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North Star awards writing fellowships to Professors Sim and Kim

Published on December 22, 2022

North Star awards writing fellowships to Professors Sim and Kim

Khai Sim and Soojin Kim
Khai Zhi Sim, left, and Soojin Kim

Two assistant professors at Eastern, Khai Zhi Sim and Soojin Kim, have won fellowships from the New England Board of Higher Education’s North Star Collective, which supports Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) faculty.

The fellowships are designed to help junior faculty achieve promotion and tenure, with a special emphasis on writing and publishing and on providing mentorship.

Sim, assistant professor of economics and finance, studies banking, macro and monetary economics, and applied game theory. For the fellowship, he will work on two research projects: One will analyze the strategic interactions between financial institutions and policymakers, and the other, in collaboration with a Wesleyan University professor, will look at how bank bailouts incentivize banks’ investment in complicated and opaque assets.

In other work, already underway and probably not part of his fellowship, he is using machine learning techniques to analyze FDIC data and see if there is a better way to predict bank failures.

“I believe that my participation in the fellowship would be a great help to me in writing the two research articles,” said Sim in his fellowship application. “As a nonnative English speaker, I am usually at a disadvantage when it comes to communicating my ideas through writing.”

Sim’s native language is Mandarin Chinese. He also speaks Malay and Cantonese. He moved to the U.S. from Malaysia in 2009. He earned a Ph.D. in economics at Cornell University in 2019, after undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan. While at Cornell he taught macroeconomics to prisoners in central New York as part of Cornell’s prison education program with a partner community college. He joined Eastern in 2019 and teaches macroeconomics, banking and case studies in financial management.

Soojin Kim, assistant professor of art and art history, also came to Eastern in 2019 after earning an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston and Tufts University. She came to the U.S. from South Korea in 2000 to study electrical engineering at Boston University. She earned an M.S. and was on the verge of her Ph.D. when she switched her focus to art and began studies at the MFA.

As an art student, she won awards in studio practice and painting and competitive grants for travel and study. She had an artistic residency at Mass MoCA—the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art—in North Adams, MA, and a residency in teaching at PrattMWP art and design college in Utica, NY. Her art incorporates skill she learned as an engineer and traditional art practices. At Eastern she teaches digital art and graphic design.

She will use her fellowship to work on a limited-edition artist’s book, “Granny Pants,” exploring the cultural aspects of one of her early memories of Korean grandmothers wearing baggy pants, a holdover from what Korean women were once forced to wear by Japanese colonial authorities in the early 1900s. These “Mom Pae,” a type of “balloon pants,” were popular with her grandmother’s generation in Korea.

“There is a lot of talk about these pants in terms of the liberation of women’s rights and their elusiveness,” she said in her fellowship proposal.

As an interdisciplinary artist, her research focuses on cultural interactions under colonialism and capitalism in Korea, she said.  She is also influenced by memories of family life. Her earlier work focused on American sweets, inspired by her father’s “obsession” with them, based on American GIs handing them out to Korean children during the Korean War.

“I am trying to present the hidden cultural and historical meaning of these stories,” she said.

Eastern was one of the North Star Collective’s founding members last year. The inaugural fellowships at Eastern were awarded to theatre Professor DeRon Williams and social work Professor Isabel Logan. The collective now provides fellowships to 16 member colleges and universities, both public and private, in New England.

Participating in North Star demonstrates Eastern’s commitment to providing faculty of color with the support, networks and resources necessary to be successful, said LaMar Coleman, vice president for equity and diversity.

“We all know that faculty of color face a unique set of challenges,” he said. “In addition to potentially feeling marginalized within society as a whole, those feelings can spill over into the academic setting where they may feel they have to work 10 times harder to prove their competence and scholastic abilities.”

BIPOC faculty are not only in the minority, but those who are able to achieve promotion and tenure are an even smaller group, he noted.

Professor Kim said that besides writing workshops, the North Star fellowship has a support group that focuses on racial trauma.  In addition to learning with peer fellows about writing skills, he said, “I also hope to exchange about our experiences as assistant professors and find ways to cope with the tenure process, especially as minorities.”

Written by by Lucinda Weiss