Alumni Spotlight Image
Following a decade-long career in the College’s Office of International Education, South Korean-native Soyun Park was recently named Interim Director of International Programs at Bloomfield College. She has worked in the Office since 2013 and is thrilled to see programming start to return following the unprecedented challenges we faced during the pandemic.
“As a one-person office for international programming, I have had to become creative in how to extend the mission of the Office on our campus during a time that has been fraught with many restrictions, both on campus and abroad,” said Park.
New global initiatives at the Office have included the International Buddy Program and a Cultural Café Series developed in collaboration with Fostering Student Success. “The goal is to promote the culture of globalization in BC community and to foster close cultural connection and collaboration on campus and beyond. This started with the difficulties of travel in the last few years, coupled with our community’s desire for Study Abroad programs. Through the Office’s programming, we are able to exchange each other’s cultures right on campus,” said Park.
The International Buddy Program was designed to facilitate international students’ smooth transition and integration into the campus community and to promote cross-cultural relationships between international and domestic students. Each international student has two or three domestic students as buddies who meet periodically, share cultural perspectives, provide peer support, engage in campus activities, and have the opportunity to build long-lasting friendships.
The Cultural Café Series of events kicked off during International Education Week to share diversity and cultural backgrounds throughout campus, said Park. In addition to an opening day culture showcase, a student photo contest, an international movie day, a global festival, and a distinguished keynote speaker, the week’s activities culminated in the College hosting a Korean Traditional Performing Arts dance and music program in Van Fossan Theatre that included both the internal and external community.
Park’s career in international student programming started back in South Korea. As a grad student in the business school of Seoul National University, she worked in the Office of International Relations where she had many opportunities to work with students from Europe, South America and Asian countries, as well as with students from North America. In this role, Park created an Asian culture transfer program with the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.
“I recruited Korean students to travel to Switzerland for the University of St. Gallen international exchange,” said Park. “I led the program and traveled with the students. We spent one week in Switzerland learning from our St. Gallen hosts and students, and then together the two student groups traveled to Korea and visited well respected corporations such as Samsung and LG Company. It was an impactful experience, co-sharing stories and information about each other’s cultures, history and economy.”
Additional exchange programs Park has led included the Executive Master of Laws Program in partnership with Northwestern University in Chicago. Numerous Northwestern Law faculty traveled to Korea over a one-year span, each teaching two weeks at a time. The program culminated in the students completing a final two-week course in Chicago, and graduating from the Northwestern School of Law with a master’s degree.
Park’s own educational journey has included cross-continental experiences. She earned a Master of Arts in Higher and Post-Secondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University; a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelor of Home Economics in Clothing & Textiles, both from Seoul National University, South Korea; and a non-degree in Art & Science, Intensive English Program from Indiana University-Bloomington.
“Earlier in my life’s journey, I had wanted to be a marketer in an apparel company. In fact, my first job was in an apparel company in South Korea. But once I started my graduate program in business school and worked with students in the international relations office, I was inspired and felt this was something I could continue,” said Park. “I enjoyed working in the education field and knew I needed to learn more. This was what brought me to move to the United States in 2007 to pursue my master’s degree in higher education.”
Serendipity has shined on Park whose diverse background was a perfect match when she came to work at Bloomfield College’s Office of International Education. “I came full circle when I came to Bloomfield, using my knowledge of the Korean language and culture, as well as my experience with program development and operation,” said Park. “I have been a part of developing more than 100 international programs while at Bloomfield, where the majority have been sponsored by the Korean government from a special educational fund for students to earn certificate programs in the United States across different areas of studies that include nursing, health care, fashion, beauty, education, science, engineering and business.”
Park, who designed a Korean government-sponsored fashion certificate program in 2016 at Bloomfield, holds one student’s story close to her heart. “A fashion certificate student completed a 10-week internship in New York and New Jersey, where he established several important networks. After he returned to Korea, he was offered to work in New York City and eventually moved to Denmark with that team and has since launched his own fashion brand and business,” she said.
Despite the recent slowdown in travel, Park says her office’s ESL program for individuals who want to improve their language skills remains strong. She was also happy to be able to create a virtual program last fall when she organized 49 Korean nursing students to participate in virtual nursing and health care programming with partner colleges abroad.
“I am hoping that travel opportunities will improve and that we may be able to return to active in-person exchanges again in the future. Student success is my success, so when they succeed through the programs I have developed, it brings me so much fulfillment and I want to continue to be a part of that,” she said.