Dr. Wayne de Fremery went in search of a side-hustle. He found a dream job at Dominican University of California. He’ll be the new Professor of Information Science and Entrepreneurship, as well as Director of the Francoise O. Lepage Center For Global Innovation in the Barowsky School of Business.
During one of the many COVID waves of 2020, de Fremery had set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and was ordering groceries from the Corte Madera Safeway in Marin County to be delivered to his parents in Larkspur where he grew up. He was ordering from a small town north of Seoul, South Korea, where he lived.
“The spring and summer of 2020 turned out to be a pivotal time for me. I had just finished a sabbatical year spent working hard on building my business (Tamal Vista Insights, LLC) and finishing a book I had been writing,” says de Fremery, who graduated with honors with his B.A. in Economics from Whitman College in 1995.
“As the pandemic took hold, like many, I began thinking seriously about how it was changing relationships, especially family relationships. My nuclear family was sequestered in our house in a small town north of Seoul. At the same time, I was completely cut off from everyone else, including my parents. One day, while I was ordering groceries from north of Seoul to be delivered to my parents’ house in Larkspur, I thought, `This is nuts!’ When this whole thing is over, I need to find a way to be in Marin more often. The folks at the Corte Madera Safeway are wonderful. But it should be me delivering groceries to my parents if, for whatever reason, it is unsafe for them to make a trip to the store. Maybe I can give some special lectures that will allow me to travel back to the Bay Area more often.”
de Fremery put his hope and dream into motion and reached out to contacts in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of them put him in touch with Dean of Barowsky School of Business, Dr. Yung-Jae Lee.
“Little did I know that the initial introduction to Dean Lee would change the trajectory of my life and career,” de Fremery says.
The two men have a lot in common. Dean Lee studied English literature in Korea before going on to become a dean of a business school in the United States. de Fremery studied economics before going on to become an entrepreneur and professor of Korean literature in Korea.
“There was a wonderful, if uncanny, complementary symmetry to our experiences. We had many wide ranging conversations and realized that we also shared a vision related to exchange and innovation. We both felt passionate about facilitating the kinds of intellectual and cultural exchanges that had enlivened and enriched our own lives,” de Fremery says.
After earning his economics degree, de Fremery had moved to South Korea to explore a place he knew nothing about. Except for short stints when he lived in San Rafael while working for what was known as the Marin Arts Council and in Boston while a doctoral student, he essentially never left Korea.
Initially an English teacher, de Fremery became fascinated by Korea and Korean poetry. After roughly a decade studying Korean language, literature, and Korea’s textual traditions, he had earned an M.A. in Korean Studies from Seoul National University and a Ph.D. in Korean literature and bibliography from Harvard University. He spent the 2010s as a professor at Sogang University in Seoul where he researched Korea’s textual traditions in relation to changing technologies and concepts associated with information and documentation.
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When Dean Lee and de Fremery met they realized that they wanted to collaborate on building something at Dominican.
“We realized that we wanted to create something that could facilitate exchanges that produce value broadly conceived as things and experiences of emotional, intellectual, and financial worth — for Dominican’s students and schools.”
“These included exchanges between intellectual and cultural traditions, such as those that organize humanistic scholarship, for example, and guide thinking about information science or business, as well as what might be thought of as the diversities that formulate `Korean’ and `American’ culture. But they also included kinds of interpersonal and institutional exchanges that facilitate innovative thinking and action — the kind of thinking and action that promotes considered, productive, change.”
In the search process for the Lepage Center director, Dean Lee introduced de Fremery to Dr. Denise Lucy, founder and executive director of the Institute of Leadership Studies at Dominican, as well Dr. Gigi Gokcek, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education, and poet Dr. Judy Halebsky.
“Our conversations were just as wide-ranging and exciting as those that I had been having with Dean Lee. You can only imagine how excited I was when I learned that positions for a Professor of Information Science and Entrepreneurship and a Director of the Lepage Center for Global Innovation would open,” says de Fremery who is also currently working on a book under contract with MIT Press titled Cats, Carpenters, and Accountants: Bibliographical Foundations of Information Science.
At Dominican, de Fremery aims to create opportunities for exchange between different academic disciplines and fields of study, such as between information science and the humanistic study of poetry, but also between the academy and business communities locally and around the world.
“I am interested in creating spaces where poets can be poets enlivened by their interactions with information scientists, where information scientists can be information scientists inspired by their interactions with poets, and where businesspeople can be businesspeople enabled by their interactions with other businesspeople but also poets and information scientists,” de Fremery says. “I aspire to create opportunities for students and members of the broader community to do what they do with more ease and more joy because they have gotten to know and learn from people who are like them, but also people who are unlike them and chasing different dreams.”
The opportunity to be professor of Information Science and Entrepreneurship, as well as Director of the Lepage Center of Global Innovation is far more than de Fremery could have imagined. Not only will he to be closer to his parents, but he will also be able to pursue several of his projects more easily, including a forthcoming High Performance Humanities Computing project he is excited about. A collaboration between scholars at UC Berkeley's School of Information and the Korea Text Initiative at the Cambridge Institute for the Study of Korea, the High Performance Humanities Computing project concerns the development of artificial intelligence technologies that can aid bibliographical investigation in the humanities. de Fremery and his collaborators will be using Berkeley’s High Performance Computing environment to build and refine artificial intelligence solutions that can help to describe and transcribe large-scale East Asian textual corpora, such as historical copies of the East Asian Buddhist Canon, each of which contains roughly 50 million Chinese characters.
“In short, while looking for a side-hustle that would make it easier for me to visit family ‘back home,’ I discovered a kindred spirit from my adoptive home who opened a door to a community at Dominican,” de Fremery says. “The Dominican community seems to be as excited as I am about the idea of making it easier for each of us to share what we have learned and how we have learned it so that, individually and as members of many communities, we can more easily and more happily chase after what we desire.”