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CSUCI Lecturer Sunghee Nam Wins President’s Award for Innovations in Teaching and Learning

By Nancy Gill for CSU Channel Islands |

Dr. Sunghee Nam, a full-time CSU Channel Islands lecturer in sociology, has received the 2014 President’s Award for Innovations in Teaching and Learning. The award is presented each year to an individual who has made unique and significant contributions to the teaching mission of the university.

Dr. Sunghee Nam
Dr. Sunghee Nam

Nam, a CI faculty member since 2006, is well-known for developing service-learning courses that mutually benefit CI students and community members. In recent courses, she has led students in community-based research to create an oral history of Ventura County residents affected by the “Great Recession;” engaged CI and Oxnard College students in collaborative projects to ease transitions from community college to a four-year university; and exposed students to the impacts of globalization through an immersive service-learning travel course in South Korea.

“Dr. Nam is the prototype of the teacher/scholar who changes students’ lives,” Provost Gayle Hutchinson said. “Our campus is committed to encouraging students to become civically-engaged citizens of the world; Dr. Nam’s classes demonstrate what that can look like.”

Nam was selected for the award by a blind panel of reviewers from another CSU campus who evaluated candidates’ impact on and involvement with students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and students. She was formally recognized at CI’s Honors Convocation held on Saturday. In addition, Nam has been nominated by CI for the Carnegie Foundation’s U.S. Professors of the Year Award.

“This award demonstrates why I feel so honored to work at CI, where the contributions of lecturer (non-tenure track) faculty members are recognized and validated at the highest levels,” Nam said. “It’s inspiring to work with such supportive colleagues and to teach students who are eager and grateful for the educational opportunity they have here.”

A native of South Korea, Nam thoroughly engages students in exercises that explore the roles of culture, race, gender, and economics in society and simultaneously offer a benefit to the community. In a recent course called Globalization and South Korea, she led 15 CI students to South Korea for two weeks, during which they taught English at a local middle school.

In her University Sophomore Seminar course, Nam paired CI students with Oxnard College students on service-learning projects and peer-led reflection activities — engaging both sets of students in collaborative work that fosters their transition and success in a four-year college. In her Social Problems course, students collected the oral histories of Ventura County residents impacted by the economic recession. Nam is working with two undergraduate students on a research paper and presentation summarizing the main findings. The study will be documented and housed in a grant-funded oral history collection at the University’s John Spoor Broome Library.

“Dr. Nam inspired my love for learning and pushed me to get the most out of my education,” said former CI student Charlynn Devenny, now pursuing a master’s degree in Public Health at CSUN. “She creates an engaging, interactive and critical thinking class.  Her excitement was so infectious, I always looked forward to each class.”

Nam also commits significant time to studying and enriching the success of first-generation and underrepresented students at CI, through research, interviews, workshops and mentorships. In a sabbatical leave next year, she will develop plans for more extensive international service-learning opportunities at CI by studying other institutions’ best practices and creating instructional materials and model projects for CI faculty.

“Service-learning is a high-impact practice that I incorporate into many courses that I teach,” Nam said. “When students see how theories, concepts and arguments play out in real social settings, they are more like to become active and engaged learners and gain a deeper understanding of what they learn in class. Plus, by serving their community, they develop a stronger sense of the purpose and mission of their education. It is an empowering experience for them.”

“To date, Dr. Nam has taught more service-learning students at CI than any other faculty member,” said Dennis Downey, Chair of the Sociology Program and Faculty Director of the Center for Community Engagement. “She is a model of involvement and engagement; a colleague who is constantly available to students and constantly seeking out new ways to reach them.”

— Nancy Gill is the communications director for CSU Channel Islands.

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