Shortly after Professor Jungyun Gill was appointed in July 2021 to lead the Sociology & Criminology department as chair, Netflix released a series that makes us wonder if the streaming service has spies on campus.  

In The Chair, Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy, Killing Eve) plays Professor Ji-Yoon Kim, the first woman of color to serve as chair of the English Department at a New England institution. Gill, too, is the first woman of color department chair in Stonehill’s history. 

“I got many text messages and emails from my friends about The Chair after I became a chair,” Gill said. “So, I had to watch it.” 

The show hit home for Gill, who relates to the main character’s experience of navigating professional settings differently than her colleagues because of her gender and race. Despite this similarity, Gill notes that Stonehill differs from Professor Kim’s school in a fundamental way. 

“Unlike professors in The Chair, my colleagues, older and younger, all really care about being connected with our students and providing them with a good education,” she said. 

As Gill settles into her new role at Stonehill, here are 10 things to know about her.  

Professor Jungyun Gill started working at Stonehill College in 2011.

1. 2021 marks her diamond anniversary at Stonehill. While Gill was only just appointed as chair of her department, she has worked for the College for 10 years. 

2. She’s in charge of a lot of people. Gill’s department includes two dozen faculty members (full-time and part-time) charged with educating over 260 majors and more than 80 minors. “[My job] entails a wide range of responsibilities like managing the department, scheduling classes, hiring faculty members, answering inbound inquiries and doing lots of other things,” she said. 

3. Her promotion is bigger than her. Gill calls being appointed chair a humbling experience. “It’s a reminder that we have a lot of work to do regarding recruiting and retaining more women of color faculty,” she said. 

4. She recognizes the importance of being intentional. Gill notes that serving as department chair is like having a second full-time job. “I learned that it’s important to always ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ to make my actions more meaningful and purposeful.” 

5. She is a changemaker. Gill and several of her colleagues founded the Faculty of Color Association (FOCA) in Fall 2017. Gill also served as co-chair of the group from Fall 2020 to Spring 2021. FOCA advocates for the equitable treatment and optimal career development of Stonehill’s faculty of color. In recent years, the group has established a mentor pool, a workshop series and tenure review application resources to support junior faculty of color. They have organized “teach-ins” as part of the #ScholarStrike for Racial Justice movement. Additionally, Gill assisted Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies Teresa Villa-Ignacio in using FOCA’s platform to establish a scholarship fund for students in need. The FOCA Student Leadership Award is given annually to students of color who have contributed to campus diversity and inclusion initiatives in a meaningful way. 

As chair of her department, Gill oversees two dozen faculty members.

6. She is a published author. Unequal Motherhoods and the Adoption of Asian Children: Birth, Foster, and Adoptive Mothers was released in 2017. The work focuses on adoption from the point of view of birth mothers, foster mothers and adoptive mothers. “[The book] includes my analyses of about two hundred letters written by Korean birth mothers who sent their children away for adoption,” Gill said. “These letters illustrate not only how much suffering and pain they had to endure, but also the love they have for their children even though they couldn’t keep them because of social barriers.” 

7. She attended school in Seoul, Korea in the late 1990s. Before earning her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, Gill earned her bachelor’s degree at Dongguk University and her master’s at Korea University. Student protests in support of labor and democracy movements occurred regularly on the Korean campuses. Gill’s college experiences stoked her passion for sociology and social justice. “Being actively engaged in creating a fairer society, I became intellectually curious about the workings of social structures and culture that advantaged some and disadvantaged others, where these problems were rooted and how to challenge them,” she said. 

8. Her mentors in college led interesting lives. Many were involved in Korean democracy and labor movements and, as a result, served time as political prisoners. “They taught me that knowledge is liberation and helped me become a deep and critical thinker,” she said. 

9. She enjoys collaborating with student researchers. In the interest of teaching her own students to become critical thinkers, Gill has completed several projects as part of the Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). “My favorite thing about partnering with young scholars is seeing them discover their curiosity, interests and talents through the research process,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see their transformation and growth.” 

10. She wants to uplift young women of color. Gill advises her students, particularly those who identify as women of color, to heed the words of Vice President Kamala Harris: “You are powerful and your voice matters. You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or who has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone. We are all in that room with you applauding you on. Cheering your voice. And just so proud of you. So you use that voice and be strong.” 

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