See how far it takes you,” said Professor Jaeyeol Lee, chairman of the Korean Foundation for Advanced Studies.

In the morning of May 19th, 2020, an agreement marking the beginning of the 2020 Workstation collaboration between student organizations and the Institute of Higher Education and Innovation (IHEI) was streamed online. After looking around the empty auditorium and then at the faces on the screen, Yong-seok Jang, the vice president of the IHEI closed his opening speech by saying, “we should not be discouraged. Instead we should approach this pandemic as an opportunity, one in which we can experiment with and gain new insights.” His statement encapsulated the goal of Workstation teams and the IHEI by highlighting that they strive to generate ideas to transform challenges into opportunities.

IHEI was founded in 2018 with the mission to stimulate innovation in the field of higher education and to solve social issues by fostering talented and empathetic students. Sharing, innovation, and engagement are its core values. IHEI Workstations are independent student organizations that carry out social innovation from the very early stages of inception to the final stages of completion. Each project team experiments with different innovation fields such as global social entrepreneurship, public value learning, and social innovation networks, but all of them have the goal of social progress in mind. The Workstations are significant in that they are treated as peer entities to the IHEI, which refrains from imposing supervision or giving top-down instructions. By doing so, students can take charge and direct projects in a responsible manner. The IHEI also provides grants that the student groups can spend at their discretion.

The contributions of the Workstations can be found in various parts of  society. For instance, the “Hola Plan” team developed a mobile app that provides financial guidance for college students. The Korean Student Aid Foundation is praised for its efforts to reduce the burden of students by providing them with student loans with very low interest rates. However the team noticed that the organization does not provide information on repayment strategies. They aimed to solve this problem by creating an easily accessible online library of financial information. Another example would be that of the “Corona QNA” team. The team identified the growing wave of fake news regarding the pandemic as a serious problem. To solve this, they constructed a website that provides accurate and valid medical information regarding COVID-19. 

This year, there have been several changes to the Workstations. The number of participating teams was increased to 163 and some of the teams included fellow UIC-ians, such as the Yonsei Student Climate Action Network (YSCAN). The IHEI also provided the teams with a panel of advisors from previous participants to share their experiences. “Social Value Management” was added to the workstation rubric in order to encourage students to develop business models capable of creating social benefits. Lastly, 10 “Workstation pro teams” were selected from experienced participants to represent their field and facilitate networking. 

The IHEI has also positively influenced the university courses. This semester, 83 undergrad courses were selected as Social innovation Certificate Courses. 14 (e.g. Environment and Development, Interaction Design, and Research Design and Quantitative Methods...etc.) are UIC-only courses. These courses go beyond abstract theories taught in textbooks. For instance, the final assignment of the Environment and Development course requires students to propose an environmental research project that can be implemented in real life. 

We live in a rapidly changing society that presents unprecedented problems. The IHEI aims to foster the next generation of social innovators capable of providing not only “effective” solutions, but also those that are socially inclusive. The latest innovation projects can be found on the IHEI website:

The UIC Scribe was founded in 2006 as the official student-run newsmagazine of Underwood International College. It celebrates diversity of thinking, excellence in writing, and the freedom of self-expression.