When you go out to try something new, you can never be sure where it will lead you. That’s the message that Johnny Oh, director of the Betty McDonald Pre-Med Institute at SUU has discovered through teaching his weekly Taekwondo class. “I started the class with the idea of giving back to the community,” says Oh. “I had no idea what would come from it or if it would catch on.”
Every year around May, the buzz of students on the SUU campus dies down to almost nothing. The world becomes quiet except for the birds, the maintenance crew and the occasional door swish of a lone summer student entering the library. But the peaceful stillness doesn’t last for long, because summer is the time when student groups from Korea, Taiwan and other countries descend on Cedar City to experience what SUU has to offer. When a group from Cedar City’s sister city of Gapyeong, Korea arrived this July, it became both a leadership and learning opportunity for Youngri Jung, student of MPI. He volunteered as an assistant to the SUU teachers who would be working with the visitors.
Many of us would expect the study floor of a library to be the last place one would gather a meeting of exuberant supporters, but last Wednesday, the Gerald R. Sherratt library on the SUU campus played host to just such a crowd. A varied group gathered outside the office doors of MPI to take part in the official grand opening of the institute. In attendance were all the SUU officials one would expect, including President Michael T. Benson and Provost Brad Cook, as well as many friends, family members, supporters and colleagues of both Betty McDonald, the institute’s namesake and Johnny Oh, the Director of the institute. Members of the Shakespearean Board of Administrators – with which McDonald has been deeply involved over the years - mingled with reporters, library staff and the vice-presidents of various other on-campus entities.
Every April, SUU holds its annual T-Bird awards, a ceremony to honor the people who make a difference on campus and in the community. This year, Johnny Oh, director of the Betty McDonald Pre-Med institute, was delighted to find that he had been chosen as one of the five finalists for the Commitment to excellence award. This award, which, according to the SUU website, “honors the selfless service rendered by a caring and committed staff member at Southern Utah University,” seemed an appropriate thanks for the years of active service Oh has provided through his mentoring of international students and development of the Pre-Med Institute and the Asian Integration program on the campus.
When Young Ri Jung, a student of MPI and SUU, signed up for his first cultural immersion trip, he had mixed feelings. The trip would take him a world away from the United States, to Panama, a place where the English and American culture he had been working so hard at picking up would do him little good. "I was worried at first,” Young Ri admitted. “I thought I didn’t know enough yet. I thought I would mess up.”
SUU's annual Dancing with the Stars event featured a new face this year, one that was very familiar to enrollees of MPI. After three years of being invited to participate in the event, a fun-filled dance competition that pairs members of SUU’s Ballroom Dance Company with well-knows “stars” of the community, Johnny Oh, Director of the Betty McDonald Pre-Med Institute, was finally able to say yes.