Author Archives: Byunghwa Kim

Reflection on Spring 2021 semester

My Spring 2021 semester is like the bud of a tulip. I have been studying hard to grow in the field of education, just as a plant strives to bear its fruits and bloom a beautiful flower. Although the plant hasn’t yet blossomed, It’s going to bloom soon. Although it has gone through a lot of difficulties, It will bear plenty of fruits to give joy to many.

Week 11: Cry out for consideration

“Where is the humanity in the humanities? Why are the humanities failing humans? Are the humanities killing the human spirit? Am I considered a human in the humanities?”

                                                by Clelia O. Rodríguez

Week 9 : A Black university

What are some elements necessary to build a Black university?

I think a Black university, which refers to literally a Black American university, can symbolize a new, differentiated university compared to traditional universities by its unique characteristics. In a traditional university, the students just major in their concentrations and study materials given by their departments while Black university students learn not only those but also something related to their modern societies. In this regard, a Black university should be able to provide a society with creative thoughts and solutions to numerous social problems. As Bambara said, Black university students ought to know how to navigate the world in understanding various social phenomena and political powers. Escaping from doing research only about outdated academic inheritances by past scholars, they should be able to learn studies that can reflect on their present time. In addition, a Black university should make various departments dealing with different social areas such as Black studies, Hispanic studies, Asian studies, etc. 

To this end, it is significant to have adequate mentors who are trained and equipped with the abilities to read the world insightfully so that they can lead the next generations in revolutionary ways. Also, the accumulation of resources for making such a university is very important because operating without planning and strategies likely won’t lead to getting attention from students and won’t lead to building up a Black university that we long for.

We need to share the same purpose and goals in order to build the ideal university. If this criteria is met, then we need to effectively promote the agenda to the public. I was able to see how well Bambara utilized her writing, acting and teaching skills to express her claims for the Black people to the public in her era. Arts, documentaries, and social networking services are some of the significant instruments to make our agendas announced well to the public. We need to create various communication channels to deliver our message to the people outside and get feedback from them. Paradoxically, a very effective channel among those communication channels is also a university, and I hope many Black universities described above and in the text will come out in the future.

Week 8: Queer Studies & Pedagogy

As I read through Prof. Brim’s book, I realize that queer studies are interconnected with different social factors such as class, woman, race, and poverty. Although queer studies are a somewhat unfamiliar subject to me, I could see a little glimpse of how queer studies are happening in the U.S. and a vivid description of Brim’s class’s authentic atmosphere. One of the fun parts of the book is that some young women students’ chief goal is not to graduate as quickly as possible so that they can forestall marriage or resist increased pressure to marry. On the other hand, one of the heartbreaking parts is about a queer homeless student holding back tears, “this is the first time they’ve kicked me out for good.” Although I could not fully understand the student and Poor Queer Studies Mothers’ difficult situations, it is nice to hear that queer studies could be used as an educational ladder for students’ social mobility. And it is also touching story that when a mother brought her child to one of the queer studies’ classes, every student there treated her child so considerably, and that experience led the students involved in the class to a deep level of understanding of queer words.  Additionally, it is interesting to know that continuing to live at a parent’s home while commuting to college is considered an overwhelmingly low-income and working-class experience in the U.S. (If what I understood from the text is correct). In Korea, students prefer commuting to colleges from their homes, and there is no such bias. This point makes me think that colleges should be considerate of not only for their students’ studies or grades but also of their socioeconomic status, which is the most significant determinant for their likelihood to graduate. Colleges should try to create as many part-time job opportunities on campus as possible for low-income students and provide them with a long period of study years so that many working students can finish their studies successfully while managing their lives properly.


Pedagogy roundup: This is one of the ideas that came to mind as I took this higher-edu class. As an international student, sometimes I felt like “I do not know what this means” in the class. I think it might be due to language or cultural barriers, or it might be because I’m learning new academical terminologies (I’m not saying this negatively. I am enjoying taking this class. Please don’t get me wrong😊). I am still learning English, which I love to learn, and I’m also experiencing new cultures in NYC as a student who studies in a different cultural context.

Just as someone brought up some of the immigrant student issues in the class, I think my new cultural experience as an international student connect not only to other international students but also to many immigrants who are still coming to the U.S. This point leads me to question, “are American students (especially American-born students) ready enough to accept various immigrant students to their classes and their college lives? Are U.S. colleges well prepared to receive immigrant students as their actual members?”

To answer these questions, I think about pedagogy related to “understanding other cultures by experiencing those cultures.” As we talked a lot about “inclusivity” in the class, being aware of other people’s cultures from other countries or regions is important to becoming inclusive, and and should not be considered a trivial matter. Creating opportunities to understand and experience other cultures in class will allow American students to be knowledgeable about how they should interact with culturally different students. And creating opportunities to understand other cultures also would help American-born students have more open-minded attitudes toward immigrant students. Furthermore, this approach may contribute to making the U.S. society more inclusive to each other despite of racial, ethnic, and gender differences. So, I suggest this pedagogy:

-At the beginning of the college semester, every student in class presents about “introducing his/her ethnic or country cultures” in front of other students so that all students can recognize that they have been grown up in different cultures and family backgrounds.   

-During the presentation, immigrant or international students can use their native language sometimes to give American students opportunities to experience how a study using other languages is different from a study in their mother tongues. This experience can be called “becoming an exchange student abroad.”

-Second, third or higher generation immigrant students also should introduce their parent’s previous country’s cultures. By doing so, they could learn not to forget their original national identities.

-Students can share exotic foods of different countries and wear their home or parent’s home-country’s traditional dresses during the class with explanations about when they wear those dresses.

Week 7 : thoughts on white supremacy

As I read through the articles shared in the post, some ideas of the articles impressed me and made me think about a variety of things. When it comes to white supremacy culture, even though we don’t have the term, “white supremacy,” in South Korea, I could notice that the description of white supremacy culture’s characteristics is very similar to capitalism’s one. If white supremacy was a phenomenon happening only in the US, it would be a very difficult concept for me to understand. But, for now, it is an understandable norm to me, and its antidotes are also applicable to Korean society. And I found out that those antidotes to white supremacy could be life’s principles to anyone who wants to live in a society that emphasizes inclusivity. As I read this sentence, which explains one of the antidotes, “work to recognize the contributions and skills that every person brings to the organization,” I could remind of our class, in which all students can share their experiences and knowledge related to the topics to discuss.

Regarding the need of competition in the field of education, I’ve been thinking like “too much competition is bad. But, without competition, no better results are there.” I totally agree with the idea that we should be cautious not to value competition over collaboration. Instead, it seems like collaboration’s value should be more appreciated in this highly competitive modern society. Especially regarding the field of education, when students start to receive education in unequal socioeconomic status, emphasis on competition could deteriorate the academic performances of students who are in difficult situations and hardships. However, in terms of our market system, a lot of companies compete fiercely with other companies. So, we need to make sure that students know this competitive reality that they will face in the future. In this regard, competition value also shouldn’t be neglected.

Week 6: The Unspoken University

Through Professor Rogers’s book, Putting the Humanities Ph.D. to Work, I was able to understand the current structural problems of US universities and graduate schools: Many doctoral students and faculty members of “color” have been discriminated against by university’s systemic problems implicitly and explicitly. Some faculty members’ academic achievements are not acknowledged enough in academia only because of their races, ethnicities, and genders. In addition, many women adjunct professors even decide not to pursue their tenure-track but move into the administration-officer-track due to the role of caregivers for their families. Since a caregiver’s role is critical in a family, of course, we can’t blame their family issues. Instead, we should figure out things that can improve women faculty members’ status. I found the statistic data shown in the book regarding the gap between male faculty’s median salary and female’s one is also very interesting and surprising figures that cannot avoid criticisms.

Moreover, I totally agree with the idea that we should have professors who have diverse backgrounds in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender. Like Rogers said, “the professional mentors who have had the most significant impact on me later in my trajectory have nearly all been women,” I think there are unthinkable advantages of being mentored by the same gender and ethnic scholars because academic mentors who have many commonalities with you understand your backgrounds — mostly hidden — better than faculty members who have not. Also, students will be able to learn various perspectives and disciplines for their academic areas other than what white male faculty members have.  

Writing about academic opportunities for multicultural professors made me think about “multicultural students.” I think American-born students, who are mostly monocultural, also should take some lessons or be given some opportunities or experiences to understand international students in the US. Many American-born students do not know much about other cultures and languages (Maybe some bilingual students who are second or third generations are a little different but not much). Even when they think they know Mexican culture or Chinese culture, etc., I saw many of them actually did not know them well. Given that most American-born students have not experienced living in other countries, this phenomenon is inevitable. They only know American cultures and see other foreigners in their limited perspectives. That’s why I argue they should take some lessons to understand their international colleagues from other countries, their difficulties, their needs when many Americans are now speaking up for inclusivity. In this regard, for example, when one of my close friends studied in the UK, all the new students in his college had to take a short lecture assigned only for understanding international students better, such as their lives, their language difficulties, etc. I have not seen any of this effort in the GC except that it’s running an international student office where I’ve never been able to visit due to COVID-19. What if US universities and graduate schools provide international students with supplemental English classes or academic advisors? Because international students are the potential faculty members of university, these efforts may help international students get more opportunities and advance to faculty positions in the US.

Advising and mentorship, whether formal or informal, is an essential factor in student success at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I found out many doctoral students, especially international doctoral students who just start their academic trajectory, don’t know how to do publication effectively and use their works for the public good. Therefore, graduate schools should make efforts to provide those students with useful information and resources to improve their students’ information accessibility to their academic fields for their career’s successes.

Rethinking classroom evaluations, fostering greater transparency in the tenure and promotion process, offering improved family leave and childcare policies, and more are all essential elements of building a healthier and more inclusive discipline in universities and graduate schools. In this regard, for example, I know some of the universities in Korea have started preschools and elementary schools in their campuses for the female faculty members and administration officers to help them continue their careers. This kind of change should continue to be made in every society.

Week 5 : Making home for everyone

Ahmed conducted interviews with 21 diversity professionals at universities in Australia and the United Kingdom to understand what diversity actually means and how diversity is framed. In addition, Ahmed supplements interview data with her own recollections of racialized and gendered experiences while performing diversity work.

Ahmed’s works and experiences reminded me of experiences I had in the US. Particularly, since I’m an “Asian”, though I don’t like to be considered just as an Asian when there are many different ethnic groups, Ahmed’s words made me think about many Asian American friends of mine and their racially discriminatory experiences and concerns. Just as Ahmed was stopped by two policemen in a car and was asked, “Are you Aboriginal?”, I noticed that there have been some hostile situations against people of color and immigrants in the US. Don’t I look like one of the Asians? Is there then any way that I can escape from American’s prejudice or biases for Asian Americans? I think this is why we should keep speaking up for inclusivity and belongingness in the US.

I dare think that one of the US’s racial problems is politicians who compromise the racial conflicts in order to obtain their political powers. And I think racial problems should be dealt in the perspective of human rights. If a particular race is being discriminated against in the society, not only the race being discriminated, but also every race in the society must involve in the problematic situation and resolve the problem altogether. That is, the white people who are the majority group in the US must participate in the racial reconciliation movement so that every constituent of the society can agree upon the word “diversity”. Removing the irrational concept of white supremacy away from the US society, when every race is respected and treated fairly, this country can be, according to Ahmed said, “home” to anyone.

Ahmed also challenges us to the way how we can see institutions. She explains that how the practitioners aim to embed diversity such that it becomes an institutional given. I like Ahmed’s point, “To be in this world is to be involved with things in such a way that they recede from consciousness.” I think this is why we should always be wary of things given by institutions and the world. Things that existed now are not just for granted. Therefore, as people living in this society, we should keep watching out what information we are learning from our society and what education we are receiving from various educational institutions.  

Week 4: the fairness of US’ college admission process

As I was preparing a discussion for our class by searching and reading various articles, I began to realize the problems that American college admission process now has. In the general admission process to a college, you need to submit your SAT scores, high school GPA grades, the list of extracurricular activities, etc. But, are these tools really functioning well? Is the entry process of college fair enough for every American student? These given articles and books provide me with a lot of insights and information to understand what is really going on in the US college admission process.

I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. To go to a college or university in Korea, every Korean student must take a kind of Korean SAT (KSAT). As most of the US colleges do, many Korean colleges consider the KSAT scores as the most critical factor when it comes to admission. Then, what happens? Every student pushes themselves to get as the highest SAT scores as they can, therefore leading to more competition. In my time of entering a college was not much different from the current competitive situation regarding the KAST. Even though I was a very diligent student and studied hard in every class at every level of school, and I had good high school GPA grades, I needed to raise up my KSAT scores to prove my academic abilities to enter a good university. So, these KSAT scores were always my concern. As a matter of fact, most Korean parents were and are the same with me. There are numerous Korean parents whose first priority is sending their children to prestigious universities. So, they spend a lot of money to help their kids attend prep academies for getting high KSAT scores, providing them with good tutoring programs. But, as you can imagine, the privilege of getting good KSAT tutoring programs is limited to many low-income family students. And I think I was one of those who were not privileged for it.

I think the same phenomenon is happening in the US. As a student’s SAT score is a significant part of most college admission processes, there are still many controversial issues about the test’s fairness. From the price of SAT to the problematic, expensive tutoring programs in many states, the SAT has always been a hot button issue in the college entry process. Recently, the adversity score, which indicates the obstacles a student might have overcome, like crime and poverty, faced a lot of criticisms. Although the College Board, the company that administers the SAT exam, withdrew this new policy due to rising criticisms, the effort to make the test fairer is still going on.

What about the high school GPA grades? Are the GPA grades good measurements to evaluate a promising student for a college? I found out there are many GPA inflations taking place in numerous US high schools. How can we resolve this problem? Should we use GPA grades for college admissions when we know GPA is losing its credibility?

Even for extracurricular activities, I know taking those activities costs a lot of money. Isn’t it then fair not to refer to the list of students’ extracurricular activities for admission? How can we change the use of the list for the reliable admission process?  

I think there are many things that we can discuss in the class regarding college admission fairness. I don’t think we all should try to go to prestigious colleges and universities. As many CUNY colleges are doing great jobs in social mobility, I think a need to go to a highly selective college would not mean much. Then, what about CUNY’s admission process? If the admission standards of Harvard show severe exclusion, is CUNY’s admission standards fair enough? We may discuss these things in the class.

Week 3 blog post : thoughts on the community colleges

“Today, there are 1,166 community colleges in the United States, and about half of US undergraduates attend community college”(Davidson, p.11).

This is an amazing figure that I’ve never expected. I think the fact that about half of US undergraduates attend community college reveals the significant status of the community colleges in the U.S. Through her book, The New Education, Davidson navigates how the community colleges became established in the US history, the aims of community colleges, the differences between a four-year research university and a community college, etc. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, a community college was intended as an alternative form of post-secondary education, not as a “lesser” institution in the four-year model. Called “junior colleges,” they increased in number from 1909 to 1919. The community colleges were designed specifically to meet the economic challenges of industrialization but with a focus on non-elite students. Some of the community colleges offered several forms of post-secondary training, for example, a teacher’s training.

Although these roles of the community colleges have been changed a bit (no longer a teacher’s training), their position in the community has not changed. A community college centers on the student with low tuition and fees, access to financial aid, academic flexibility and variety, basic literacy and numeracy training, specialized skills-training opportunities based on the specific, and up-to-date occupational requirements of a local community and so on.

Bearing a lot of positive fruits, the community college’s achievements are also numerous. Approximately 44 percent of students with family incomes of less than $25,000 per year go to community colleges directly after high school graduation. Average community college students earn significantly more income over their lifetime than do individuals from the same demographic groups who do not earn either a professional certificate or an associate’s degree. One large-scale study of community college students from six states shows that students completing an associate’s degree earn an average $5,400 a year more than students from the same background who do not complete the degree (Davidson, p.12).

I agree with the idea of the author that we must throw out many of the metrics higher education generally uses, including the bell curve, which dictates a predetermined grade distribution for success and failure. To maintain the identity of the community college, their students shouldn’t be evaluated by their scores or grades they received in their high schools. The community colleges should try to see their student’s potentials toward success, not the present failures they make. Also, the colleges should provide appropriate financial aids to students who want to study, but are not able to afford tuition.

As Manhattan Community College uses a pioneering method of language instruction called a “translingual learning model,” a method that sees multilingualism as a benefit, not a deficit, many colleges in the U.S. ought to invent ways to overcome cultural, racial and financial barriers in their communities.  

I have been to LaGuardia Community College in Queens, which is introduced in the book as the epitome of the two-year colleges. Before I entered the GC, I visited the school to get some information about their free classes as a ‘temporary’ immigrant. I wanted to learn something and improve my English because at that time I just began to live in NYC. Unfortunately, my hopeful visit to the college soon turned to disappointment. Although the college’s president, Mellow, said that their students come from over 160 different countries and speak an astonishing 127 native languages, the school seemed not to be prepared to accept a stranger like me. It was difficult to find a place to get the information I wanted regarding the classes they offer, financial aids for immigrants, and so on. In addition, the ESL classes they offered were pretty expensive for immigrants who are looking for a way to take a quality English education. Is LaGuardia Community College really doing great jobs for many new immigrants in NYC? Honestly, I can not agree with that. Therefore, I believe there are still so many things to be done for community colleges to better serve their communities.