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The Reed College of Media and College of Creative Arts will merge to form the new WVU College of Creative Arts and Media as of July 1, 2024. Get details.

WVU alumnus to speak about life as a VP in South Korea's corporate world

Frank AhrensWhen West Virginia University alumnus Frank Ahrens traded the newsroom for the boardroom, he was in for more than a career change. In 2010, Ahrens married a U.S. Diplomat and moved to Seoul, South Korea. While living there, he became a top executive at Hyundai Motor’s headquarters, a father and a reluctant internationalist.

Ahrens started at Hyundai as the company’s director of global communications and was later promoted to vice president of global corporate communications. Out of thousands of Korean employees at company headquarters, he was one of fewer than 10 non-Koreans and the only American.

In his book, “Seoul Man: A Memoir of Cars, Culture, Crisis, and Unintended Hilarity Inside a Corporate Titan,” Ahrens recounts the three years he spent at Hyundai — traveling to auto shows and press conferences around the world, and pitching his company to former colleagues while trying to navigate cultural differences at home and at work.

On Tuesday, October 4, at 6 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballrooms, Ahrens will give a public lecture on his book and his experiences as the highest-ranking non-Korean executive at Hyundai and working abroad in an international corporation.

The event is co-sponsored by the WVU College of Business and Economics Distinguished Speaker Series and the WVU Reed College of Media Gruine Robinson Lectureship in Journalism Series. The B&E Distinguished Speaker Series is presented in part by Wells Fargo. The event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a book signing.

College of Media Dean Maryanne Reed is a long-time friend of Ahrens,’ and says his exceptional gift for storytelling will keep the audience entertained.

“Journalists are great storytellers, and Frank is no exception. His unique fish-out-of-water tale is guaranteed to make people laugh and perhaps, shed a tear or two,” said Reed. “Our students will learn from his story how to adapt to new situations and challenges.”

Ahrens is currently a vice president at BGR Public Relations in Washington, D.C., and a member of the WVU Reed College of Media’s Visiting Committee.

At Hyundai, Ahrens promoted the brand to media members around the world, traveling to every continent except Africa and Antarctica. His travels took him to Sao Paulo, Paris, Frankfurt, Muscat, Singapore, Beijing, Monaco, Dubai, and Delhi. At Hyundai HQ, he created the company’s first English-language corporate media site, hired the company’s first English editor, helped establish the company’s first PR operation in the Middle East in Dubai, and won numerous positive newspaper front-page and magazine-cover articles.

“We are delighted to welcome a pioneering businessman like Frank Ahrens to speak to the students at WVU,” said Javier Reyes, Milan Puskar Dean at the College of Business and Economics. “His background in journalism coupled with outstanding accomplishments in the business world will empower our students to set goals and inspire them to reach new heights.”

Ahrens previously worked for 18 years as an editor and reporter at The Washington Post. He covered the global financial crisis of 2008-2010 as well as the media and entertainment industries, interviewing heads of television networks and movie studios, and even William Shatner (twice). Ahrens appeared frequently as a media industry expert on CNBC, MSNBC, PBS and other networks.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University in 1987 and was editor of The Daily Athenaeum.

Read more about Frank Ahrens lecture online.