I was born and grew up in Seoul, South Korea, until I moved to the United State in 2010.
After graduating from high school, I went to college to study business. As a freshman, I became introduced to feminism, and began to realize that there was so much inequality and injustice in our society. I felt naïve that I did not learn anything about social inequality and injustice until I went to college. Since then, I became more aware about issues of social injustice. My interests became focused on educating young children and to be aware of the systemic and social inequality that exists in education, which hinders students from learning and eventually make positive changes to our society. I admit that I was very ambitious at that time. I dropped out of my business program, and prepared to take the South Korean National SAT again to enter another college to become an elementary teacher. This is how I became a teacher and continued my career in the field of education.
While working as a teacher, I saw that many students were not given equal opportunities in education due to their different backgrounds and identities. This experience encouraged me to study multicultural education and then special education and disability studies. All these fields of study share a grounding philosophy in social justice education. I hope to educate pre-service teachers to become aware of the systemic inequality in education and create more just learning environments and opportunities for all learners.
What are your research interests?
My current research interests are focused on understanding the experiences of students with North Korean refugee backgrounds in order to create meaningful inclusive learning environments. As an elementary school teacher for six years in Seoul, South Korea, I taught several North Korean refugee students. These students were commonly described by teachers and administrators as significantly behind in learning or as emotionally unstable compared with their classmates. I realized the importance of preparing teachers and pre-service teachers to better understand what students with refugee backgrounds go through and how our current education system is not meeting the needs of students from a variety of different backgrounds. I will continue to do research on innovative educational approaches for supporting students from minority groups, including those with refugee backgrounds.
Share something about yourself that people may not know.
I am a licensed snowboard instructor. For several years in college, I snowboarded a lot and also taught children how to snowboard.
I am also quite handy. Whenever something breaks in my house, I usually fix things with some help from YouTube videos. So far, I installed a storm door, fixed plumbing, and assembled most of the furniture in my house.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
Johnston Hall because I like watching college basketball.
What is your favorite college tradition?
The seasonal festivals because I get to meet students outside of the classroom.
What is your favorite thing to do when you are away from campus?
Hiking. I love nature and breathing fresh air.
What book, film, song, or piece of art has so touched you that you find it enduring/unforgettable?
Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. It is about the author’s experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. I’ve read this book several times. I have both a physical copy and an audio book. Whenever I feel discouraged or stressed, I either read or listen to the book and remind myself of the ultimate meaning of my life.
I can never resist a good_____.
Piece of dark chocolate.
Name someone who inspires you and tell us why?
The most influential person who shaped my passion for caring for those who experience marginalization is my mother. She demonstrated that caring for others requires a combination of awareness and active involvement in issues that affect people, especially those who face chronic and systemic inequalities in their lives.
Share something that makes you feel happy.
I really like sitting on a hammock or a swinging chair because I like the rocking movement. Reading a book on a hammock or a swing chair makes me happy.