SOUTH LOOP — Kwang-Wu Kim has been chosen as the new head of Columbia College Chicago by the school's board of trustees, making him the 10th president and CEO of the 123-year-old college.
Kim, an accomplished pianist, said he doesn't have a particular vision for the future of the university at present, beyond seeking "innovative approaches in how we teach creative practice in the 21st century," he told DNAinfo.com Chicago.
"I'm not coming in with any pre-formed plans. To me, that seems irresponsible," said Kim.
But he did say affordability was a concern, though that may not translate to a tuition decrease.
"It's important that we talk about two things simultaneously: affordability and value," Kim said. "The notion of what is affordable is relative to how much we value something. That's the conversation I want to promote at Columbia. All parts have to be looked at at the same time."
A recently-launched White House "college scorecard" web site said Columbia students paid an average of $27,934 per year. The typical amount borrowed was $26,250 — rated "high" by the White House — resulting in monthly payments of $302 over ten years after graduation.
About 41 percent of students received their bachelor's degree within six years, a success rate the scorecard marks as "medium." The default rate is 11.4 percent, two percent below the national average.
Kim holds a doctorate in musical arts and is currently dean and director of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and a music professor at Arizona State University.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Yale University and studied music at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. As a pianist, he has played with orchestras in Baltimore, Milwaukee and London.
In an overall positive assessment of a 1984 performance at New York's Metropolitan Museum, a New York Times reviewer described his playing as "technically finished" and "precise."
Kim will take over at the helm of the Chicago college in July, according to a release from Columbia.
Kim was unanimously recommended by the 22-member advisory panel overseeing the search to replace President Warrick L. Carter, who announced his retirement last year after 12 years in the position.
The college would not reveal Kim's salary. Carter made a reported $400,000 in base salary in 2009.
“Dr. Kim’s campus tours and open-forum presentations generated an overwhelmingly positive response from the Columbia College community as a whole,” said Allen M. Turner, chairman of the Columbia board. “That type of consensus is extremely rare in higher education, and it was a key indicator that he was the ideal person for the presidency. The campus is truly energized.”
Kim, a native Chicagoan born and raised in Hyde Park, said Columbia College "captured my heart and my imagination" in a statement released by the school.
The downtown college, founded in 1890, is the largest private nonprofit arts and media college in the nation, with more than 2,000 students in the graduating class of 2012.