Emerging Scholar Profile: Yoon and Art for Social Justice - Higher Education
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Emerging Scholar Profile: Yoon and Art for Social Justice

by Walter Hudson

Dr. Injeong Yoon’s pathway to the University of Arkansas, where she began a tenure-track teaching position last year, is hardly traditional.

Initially, she thought that she wanted to be a professional writer, but later found a home in education.

Dr. Injeong Yoon

For about six years, Yoon worked as an elementary school teacher in her homeland of South Korea, where she taught a variety of classes, including language arts, mathematics, science, history, social studies, moral education and visual arts.

For Yoon, who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Gongju National University of Education and a master of education in art education from Mokwon University in South Korea, her experience in the classroom was deeply gratifying and somewhat challenging.

“The K-12 experience in South Korea was similar in many ways to the U.S., following the U.S. military domination after the Korean War,” says Yoon, who still has family in South Korea. “I loved working with young students, but in Korea you’re expected to remain politically neutral and teach what you’re told to teach.”

Frustrated by her inability to make pedagogical changes to the curriculum, Yoon decided to heed the advice of her mentors and enrolled in a doctoral program in art history and education at the University of Arizona.

That decision cemented her desire to join the ranks of academia and to expend more time and energy on broader social justice issues.

“I wanted to have a critical voice around broader issues of inequity,” says Yoon, who has become a staunch proponent of diversity and inclusion. “I wanted to offer new insights into how I could approach educational issues through a social justice perspective.”

Indeed, in her very short time in the academy, Yoon has already made a splash, according to those who have followed her work. Her 2016 article, “Why is it not just a joke? Analysis of internet memes associated with racism and hidden ideology of colorblindness,” has been hailed as thoughtful and groundbreaking. She is working on several other publications, including a scholarly book chapter that focuses on colonial aesthetics and the experience of Koreans in the United States.

She says it’s a misconception to think that students interested in art education would only be focused on painting or sketching. The diversity within the field, she adds, is far-reaching.

“People tend to only think about the fine arts,” she says. “A lot of arts education has to deal with media and visual literacy and provides a critical view of advertising and the media.”

At the University of Arkansas, Yoon teaches two courses a semester, working with art education majors who are planning to go on and become teachers. She also supervises the field experience of student teachers in her department. Training students who will go on to become school teachers has been a highlight of her first year in the classroom.

“I really enjoy working here,” she says. “I get a chance to work with teacher candidates and to be deeply engaged with issues of diversity.”

Dr. Angela M. LaPorte, professor of art education and coordinator of the BFA program at the University of Arkansas School of Art, says Yoon has already been a valued asset to the Research 1 institution, despite having just arrived to campus in August.

“Based on the work in her doctoral dissertation, she plans to study art teachers’ transitional experience from pre-service to in-service teaching by collecting narratives of their experience and insights on teaching art for social justice and diversity in art education,” says LaPorte. “Her work is crucial to positively transforming pre-service teacher education.”

Yoon says her budding career as a university professor seems to be the right fit for her.

“I’ve found great possibility in the ability to make a difference in higher education,” she says. “This is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Dr. Injeong Yoon

Title: Assistant Professor, School of Art, University of Arkansas

Tenured: No

Education: B.A., Gongju National University of Education, South Korea; Master of Education, Mokwon University, South Korea; Ph.D., University of Arizona

Age:32

Career mentors: Dr. Lisa Hochtritt, University of Arizona

Words of wisdom/advice for new faculty members: Find a good body of friends and colleagues who share similar perspectives and who can talk honestly about their research.

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