Gustie of the Week: Yurie Hong

Colleen Coleman-

This week’s Gustie of the Week is Classics and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies professor Dr. Yurie Hong. On campus, Hong is the Director of the Three Crowns Program, Director of the MAYDAY! Peace Conference, Faculty Senate Vice-Chair, and a member of the Faculty Task Force, which was recently recognized with the Faculty Service Award in October 2023. Hong was also a Nobel Conference committee chair back in 2017 and has been teaching at Gustavus since 2007. Hong has a B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Seattle.

What first drew Hong to Gustavus was… everything, “I was very lucky because I got the position here, but it’s also a really great fit for me in terms of the department, college culture, town, and it’s been a really great fit for me overall in terms of colleagues and students,” Hong said. She was drawn to the classics at a young age, being fascinated by ancient Greek and Roman mythology. This fascination grew and inspired her to pursue Classics by the time she was in college. “I realized that those were the classes that I actually wanted to do well in and do more work than was completely necessary, so I figured I should major in Classics because that’s where I could do my best work and actually develop skills,” Hong said.

One of Hong’s favorite experiences at Gustavus was her time as a Nobel Conference committee chair, stating it was one of her most impactful professional development experiences. “[Hong] took the conference by storm, creating a structure, an approach, and a way of working together that is still present in the conferences today, some eight or so years later,” The Director of the Nobel Conference Lisa Heldke said. Hong states that she learned a lot from the experience: “ [It] taught me the importance of interdisciplinary and making connections with faculty across campus and thinking more broadly in terms of what all the different disciplines can bring to the understanding of a topic, and how students can get involved and make connections with our speakers and faculty,” Hong said.

When looking back on her time at Gustavus, Hong finds herself most proud of the impact that her coursework has had on students. “The moments I’m most proud of are when students come back to tell me that something we talked about in class or something they’ve learned about themselves from taking a hard language like Greek, is that they come to see a lot of value in it or learn something about how their brain works, or how to prioritize what their values are, make sense of their learning in a way that’s beyond a grade or requirement,” Hong said.

Senior Classics major Bailey Wagner states that Hong is “inquisitive and listens to students’ ideas with genuine curiosity, even if I am spewing nonsense. While her desire to teach is great, her passion to learn is overwhelming, no matter the source from which the ideas come.” First-year Classics major Alec Harris cites Hong as one of the determining factors that drew them to Gustavus. “She’s super involved in the admissions process and is honestly one of the top three reasons I came to Gustavus. I spent like 45 minutes talking to her the first time I met her, and was so excited when I got to sit in on her Greek 102 class last spring,” Harris said. Harris believes that Hong is one of the best professors they’ve ever had. “Those moments of understanding beyond yourself and your education, and how that fits into the world and why that’s important, that’s the real lesson I’d like to impart to students,” Hong stated.

“Hong is a wonderful colleague who shows every day that she cares deeply about students and their learning,” fellow Classics professor Dr. Matthew Panciera said. “She has inspired me to rethink so many things about our field of Greek and Roman literature, culture, history, Greek and Latin language, and teaching in general,” Panciera said. Dr. Martin Lang, a Communications professor, states that Hong deserves all the recognition she can get, considering her a friend as well as a colleague. Lang stated that “Hong is impossibly good at getting people around her to set aside their prejudices and consider perspectives they haven’t dealt with before. She is a practitioner of invitational rhetoric; engaging with Hong means that you will be asked to listen to other points of view, but that you will always also be heard.”

Hong would advise a First-year or prospective student to “be honest with yourself with what your strengths are, what you’re good at, and what you need to work on. Develop a plan for working on those things and growing – that habit of mind of ‘I know I do this well, I’m proud of myself for that. I know that I need to grow in this area, and here’s how I’m going to do that’ will probably be the most important thing for academic, professional, and personal wellbeing.” Hong values being able to learn and grow without shame. “I think shame is the thing that holds us back the most, that’s what I see especially in students right now. Shame in front of our professors, other students, or ourselves, is most harmful to our growth and being able to succeed,” Hong said.

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