From The College of Saint Rose classroom to PyeongChang Winter Olympics stage, Professor Jaeyeon Hwang will turn her Olympic experience into future lessons for her business students.

Photo of Saint Rose Professor Jaeyeon Hwang is the Park Communication Center (PCC) Manager for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Saint Rose Professor Jaeyeon Hwang is the Park Communication Center (PCC) Manager for the 2018 Winter Olympics, facilitating and monitoring all the communication channels in Gangneung Olympic Park (GOP).

When Dr. Jaeyeon Hwang arrived at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in late December, she was on a mission to finish what she started five years ago. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Jaeyeon decided to move back to the U.S. in 2013 to pursue a career in higher education and left behind a coveted job as a sports manager for the PyeongChang Organizing Committee.

Following her decision to leave South Korea, Jaeyeon secured a job as an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at The College of Saint Rose, teaching students the intricacies of sport management. Jaeyeon was proud of her accomplishments in academia, but still wondered what it would be like to take part in the world’s greatest celebration of sports.

After another opportunity to work at the PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games presented itself this past year, Jaeyeon decided to see it through and reconnect with her Olympic roots.

Jaeyeon is currently working as the Park Communication Centre (PCC) Manager for the 2018 Winter Olympics, facilitating and monitoring all the communication channels in Gangneung Olympic Park (GOP), the most compact Olympic Park ever. Working side-by-side with another PCC Manager, she is tasked with devising a comprehensive communication plan for 33 Functional Areas (FAs) and four competition venues within the park, where roughly twenty to fifty thousand people will simultaneously congregate during the Olympics.

Jaeyeon is still busy teaching hybrid courses from Korea. Once she’s back at Saint Rose, however, Jaeyeon hopes to apply her real-world experience to her academic lessons, teaching her students what they cannot learn from their textbooks: what it’s like to help manage the success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Or, in other words, what it’s like to accomplish their goals.

Explain your job role at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics

GOP is so large. Here in the Park, we are closely working with 33 functional areas and four sports competition venues. In addition, we have Live Site for concerts and cultural events and a Common Domain for Sponsor Showcasing. So, for the operation of the Olympic Park, in order to make a decision, every FA and each venue has to communicate well. So, during the event, if something happens, for example, if we have unexpected snow, we should have snow removal for the venues and the routes for spectators in cooperating with the city and provide additional services for the safety of the spectators.

We set up the Park Communication Centre or PCC, where I am working as PCC Manager. We have developed various communication channels in the PCC. We’re monitoring all the conversations within Gangneung Olympic Park.

Walk me through a typical day.

First, we should know the schedule of daily events and announce the information to the talk groups; what time the park opens and closes, what time the gates will open for each sports venue, when the games finish and spectators leave the Park. It all affects how the crowd moves. For example, once the gate opens, we have to announce it to all the channels and let them prepare for their services.The PCC monitors and records all the conversations among the talk groups since that is official Olympic document, and it allows us to review what happened at the Park.

In some emergency situations … if they find suspicious items, then we have to report it to the security (staff) and the event service to clear the area and prohibit spectators to access the place.

Have you run into any challenges?

Do you know what the biggest challenge was in my first week? It was hard to understand what other people were talking about during the meetings, although they spoke Korean, my first language. They were using a lot of acronyms, even the name of the venues were spoken in acronyms. Instead of using the Gangneung Hockey Center, they called it the GHC. I had to spend my time learning this information. Since I have a background in sport management, I could memorize those in a few days.  It is a common challenge for first-time employees working here.

What do you hope to take away from this experience?

I have learned a lot about event operations, not just for the Olympics, but also the Paralympics. We have to think about the issue of integrity and how we serve the spectators and players who have a disability.

Although I am teaching sport facility and event management, most of my knowledge is from reading books and articles about theoretical concepts. Every day that I am here, I realize that there is a huge gap between theoretical concepts and practical applications. I think this experience will help me share more practical knowledge and application to my students.

How will your experience affect how you teach your sports management class?

Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. This means that the LA Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games will hire many professional employees in various fields. So, my students who have specialties in sports management could end up working at the 2028 LA Olympic and Paralympic Games. I have experience working at the Olympic Games, and I can give my students insider knowledge and tips to help them reach their goals.

What advice would you give students hoping to be in your position someday?

My knowledge and background information about the Olympics, for example, history of the Olympics, Olympic Movement and values, constituencies of the Olympics, broadcasting, marketing and sponsorship structure and program, and etc. helped me to proactively take on my role. If students have a holistic view of the Olympics and Paralympics, it can help them take on any position in the organization related to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

How has teaching sport management changed your outlook on the industry?

Many people have a wrong perception that sport management is just dealing with the business aspect of sports. So, it is considered that people can become a good sport practitioner if they have good knowledge, skills, and abilities in business. Although this is partially true, it is incorrect.

To become a good practitioner in the sport industry, people should have a good understanding of unique aspects of sports and how sports influence and can be influenced by other industries. I personally think that working in the sport industry is like making a big puzzle collaborating with people from different disciplines. The sport industry is not just limited to sports presentation through media and broadcasting.You also collaborate with people who work in architecture, technology, and even security. As aforementioned, 33 different FAs work together as a Venue Team in the GOP for the success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

What’s it like being back in South Korea?

This time it is very special since I am here for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Although it is tough to manage my time and works, I am really happy to be here and be a part of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Anything that you missed about South Korea that you’ve done since you arrived?

Every day, I am eating different Korean foods. I really missed it. However, I already miss the life in Albany because of the weather here. As you may hear from the media, the weather in PyeongChang is extremely cold. Now, it’s minus 10 degrees Celsius.

Do you have a favorite winter sport?

I enjoy skiing and snowboarding. But now I like to watch the indoor winter sports (because of the cold). The Gangneung sports are all indoors, luckily.

What surprised you the most about your experience so far?

The issue of the Unified Korean Olympic Team. Previously many countries felt threatened by North Korea and were concerned for the safety of their athletes. However, within a few days, things have changed. We, South and North Korea agreed on marching together in the Opening Ceremony and playing as the Unified Korean Olympic Team in women’s ice hockey. Spectators and media feel more secure and safe since North Korean athletes are playing in PyeongChang.

Now, North Korea is a factor in promoting the PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Games. I personally think that this is a perfect realization of the Olympic Spirit: Harmony and Unity through sports.