Fort Hays State's KAMS begins pilot program with South Korean school for gifted students

KAMS and South Korea

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- Students attending the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science at Fort Hays State University now have the opportunity to add studying abroad to their high school experience.

KAMS, established by the Kansas Legislature in 2006, is the state's premier residential academic high school program for juniors and seniors.

Friday morning, Dr. Joey Linn, vice president for student affairs at FHSU, signed an agreement with the Daejeon Science High School for the Gifted in Daejeon, South Korea. The Daejeon school is one of only six in Korea categorized as "gifted," which is the most prestigious category. It is a highly competitive process to get into the Daejeon school, with more than 2,000 students vying for 93 spots each year.

The agreement will allow KAMS students to experience a week-long cultural exchange with Daejeon students in the summer. This fall, a group of Daejeon students will have the same opportunity when they come to the Fort Hays State campus.

It promises to be a "gift exchange" like no other.

"We are very excited to establish this partnership with the Daejeon Science High School for the Gifted," Linn said. "This agreement will provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for the students in the KAMS program to foster joint research across the globe. A partnership such as this reflects yet another 'Forward thinking. World ready.' initiative of Fort Hays State University."

Linn made the trip to Korea for the signing, then greeted a KAMS contingent at the airport. Five 2016 graduates of KAMS, assistant director Alex Shaw and graduate assistant Regina Tolbert will spend eight days in Korea for the inaugural exchange between the two schools.

"Our idea is to be able to provide an amazing opportunity at a young age," said Dr. Roger Schieferecke, KAMS director. "It's another way that KAMS differentiates the high school experience for our students -- the curriculum and the opportunities."

The ultimate goal of the pilot program is to establish a partnership where students in both schools can do joint research projects.

"Our kids will be able to submit research into their competitions and be co-authors of competitions in Korea," Schieferecke said. "When they graduate, as part of their resumé, they will have international presentation and research experience. It will open up all sorts of opportunities for them."

"Plus," he added, "it's about simply forming friendships, some that could last a lifetime."

When Schieferecke told KAMS students about the program this past school year, he said he asked seniors who showed an interest in international collaboration to represent the pilot group.

Students sold Krispy Kreme donuts on campus during the spring semester to help defray costs of their trip, of which the majority was funded by the students themselves.

Although Korean is the language of instruction at the Daejeon school, Schieferecke said that all their students have some level of English proficiency.

He said that KAMS students will be paired with a host Korean student who speaks "very good English."

KAMS students will stay with Daejeon students and their families the first two nights, then spend the rest of their time at the Daejeon high school. KAMS students will learn some traditional cultural Korean lessons such as history, cooking and language. They will visit the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in Daejeon and spend a couple of days at the National Institute of Ecology in Seocheon-gun -- 69 kilometers, or about 43 miles, from Daejeon.

"This is a great way to send kids over there to experience a different culture and gain the value that comes from that," Schieferecke said. "I think it's going to be an amazing partnership."

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