Hyunjung Bae, PhD
Originally from Korea, Dr. Bae attended college in Seoul, Korea earning her double B.A. in Sociology and French Literature. After receiving her M.A. in Sociology from the University of Illinois she continued her research in cross-culture communications and globalization earning her PhD. Currently, Dr. Bae is the Marketing Studies coordinator in the Marketing Communication Department. Outside of the classroom she is interested in photography and received her Post Baccalaureate in Fine Art Photography from Columbia College. Student Mackenzie Brayan sat down with her to discuss her background, education, and current goals for the future.
What brought you to America?
I finished my undergraduate degree in Korea and then came here to study. It’s kind of long and silly story. I had planned to go to France because my major was French literature and language. I announced this to my parents that I was going to France, and my Dad was totally opposed to the idea. He thought that I should spend time with my older sister in New York in America. Eventually I chose to come to Chicago for two reasons: scholarships that I had earned and the Chicago School of architecture.
How did you become interested in cross-culture communications and globalization?
It’s very interesting because I didn’t even think about the term cross-culture anything. While I was conducting a comparative study between Korean and American students and I realized there wasn’t a good way to measure cross-cultural situations because social scientists developed all the questionnaires within American culture and often with American students in Psych 101 classes.
My dissertation topic was attribution patters, which is the explanation that people give for the events they live through. Such events range from something small like getting a good grade or a major trauma like surviving an earthquake. People give various explanations; “I studied very hard,” or “It was an easy exam” and “I was mentally prepared to do the right thing in Tsunami” or “God saved me” Needless to say, culture plays an important role in how people understand life events. And yet the instrument we were using was almost exclusively based on American population.
At that time in culture, the new age movement entered popular consciousness and people started thinking beyond material possessions (which ironically turned into a huge opportunity for marketers selling the new age-y merchandise such as incense and scented candles.) People took interests in new concepts that weren’t originally from America. People slowly began to realize there might be useful things from other cultures. The New Age movement was well spread and supported later on by the popularization of the Internet. With both of these things happening, “globalization” became a household word that everyone was using.
Compare your educational experience between Korea and America?
The education system in Korea was based on the British education system. Early on children are slotted to either hard science or humanities for their future study. In terms of the content and the rigor, it’s much more competitive and demanding than American schools. For students’ behavior, it was hard for me to get used to their in-class behavior, sense of responsibility, and discipline. I’m not saying all American college students are lazy, but there is a difference between the two countries in terms of educational culture. Also many Korean students live with their parents throughout college as well; we never used the word “party” while I was in school.
Why did you eventually end up at Columbia?
Photography. I had always wanted to be a photographer but I didn’t really have a chance to study formally. I asked around and ended up at the Columbia open house. I talked to students and professors, looking at the facilities and I thought, “I’ve got to go to this school!” I found out if I teach one class here, I could take one course for free. I taught classes in the Liberal Arts and Sciences for two years. Then I came to Marketing through a friend. She was leaving Chicago, so she introduced me to Tom Hamilton, Associate Chair, and that’s how I started at the Marketing department. I was an adjunct until 2007. I wanted to finish my photography degree, and my consulting work was very busy so I didn’t want to become a full-time faculty right away. I had many ideas about new courses and curriculum and realized that there is limit, as a part-time faculty, in how much I can participate in developing curriculum. To be fully involved in teaching, I had to become a full-time faculty member. This allowed me to create more classes I wanted to teach, propose new curriculum ideas, implement new teaching methods, and exercise cross-disciplinarian approaches.
What kind of classes did you propose?
Herbert Allen, Associate Professor, started the Buzz class and then gave me his full blessing to tailor it to what I thought fit best. I consider it a class that the both of us created. Prof. Allen also gave me strongest support to develop Consumer Happiness, my long time dream class. It took me a while to finish the proposal and get it approved but was very happy about that. A couple of other courses I have proposed were financial literacy for marketing majors/college students, the history of marketing (still in the process of creating), Chinese language for business majors, and history of media or media literacy which would involve more media than just television including social media – marketing touches on so many areas of media. I believe we have to offer some sort of ethics in marketing course before we send students out into the world. Lately more companies are shifting their focus to non-profit work as something beyond charity and tax exemption. The question is “how do we measure profit?” Do we measure it by money, the impact they have on people’s lives, or our value in society? That’s something that people who are interested in the future talk about, so it’s a very active discussion. By the time students graduate and go into the workforce and become a leader in their area, these questions should frame their mind. So, are we giving them the right tools to learn those things?
What classes do you already teach right now?
Right now I’m teaching, Market Research (54-2500), Consumer Happiness (54-3860), Semiotics (54-3670), and Buzz (54-3675). Buzz and Consumer Happiness are offered every other semester one in spring and the other in fall. We have so much to do in terms of the curriculum and I want research component in all of the classes instead of just one if the classes’ students have to take.
In ten years where do you think marketing will be?
I certainly can’t predict, but I’m hoping/wishful thinking is that the focus of Marketing will change – rather than creating profits, marketing will take the important role in how to distribute profits. All the marketing principles and practices can be applied to making an efficient collaboration with non-profit, government/non-government organizations, and philanthropy. I think marketing’s conditional roles of how to make people buy more shampoo or coffee will change to how do we help people who have the intention of doing good with their assets, how do we develop a model and facility that distribution of profit/assets. I think that would be really wonderful to apply to a marketing practice. Ten years from now – who knows? I hope so.
How did you become interested in photography?
When I had just turned 8 years old, my Dad gave me his old camera and the camera had a timer. I could take a picture of myself by myself! Amazing! I would go with my father when he dropped off his film and ask the studio/lab people and my father lots of questions, and that’s how I learned photography. I didn’t study it formally until I came to Columbia College, but I had already won various awards for my pictures. One day I thought, “wouldn’t it be fun to actually study this?” So I did.
What inspires your photography?
My interest with architecture photography is that I wanted to be an architect, but I couldn’t be one because I wasn’t very good at math, so as a photographer I just naturally used that influence. I hate taking pictures of people because it’s impossible for me to capture a person in one shot. People have told me to do that, but I was never really satisfied with my portraits of people. Plus buildings don’t fidget, they don’t get cranky, they sit there forever so if I take seven hours to take one picture they don’t complain.
Outside of teaching, photography, and marketing… what are some of your hobbies and interests that you have?
I’m a dressmaker; I used to make wedding dresses for people. I haven’t done it in a few years, but I made my own wedding dress and dresses for my friends. Very recently I picked up beading. There are many kinds of beading but I use beading specifically for dresses.
When you were a kid what was your dream job?
For a while I wanted to be fashion designer. I would go with my mother to the seamstress and I would give her a lot of opinions on what to do with fabric. By the age 13, I decided that to hang out one’s Mother wasn’t exactly the cool thing to do and fashion was not “brainy” enough (ha ha). So I changed my career path.
What advice would you give to students? Is there any advice you received in school or during your career you would like to share?
There are a lot of things that I tell my students. The two, I use to guide my life are, it’s not what it is but it’s what we do with it. Think of splitting an atom: it can be nuclear energy or it can be a nuclear bomb. Another is to think and think big. I find that a lot of my students don’t think big – I’m not talking about something necessarily important, but just once in a while stop everything and think about something that you never thought about before, for example ‘What is someone in China doing at this moment?’ There is a 14/15-hour time difference; they are half of a day ahead of us. I’m not asking you if you know or not but can you think about it and what does it mean? Time is a social invention; it’s not natural, set or stationary. How can one point of something be both Friday and Saturday at the same time? For one person it’s Saturday and for another it’s Friday so how is that possible? You have a brain, use it – and think about yourself and the world around you.
What important figures did you have in your life? Any mentors?
I’ve been asked that many times in many situations and I feel bad for not having a good answer, but many people have influenced me. There are so many great people in history and I only know a small number of them, how can I say one person is more important to me than another? When I was very young I read a biography of Helen Keller. The idea was so beyond me: someone being born without sight or hearing and then became a writer and speaker (lectures), which really made an impression on me. Also moved me very much was her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Her patience, love, and commitment as a teacher were as mind-bogglingly inspiring, if not more, as Helen Keller’s own accomplishment.