Assistant Professor of Communication Studies
I begin with a story. Growing up in the Midwest as a biracial Korean American woman, I have been asked countless times the question, “Where are you from?” Usually, strangers who ask the question are merely curious. It is a guessing game. I am racially “in-between.” But I have learned that who I am is both where I am from as well as where I am going.
To be honest, I stumbled across communication studies. My father encouraged me to major in communications, a field he thought would satisfy my insatiable appetite for learning and my love for creativity. My mother agreed that it was a “practical” degree worth pursuing. At Purdue University, I majored in interpersonal communication and women’s studies and minored in English, sociology, psychology, and art. I knew I loved school, but it wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. And then, while working as a photojournalist for the student newspaper, I began to realize my passion. It was in storytelling. With a single photograph, one could tell a story. I became fascinated with history and her-story. I began to explore stories of marginalized voices, stories about race and gender and sexuality and class, and stories about myself.
Inspired by my mentor Dr. William Rawlins, I continued my scholarly journey to Ohio University where I studied rhetoric and public culture. In 2009, after completing my doctorate, I began my career as an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at USI. I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach a number of undergraduate and graduate courses including CMST 308, in which we explore various oratory traditions and rhetoric’s role in social activism; CMST 402, where we investigate the relationship between gender and communication in contemporary society; and CMST 499, where we examine ways in which images persuasively function in public culture.
My training in communication studies and feminist studies led me to examine how personal narrative functions and how autoethnography can be used to better understand racial, gendered, and sexual identities. Additionally, my research emerges from visual communication and how visual and material artifacts influence our lives. As a feminist scholar with a primary focus in visual rhetoric, my research interests lie at the intersection of rhetorical studies, cultural studies, race/ethnic studies, and feminist scholarships.
My dissertation, Remembering the Past in Visual and Visionary Ways: Rhetorically Exploring the Narrative Potentialities of Esther Parada’s Memory Art, explored the narrative ability of artwork and how visual texts create collective memories. Additionally, I have completed a number of projects including a collaborative essay co-authored with Dr. Amie McKibban about the process of developing Safe Zones, an interactive workshop designed to educate students about issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals; an autoethnographic article that examines the negotiation of racial and ethnic hybrid identities within the mother-daughter relationship; and an autoethnographic piece that explores the performance of an interracial identity as a tool for encouraging classroom discussions on race. Currently, I am working on a personal narrative about the intersections of racial identity, family secrets, and memory.
From the small stories we share with others to the cinematic stories shown on the big screen, narratives help us to make sense of our lives and world around us. It is with and through stories that we commune and communicate with one another. As a professor of Communication Studies, I am continuously intrigued by the cultural narratives that we construct as well as inspired by the stories that my students share in and outside of the classroom. And when I speak with students, I remind them that it is important to know not only where one is from, but also where one is going.
Assistant Professor of Theatre
I love theatre because I think it is a home for so many young people who cannot find a home anywhere else. I was one of those young people. I was not very athletic and though I had a strong academic record, I was not really interested in pursuing any of the general subjects into a career. Like most young theatre artists, I found my way in to theatre because of a high school director who saw something in me and encouraged me to audition. I did and I received a role … with one line.
I spent most of that rehearsal period watching the lead actors and wishing that I could have a go at doing their characters, recognizing different choices that could have been made to make their performance better. So I auditioned for my next show more out of competition than anything else. Eventually, I realized that I had a talent for it and, as cliché as it sounds, it just felt right being on stage.
I come from a practical family, so the idea of pursuing a career in theatre was not originally an option. However, the more I participated in it, the more I realized that I had a different outlook of the importance of a career. It was not about money (in theatre it can’t be) but about happiness. I knew that the only way I would want to go to work every day was if I was working in the performing arts. I auditioned for the University of Evansville’s theatre program, thinking that if I got in, the program’s reputation would mean I had a shot at it. I quickly found out that a good training program does not “make” the actor, but simply provides them the playground on which to play and the environment in which they can grow.
That environment at UE and the training I received led me to New York University’s Graduate Acting Program and eventually a seven-year run as a professional New York actor. I found work in theatre, film and television, but found that the more success I found, the less time I spent at home. I loved the work, but I hated the gypsy lifestyle that went with it.
So once again, I took a risk and moved back home to Evansville, thinking that maybe I could be the kind of person that could find happiness in a career based in money. I found out very quickly that I couldn’t. When this position opened up in the Performing Arts department at USI, I knew a very important door had just opened and so I walked through it.
Since I started teaching at USI, I have worked to create the kind of artistic home that I found at UE and at NYU. A place where students are challenged to explore personal depths they never knew existed; where the glory of failure is celebrated as much as success, because learning often happens more from falling down. Most importantly, USI provides an affordable option to professional theatre training that can relieve our students from the pressure of paying off large student loans the moment they enter what is not a lucrative professional atmosphere, and allow them to focus on continual personal and artistic growth. I have too often seen the pressures of money end the career of a very talented theatre artist.
I am proud to be a part of this rapidly growing program and look forward to what lies ahead.