Syracuse University Magazine

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Eunjoo Jung

Honoring Children's Development

Growing up in South Korea as the eldest child in a family that held education in high regard, Professor Eunjoo Jung got an early start on her career as a child development specialist by helping her younger siblings succeed academically. Her professional interest in the study of educational environment began in earnest years later at the Korea Institute for Research and Behavioral Sciences in Seoul, where she conducted research and counseled children from challenged backgrounds. “I observed firsthand how academically intensive school curricula and punitive teaching strategies can create unhealthy learning situations and place intense environmental pressure on children’s learning and development,” says Jung, a faculty member and undergraduate program director in the Falk College Department of Child and Family Studies (CFS). “My work with children at this institute stimulated my interest in understanding children’s learning in different cultures and contexts.”

Jung’s quest to comprehend what parents and educators can do to help children learn and thrive was further strengthened when she moved to the United States to pursue doctoral studies at Illinois State University, bringing her three school-aged children with her. A recipient of the prestigious Holmes Scholarship there, she earned a doctor of education degree in child development and teacher education. She then taught at the University of Louisville before coming to Syracuse in 2009. “As a parent of three English-language learners who were raised in both Asia and the United States, my personal experiences with almost every aspect of childcare arrangements and with working with different educational systems both here and in South Korea have allowed me to gain a unique perspective of the educational and child development cultures in both countries,” says Jung, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in educational psychology from Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

Jung’s research focuses on developing statistical models using large data sets to predict the factors related to positive outcomes in children’s growth and learning. She also collects and analyzes empirical data from future childhood professionals, parents, and children to explore their thoughts about instructional practices and the ways children’s educational and developmental needs can be better addressed. For instance, her recent project studying 1,255 school-aged children examined the relationships among parental involvement, children’s aspirations, and achievement, and revealed that greater parent involvement in school education is related to children’s academic achievement and cognitive development, both directly and indirectly. The study’s results are expected to contribute to the design of intervention and support programs to assist families from diverse backgrounds in discussing how to better guide their children and improve their academic performance.

The exciting part for Jung, she says, is to be able to bridge theory and practice with research. Specifically, she seeks to determine how the theories and new knowledge she produces can be translated into policy implications and practices that inform the educational field. “With several of my students who are all being trained to be strong researchers, we also conduct collaborative research,” says Jung, who is honored to be among her esteemed colleagues in CFS. “We learn new insights from each other, and share our passion for this work.”

Now with her own children grown, Jung’s focus is on grooming her students to be the next generation of childhood professionals, bringing her full circle to the love for education she discovered as a child. “With the high value of education in my family, leading my younger siblings became very natural for me. I did the same as I raised my children,” she says. “And now I sometimes think that, with my students at the University, I become like a sister and a mother again.” —Amy Speach    

Photo by Steve Sartori