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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU staff member explores potential for taekwondo program, organizes successful international conference

Ron Dziwenka, program manager for assessment in the College of Education at New Mexico State University, recently organized an international taekwondo conference in San Francisco that could be yet another stepping stone toward establishing a taekwondo program at NMSU.

Dziwenka said there is a possibility that the next International Academic Conference for Taekwondo, or iACT, could take place at NMSU in 2017. The university hosted the first iACT conference in January 2015.

Like last year, this year’s conference attracted national and international attention. Seven scholar-researchers from the U.S., Germany and the Republic of Korea presented their views on the history of taekwondo. In particular, statements made by the presenters about the beginnings of taekwondo sparked debate among those reading about the conference in the Korea Times and Korea Daily.

Dziwenka said this year’s conference, compared with the first iACT conference at NMSU, received a huge increase in corporate sponsorship from Dr. Chungwon Choue, president of the World Taekwondo Foundation, as well as an increase in support from smaller donors. Dziwenka said the sponsorship increase “legitimized what we’re doing.”

“Taekwondo just became an approved sport for the Paralympic Games, so there will be more interest for next year,” Dziwenka said.

Dziwenka said he has been talking with the iACT Executive Committee about having next year’s conference at NMSU, but there’s also interest in having the conference at Stanford University. He said the former and current directors of the martial arts program at the University of California, Berkeley, have consistently supported the iACT conference, and both UC Berkely and Stanford have long-established taekwondo programs. The potential also exists to create a taekwondo program at NMSU.

“With my position here (at NMSU) and being a seventh-degree taekwondo black belt practitioner and scholar-researcher, we have the structure for that kind of opportunity,” Dziwenka said. “There are two taekwondo schools here in Las Cruces, and their instructors currently teach self-defense courses at NMSU. I have all kinds of information on how to create a curriculum, having contributed to the opening and teaching of a taekwondo program at Yonsei University in Seoul during my 12 years there.”

Dziwenka said that for the past several decades, there has been an explosion in the number of universities in South Korea that offer taekwondo degree programs. However, there aren’t many job opportunities there for those who graduate from the programs.

“America is really where the financial support for and growth of taekwondo are,” Dziwenka said. “We could possibly have a graduate of one of these schools oversee our program. It could really put us on the map in an area we’re not known for.”