| by Jason Warburg

News Stories

Group of people, many wearing military-style uniforms
As part of his role with the Northern Nevada International Center, Kevin Hyunjae Sung MAIEM ’19 (center left, in blue shirt and tie) welcomes participants in a U.S. Department of State program for undergraduate student leaders from Bangladesh, Colombia, Malaysia, and Poland.
 

From learning English as an international student to building connections between climate activists in South Korea and the U.S., Middlebury Institute alumnus Kevin Hyunjae Sung MAIEM ’19 continues to carve a wide path for those following in his footsteps, paying it forward as he goes.
 

A native of the Republic of Korea, Sung traveled to Vancouver in 2012 to study English in preparation for attending college and for professional advancement, but says he left because there were so many fellow Koreans there that he wasn’t getting enough experience outside of class communicating in the new language he wanted to master.

Looking for a midsize city in the West that didn’t have a large Korean population, Sung found Reno and the University of Nevada. “They had an Intensive English Language Center where I took classes that qualified me for direct admission to UNR,” he says. While studying international affairs as an undergraduate, Sung worked at the same center where he had learned English. “That was the moment I got my interest in international education.”

After earning his BA and beginning his graduate studies in educational leadership at UNR, Sung realized he wanted a master’s program with a stronger international focus, and discovered the MA in International Education Management program at MIIS. “The program at MIIS was just what I was looking for, very internationally focused and also very practical.”

 

Even before I graduated, MIIS alumni took the time to provide information and support for me.
 
— Kevin Hyunjae Sung MAIEM ’19

In 2016, during his senior year at UNR, Sung met and then interned with Dr. Carina Black, executive director of the Northern Nevada International Center (NNIC) at UNR, a connection that proved to be critical to his future. “While I was in school at MIIS, Dr. Black called me and said, ‘I heard your curriculum requires a practicum semester. Would you like to come work with us?’” He jumped at the chance. “My practicum for MIIS at NNIC was coordinating an international institute for journalism students from South Korea and assisting members of the U.S. Department of State’s public diplomacy programs.”

Sung’s success in that role led to the creation of a new position at NNIC tailor-made for his skills. Today his title is international development specialist, a role that has provided the opportunity to deepen the connection he personifies between MIIS and NNIC/UNR. Last June when a program he was managing needed interpreters, Sung contacted a friend—MIIS alumna Inyoung Kim MATLM ’20—and was referred to recent graduates Grace Kim MACI ’21 and Taek Min Kim MACI ’21, who handled interpretation for a key online meeting. This opened the door for further collaboration. With NNIC seeking to expand its focus on programs operating in Asia, Sung spearheaded the preparation of a proposal for a planned exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to bring young climate activists from South Korea to meet with their counterparts in the U.S.

MAIEM alumni Kevin Sung
Kevin Hyunjae Sung MAIEM ’19
 

“My colleagues and I worked on the proposal, submitted it, and just a couple of days later we got an email congratulating us from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. We were very happy!” says Sung. “This funding was only offered to one organization in either country, and we were chosen.” The program is designed to bring the Korean climate activists to three cities in the U.S. for meetings—Washington, D.C.; Boulder, Colorado; and Reno, Nevada—but funding for the program was recently increased to support a full exchange, with the U.S. delegation also traveling to the Republic of Korea. When these exchanges take place in summer and fall 2022, the delegations will be accompanied by two interpreters, who Sung expects will again be MIIS alumni. “This is the exact thing my position was created to do—find new opportunities and make them happen.”

Sung and his colleagues were surprised to learn about the origins of the program they were chosen to manage. “In our first administrative meeting with the U.S. Embassy Seoul staff, they told us that the program we will be managing was actually established in the agreement signed between U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-In when they met at the White House this May,” says Sung. “They want to expand the traditional focus on security in the alliance to also include economic cooperation and cooperation on climate change issues.”

Master’s Program Equipped Him to Take Advantage of Career Opportunities

Sung credits his experience at MIIS with broadening his perspective and equipping him to take advantage of these sorts of unique opportunities. “My classes provided me with practical skills to write proposals and find funding resources, and helped me envision how to approach creating international exchange programs.” He cites his independent study with Professor Katherine Punteney, an educational diplomacy course taught by Professir Chris McShane and Professor Anne Campbell, a marketing and recruiting course with Professor David Wick, a design and assessment class with Professor Daniel Chatham, and a logic model course with Professor Paige Butler as key building blocks.

His affection for MIIS doesn’t end with his professors. “I have been getting a lot of support from MIIS alumni. They are everywhere!” he says, laughing. (As if to prove his point, it turns out that his professor-turned-supervisor Carina Black’s son-in-law is a current student at MIIS, Jaime Gonzalez Canon MAIEP ’23.). He emphasizes how important this network has been for him: “Even before I graduated, MIIS alumni took the time to provide information and support for me.” Having benefited from the advice and support of others, Sung is now determined to pay it forward by helping to create new opportunities for MIIS students and alumni.