Passion for social change recognized with national teaching award

Human and Social Development

- Kate Hildebrandt

Child and Youth Care professor Jin-Sun Yoon wins prestigious national teaching award.

“I’m an accidental academic; I never planned to be here,” says Jin-Sun Yoon, teaching professor with the University of Victoria’s School of Child and Youth Care (CYC). Yoon's path to professorship has been paved with the same whole-person commitment that has led her to become recognized for her transformative teaching career—selected as one of 10 university educators across Canada to receive this year’s prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship.

Yoon's reputation for continually challenging herself has been balanced with inspiration from and collaborative work with a devoted network of current and former students, mentors, friends and colleagues. Together, they re-imagine education in context and in its symbiotic relationship with social service praxis.

“I appreciated being respectfully challenged to recognize how my social location was implicated in my thought and practice,” says former student, Scott Kouri. “I particularly appreciate that Professor Yoon emphasized her own ancestry, which in turn helped me to speak about my family, our history and our ancestry.”

It was a serendipitous event in 1998 that brought her to UVic. Invited to give a talk at the Women’s Centre on anti-racism, a sociology professor in the audience encouraged and invited her to teach at UVic—an opportunity she treated as an “academic gig” while continuing to work as a counsellor in the community. Four years later, a CYC student urged Jin-Sun to apply for a faculty position that had come up at the School of Child and Youth Care. Impressed that her wide range of work experience as a practitioner would be valued to inform her teaching, she applied.

Thirteen years later, Yoon's transformative pedagogy is still focused on the future. 

“The ideal form of activism is to teach future practitioners who in turn influence the next generation,” she notes. “It’s the perfect way to make the greatest impact.” She talks of the strength and courage required to learn how to speak one’s truth, to face realities of globalization and environmental degradation, and to tackle huge subjects such as racism, homophobia, sexism, and colonialism. At the centre of her teaching is a particular attention to the relationship between settlers and Indigenous peop#8804; she sees this recognition as a foundation for all social justice work in Canada.

Accordingly, she ‘walks the talk.’ A devoted activist, her voice is heard at the tables of many decision-makers and advocates at UVic and across the community. At UVic, she serves as Co-Chair of the Minority and Indigenous Women Instructor’s Network, is an active member of the Provost Diversity and Equity Committee, and is on the President’s University Human Rights Committee. She is well known as a fierce advocate for meaningful student and community engagement and representation.

The roots of Yoon’s activism run deep in her own life experience. She came to Canada from South Korea at age five with her mother and two sisters, leaving behind a large extended family. In 1967 Canadian immigration laws changed, lifting bans on “undesirable” countries, making it possible for them to join her father, who had successfully completed his medical degree in Vancouver.

Responding to the assimilationist practices of those times, she stopped speaking completely during the first six months she was in Canada —determined to begin again by speaking only fluent English. Her observational skills not only helped her survive overt racism while growing up, but also led her to pay acute attention during the four years she worked and traveled abroad. For instance, her path to graduate school at UBC was inspired while on a seven-day ride on the Trans-Siberia train.

She’s continually fuelled by an insatiable curiosity to figure out why people do what they do, she says, “I am driven to understand the psychology of race, racialization and radicalization.” Most of all, she says she feels responsible to remove barriers for others and lift others up, “just as my mentors have done for me.”

“The rich learning opportunities Jin-Sun makes available to her students and the community affects the university directly and in an essential way,” says UVic President Jamie Cassels, who also received a 3M teaching award in 2002. Cassels enthusiastically endorsed Yoon's nomination, citing her many contributions to UVic’s learning environment and the communities beyond. “Indeed, she is one of the precious, vital links that in the words of inclusive community members, established UVic as ‘our university.’”



3M Fellowship

The community of 3M National Teaching Fellows, created in 1986 by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada, embodies the highest ideals of teaching excellence and scholarship with a commitment to encourage and support the educational experience of every learner.

Past recipients at UVic include:

  • Dr. A.R. “Elango” Elangovan—Business, 2012.
  • Dr. Gweneth Doane—Nursing, 2006.
  • Prof. Jamie Cassels—Law, 2002.
  • Dr. Marty Wall—Psychology, 2001.
  • Dr. Aaron Devor—Sociology, 2000.
  • Dr. David Berry—Chemistry, 2000.
  • Dr. Tom Cleary—English, 1994.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Tumasonis—Art History, 1992.
  • Dr. Andy Farquharson—Social Work, 1986.


In this story

Keywords: 3M National Teaching Award, teaching, 3M, award, child and youth care

People: Jin-Sun Yoon

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