Albion College has a small campus with countless professors. The college fosters education in diverse departments, and its professors have equally diverse backgrounds. In order to get to know the faculty who make Albion’s education what it is, The Pleiad’s Between Classes article series will feature a staff member.
Due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic put in order to keep everyone safe, the conversation with the featured staff member is at least six feet apart with masks on, via Google Meet or via email.
Featured in this week’s Between Classes is economics and management assistant professor Seolah Kim. Kim received a B.A. from Korea University, an M.A. at Seoul National University and a Ph.D at the University of California, Riverside. She was recently appointed a tenure-track at Albion College this year after completing her doctorate.
Our conversation began via Google Meet, but, as it often does, technology failed us and did not record our half hour conversation. This forced us to resort to a conversation via email.
Irene Corona-Avila: What’s it like being a professor at Albion, keeping in mind COVID-19? What do you think about the college’s protocols?
Seolah Kim: I really like Albion’s protocols about COVID-19 because it makes me and the students feel safe in a learning environment. Instead of switching to fully online like other colleges, Albion tried hard to keep the safe learning environment as much as possible while maintaining the classes in person. I did not get to enjoy the full campus before COVID-19, but I really do enjoy being a professor here and meeting students.
ICA: How is Albion so far since you started teaching this fall?
SK: Since my interview was in March, I could not make an on-campus visit. Now that I am here, the campus is so beautiful in fall that I took a lot of photos while walking on campus.
ICA: Can you tell me more about completing your doctorate In 2020? What was your dissertation on?
SK: It was one of the hardest times that I went through in my life. Being isolated at home, I had to prepare for my dissertation defense for the whole spring ‘till June. I felt really accomplished when I finished my defense. I was ready to head out to Michigan from California. My dissertation is on nonparametric hypothesis testing, which focuses on testing statistical model specifications.
ICA: What does life besides teaching look like for you? What kind of video games do you play? Before COVID-19, what did your traveling activities look like? Where did you travel to?
SK: I like traveling, eating and walking around the streets. These things are not easy to do during this period. So I switched to playing video games like Zelda and others on Nintendo Switch. Whenever I found myself distracted and tired, I play them. Before COVID-19, I did a road trip to Yosemite, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and other nearby places in Southern California during my Ph.D. years. I also traveled to other European countries and Southeast Asian countries.
ICA: What’s it like being the only Korean professor on campus? What are your thoughts on diversity? How do you plan to contribute to diversity inclusion on campus?
SK: I did not realize that I am the only Korean professor on campus until I came here, but I am excited! I hope being myself at Albion will attract a more diverse population on campus. Having a diverse population on campus is important for all of us in that we can learn from each other. There are a few ways that I can contribute to diversity and inclusion. One of the ways is to minimize the burden for students in taking the course, such as not requiring them to purchase a textbook.
ICA: Can you tell me more about being a woman in the E & M department and academia (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, professor, etc.)?
SK: Obviously, economics is male-dominated. Throughout all my degrees, I experienced almost 70% of the students in my class were males. To give a more extreme example, all the professors that I had in my bachelor’s and master’s degrees were males. At Albion, I observed a similar female-male ratio while teaching. I hope more females do major in economics and management and contribute more to this field. As a female professor, I want them to be part of this movement.
ICA: Can you elaborate more on your experience in Korea and California? How is it different from living in Michigan?
SK: When I was in Korea, I mostly did my education in Seoul, which is the capital of Korea. It is a very crowded, bustling area with four seasons. California was definitely a big change in terms of the weather. It was always sunny without any clouds. I enjoyed the winter there as it was 75 degrees on average. Michigan is similar to Korea in that it has four seasons, but Michigan is more nature friendly. I heard good things about upper Michigan for its amazing scenery. I would like to try to travel up there sometime next year.
ICA: Living in Korea and completing your doctorate in California, why did you choose Albion?
SK: I wanted to teach at a liberal arts college where I can interact closely with students. During my interview, I also had a good impression of the college in that the professors are all active in research and care about students. The location of Albion was also great in that there is a good network of colleges nearby.