Inspiring Grad: Haeyoon Chung 

Haeyoon Chung_Inspiring Grad
Haeyoon Chung (Photos courtesy of Haeyoon Chung)

A conversation with a student during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic set the course for Haeyoon Chung’s doctoral research. 

Chung had just finished teaching a class in UIC’s College of Education when the student approached her and confided that, as reports of discrimination and violence against Asian Americans increased following the COVID-19 outbreak, she felt fear and anxiety as an Asian American. 

“UIC has a lot of support, so I introduced her to the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center and the Counseling Center. Then I thought, I’m going to do something — not only for her, but for other Asian Americans who might experience something similar to this,” said Chung, who graduates May 2 with a doctorate in educational psychology.  

This experience inspired Chung to focus her dissertation on discrimination that Asian American emerging adults, those ages 18 to 29, faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on their psychological well-being.  

Her research shows that more work needs to be done to address discrimination in the Asian American community, even as the pandemic subsides. 

“I found that even if people hadn’t felt some kind of direct discrimination or attack, it affected their mental health,” she said. “COVID-19 was a wake-up call. Even after the pandemic, they expect and anticipate this will happen again and again, at any time. 

“I want to keep working on supporting these young people and see how the pandemic impacted their future careers, social relationships and mental health.”  

Before moving to the U.S. in 2011 at age 30, Chung worked as a mental health counselor in South Korea, where most of her clients were college students. After moving to the U.S., she took time off work to focus on her growing family until her daughter started preschool.  

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“Then I want to do something for myself. So, not just as a mother, not just as a wife — as Haeyoon Chung,” she said.  

Chung’s daughter, Chloe Kim, now 11, also was a catalyst in her decision to join UIC in 2018 to pursue her master’s and doctoral degrees in the College of Education.  

“As an immigrant and a mother of a second-generation Asian American, I want to understand and support the younger generation,” she said. “I had never attended a U.S. college before, so if I experienced that, I could share more things with my daughter.” 

Chung chose UIC specifically to collaborate with Dalal Katsiaficas, associate professor in educational psychology, who studies the development of immigrant-origin youth as they emerge into adulthood.  

“Dr. Chung’s research has not only made significant contributions to the field of educational psychology, but she has utilized the findings as a tool to inform work she is doing on the ground with the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center and a number of community organizations,” said Katsiaficas, who is Chung’s doctoral advisor and dissertation chair. “I can’t wait to see what is next.” 

At UIC, Chung was a graduate assistant for the UIC AANAPISI Initiative and supported the global Asian studies program by helping prospective students learn about what UIC offers. In this role, she also worked closely with the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center to support UIC students.

“We invite high schoolers and introduce them to UIC through campus tours, admissions information and mini-lectures with current students to talk about life at UIC,” Chung said. “I try to help immigrant-origin students get to know UIC and be familiar with the college application and transition.” 

This fall, Chung will begin a tenure-track faculty position at a university in Virginia. In addition to Katsiaficas, Chung said she was grateful for the support of Bernadette Sánchez, professor of educational psychology; Ting Dai, assistant professor of educational psychology; and Karen Su, clinical associate professor of global Asian studies.

“Because of this supportive, collaborative system within our department, I was able to finish my academic journey and prepare for the next step,” Chung said. “So I’m very thankful for that.” 

Read about UIC’s other 2024 inspiring graduates.

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