This year, computer science professor and faculty-in-residence Miryung Kim has been awarded with the Faculty/Staff of the Year Award, given by the UCLA chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary. This award recognizes outstanding faculty-in-residence mentors for their service to the campus residential community, and is given out annually to faculty who go above and beyond the call of duty in order to enhance student learning within college residential communities.
“I’ve received many research awards throughout my academic career, but this award feels very special to me because it’s not about the technical excellence of my academic work, but rather is heartfelt recognition from students about my role as a mentor and community volunteer,” Kim said. “It feels very special to be recognized as a nice person, beyond just being recognized as a brilliant researcher or hard working teacher.”
Anthony Gong, a former resident assistant who collaborated with Kim, affirmed that Kim was an integral part of the residential life community, especially within the De Neve Evergreen/Fir community, where both Kim and Gong resided. “Out of my three years working in residential life, I have never met an FIR who wanted to share her passions in Computer Science, programming, and engagement as much as Dr. Kim,” Gong said. “She was truly an important part of making the Evergreen/Fir community a close-knit family.”
Jessie Chen, another former resident assistant of the Evergreen/Fir community, reaffirmed Kim’s impact on both the residential life community and her personal experience on the Hill, stating, “Dr. Kim truly cared about getting to know the residents who lived in our community. She would make time to eat a meal with students so that she could get to know them on a personal level and see how she could support their journey of personal growth. I, myself, also felt very supported by Dr. Kim and always enjoyed our conversations together – as a graduating senior, I was nervous about transitioning to the next step in life, so she spent time discussing graduate school and career opportunities with me.”
Although Kim has only been an FIR for a year, she has already organized a number of events, including “Dinner with Professor Kim”, “Dinner for Eight Strangers”, and “Desserts Night”. Kim also organized a Thanksgiving dinner for around 20 students, given that many students were unable to travel home for Thanksgiving, and most campus dining halls and restaurants around Westwood were closed for the holidays. In addition to organizing these events, Kim also participated in a webinar panel organized by the UCLA Parents’ Council on “Building Strong Connections Among Students and Faculty”.
“[Students] can greatly benefit, both professionally and academically, from developing strong relationships with professors throughout their undergraduate career,” Kim said. “However, many students are either intimidated to approach professors, or do not know effective ways to solicit help from them.” The panel, co-organized by mathematics professor Mike Hill and FIR Director Dr. Lori Vogelgesang, gave students advice on how to curb these commonly faced problems.
When asked about why she decided to become an FIR, Kim emphasized the idea of giving back to the community. “I was a benefactor of such care and mentorship provided by professors when I was a college student, so I wanted to replicate similar experiences for my students,” Kim said.
Having lived six straight years of her life in a dorm away from her family, Kim is no stranger to the struggles that come along with college, such as homesickness. However, during her time at school, Kim found a home away from home in her connections with school faculty – particularly with Professor Sungjin Kim, a mechanical engineering professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, where Kim received her bachelor’s degree. “Because Professor Kim’s family was also new to the city, Professor Kim’s family often invited me to dinner and other social activities,” Kim explained. “Professor Kim inspired me to pursue a career in academia, and his family became a home away from home. Now that I am a tenured professor, I would like to help UCLA students in a similar manner, helping their intellectual, social, and personal development.”
Kim also emphasized the role of mentorship in her decision to become an FIR. As a female computer science professor, Kim is also no stranger to the difficulties female students face in male dominant fields. Because of this, Kim is particularly interested in helping develop the next generation of underrepresented minority and female leaders through mentorship and counselling. “Picking out natural leaders early on, especially leaders who are less outspoken, and immediately providing them with mentorship and opportunities to lead is my way of developing leaders,” Kim emphasized. “The Faculty-in-Residence program in particular has been an excellent way for me to get to know students beyond just the computer science or other engineering departments.”
Although the academic year has ended, Kim plans on continuing her role as a faculty-in-residence, and in the coming year will serve as a mentor for the Design and Innovation Living and Learning Community (LLC) on the Hill. These communities are designed to integrate learning and residential experiences, as well as foster environments which cater to students’ academic, social, and personal needs by grouping students with similar interests in the same residential community. The Design and Innovation community in particular is designed to support technical leadership and entrepreneurship. Kim, along with her husband – a former founder of a tech startup and entrepreneur who currently works at Google – hope to further enhance student learning within the residential communities, and in the long run aim to continue educating students about entrepreneurship, technical leadership, and team building.