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Faculty feature interview: Dr. Yeonsoo Kim

Posted 04 May 2018
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We talked to Dr. Yeonsoo Kim, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, about what she likes the most about teaching at JMU, things that she was able to accomplish this year, and her plans for the future.

What was your professional career like before teaching at JMU?

I am originally from South Korea, and majored in Journalism. I earned my B.A. and first M.A. degree in Journalism at Ewha Women’s University, South Korea. I worked as a public relations and media analysis consultant for the KorCom Porter Novelli Institute of Communication Strategies before coming to the U.S. where I studied public relations. After earning my second M.A. degree and a Ph.D. in public relations from the University of Florida, I served as an assistant professor at Weber State University, in Ogden, UT. There I started a PRSSA chapter at WSU and founded their Ogden Peak Communications student-run PR agency. My field experience as a media and market analysis specialist played a crucial role in generating interest and setting the strategic direction of both groups. My three years of assistant professorship experience at WSU helped me when 1) advising the Bateman Competition to be able to win an award for JMU in the premier nationwide competition, and 2) preparing, launching and managing JMU’s new student run PR agency, Bluestone Communications.

Why did you choose to teach at JMU?

I chose JMU because I believed that it provides an excellent, balanced environment for scholar-educators in which we can focus on teaching and scholarship at the same time. A major motivator for me at JMU is my students, who are exceptionally smart, goal-oriented, warm-hearted students. Also appealing is the extremely collaborative working environment here – my colleagues, department, college and JMU as a whole offer a uniquely supportive community.

What do you love most about working with students?

I am a part of their life on campus as a mentor and educator. I see their struggles, their growth, their excitement and joy. I am grateful that I can be an important part of their life and hold their hand when they struggle, and make progress together as they are learning and growing, and celebrate their milestones.

What is Bluestone Communications and what inspired you to spearhead this?

There is a growing pedagogical debate over what should be taught in public relations courses, which began after the discipline rapidly expanded in the late 1990s. One frequently debated topic is the large gap between what professionals desire from public relations graduates versus what they are able to do. I envisioned Bluestone Communications as an innovative, engagement-focused pedagogical organization that can fill this gap and empower students. I previously had the experience of launching a fully-functioning student PR firm, Ogden Peak Communications, which provides services and generates scholarships through local clients. Those years of assistant professorship experience at WSU were quite helpful when advising students for the Bateman Competition and helping them to win an award for JMU, as well as preparing, launching and managing Bluestone Communications.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Making Bluestone Communication blossom! Over the course of this semester, Bluestone Communications was launched successfully and now provides five services for its clients: strategic PR planning, primary research, social media counseling, implementing PR strategy, and media relations. The student-run PR agency provides significant educational benefits that include a more effective and strategic achievement of the PR concentration’s learning outcomes, stronger pre-professional preparation, and increased prominence of the public relations program within the local, academic, and public relations communities. I really hope that Bluestone Communications becomes a successful student/local community engagement model that is perfectly aligned with JMU’s long-term strategic plan and vision. Also, we were able to secure three amazing professional advisers for the firm – Eric Gorton, Nenfei Lui and Kendra Kojcsich – who are public relations practitioners in the field who can provide further assistance for students with the most updated skill-sets and expertise. We have secured a corporate sponsorship from 300Brand, which will support Bluestone Communications’ operational costs and scholarships. We are hoping to get more corporate sponsorships so that student employees at Bluestone can have greater exposure and better network opportunities with leading companies in the industry as well as scholarships.

While I love teaching and managing Bluestone Communications, I also love research. I recently accepted a position as a Faculty Associate in scholarship with CFI (Center for Faculty Innovation). I really want to contribute to JMU’s scholarly community to provide help to faculty who need additional consulting, help, or a supportive community for their scholarship.

I am working on developing a series of workshops and a course on the topic of strategic digital communications/ social media communications and data analytics. I plan to develop a line of research agenda around those topics as well: strategic digital communications/ social media communications and data analytics.

How does it feel to win the professor of the year award?

Oh wow. I am so honored and humbled to receive the award. This academic year has been both the most challenging and the most exciting and rewarding for me. My students, especially at Bluestone Communications, have been so incredible. I feel that this is not a reward just for me, but for my students as well. We have always been in the same boat regardless of our highs and lows toward our shared goals and missions. This award was such a surprise, and caught me completely off guard. Realizing how deeply they were thinking of me was really touching. Of course, any achievement with Bluestone Communications would not be possible without my colleagues and the department’s incredible support.

What has been your favorite part of this year?

Definitely launching Bluestone Communications, JMU’s student-run Public Relations Agency. Also, the study abroad program to Korea (International public relations & Sports public relations in Korea). I was really fortunate enough to travel and explore Korea, my home country, with a very smart, motivated, adorable group of students. Some of my students who went to Korea with me have actually become an important part of the workforce for Bluestone Communications as well. So these two experiences were my favorite part of the year. While juggling a difficult teaching/service workload, I have been really productive in terms of research and became a Faculty Associate in Scholarship with CFI. I’ve had 4 journal articles published in 2018 so far, and 2 articles were accepted for publication with revisions. That’s six journal articles! I can’t wait for my adventure with JMU!

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