Gangnam Style rocks the Tippie College of Business

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By Brianna Jett, The Daily Iowan

What rattles a room of University of Iowa business students munching on Korean cuisine?

The pounding bass of “Gangnam Style.”

In an effort to inspire students to become more culturally aware, the UI Tippie College of Business hosted a seminar on Tuesday to the tune of the world-famous “Gangnam Style,” written and performed by Psy.

“If we said let’s talk about cultural competency, nobody is going to come,” said Mark Archibald, the assistant director of Global Community Engagement in the business school. “[‘Gangnam Style’] is our vehicle for attracting students to an event that is really designed to start cultural-competency conversation.”

Officials held hope students would reach outside their comfort zone and talk to other students.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to meet different people of different backgrounds,” said Chris Duncan, a UI senior who attended the seminar.

“Gangnam Style” is a song that has garnered international fame. Sung by Psy, whose real name is Jae Sang Park, the song and music video are a mix of English and Korean— although there is a lot more Korean than there is English. It is a satire, poking fun at the opulent life-style of some of the richest inhabitants of Seoul, South Korea — of which Psy is one. “Gangnam Style” is on track to become the most viewed video on YouTube; it is currently No. 2.

The seminar delved into the meaning of the song and the artist’s background; because most of the song is in Korean, many do not know what is said.

“[We are] digging a little deeper into it, breaking it down — who is the artist, what is his music, why is it successful, how is it successful — trying to take a business spin,” Archibald said.

But a larger push came in the form of starting conversations about a topic students were comfortable with.

“If you put international students and [national] students among their own groups together, they are unlikely to have a conversation with one another,” Archibald said. “And unless you give them a comfortable environment where they’re naturally inclined to interact with one another, they won’t. That’s human nature.”

In fact, some students did notice a little discomfort in the beginning.

“At first when he put the questions up, everyone was nervous,” Duncan said.

He noted, though, that once students began speaking, they opened up and enjoyed discussing the topic.

Which is exactly what officials were hoping to see. Roughly 40 students came to the seminar, often for different reasons.

“I saw the fliers all around the building, and I’ve seen the video probably 50 times,” Duncan said. “I just wanted to know more about it.”

But some students were more curious to see the response to the video than the actual video.

“I was curious about how Americans viewed the video,” said Eun Jeong Han, a UI senior from Seoul.

The response appeared to be positive.

“I was surprised that they were so interested,” said Chloe Suh, a UI senior from South Korea. “I was happy and excited to hear that.”

Officials are already working on other creative ways to accomplish the same goals.

Archibald said the event went off very well, but believes it can still have an effect on the students who did not attend.

“The real value is Tippie students knowing, whether they participate or not, that cultural competency and global awareness are important,” he said. “So that when they graduate, even if they haven’t really done that as an undergraduate student, they know going into the working world that it is important because we have planted the notion.”

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