University News

Professor Selected for Overseas Leadership Experience

September 29, 2008

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MACOMB, IL -- Nancy Kwang Johnson, an assistant professor in Western Illinois University's African American studies department, will head to North Korea and South Korea Oct. 4-12 as part of a 10-day multicultural experience in conjunction with the Network of Korean-American Leaders (NetKAL).

Kwang Johnson is one of 43 individuals -- one of only two from the state of Illinois -- from across the U.S. to participate in the overseas experience, and is one of 24 enrolled in the current NetKAL Fellowship cohort. The NetKAL program, which is a part of the University of Southern California School of Social Work's Center for Asian-Pacific Leadership, is designed to build a network of second generation Korean-American leaders.

As part of the program, Kwang Johnson and her fellow cohort members have been meeting in New York City once a month since March 2008 for civic and leadership training. Sessions focus on such topics as self-awareness, identity and cross-cultural competency, communication and managing change. The experience culminates with the trip to North Korea and South Korea next month. While in Korea, Kwang Johnson's research will focus on multiracial orphans.

"My NetKAL experience has enabled me to embark upon a soul-searching process in my mother's homeland. The thought of meeting with the prime minister and the president of South Korea, the 'comfort women' survivors and multiracial orphans in a week's time is absolutely mind-boggling and surreal," Kwang Johnson said. "I welcome the prospect of being a cultural ambassador, if you will, for my family, WIU, the state of Illinois and the U.S. Upon returning, I am enthused about the prospect of 'giving back' to Koren American communities at large."

A Brooklyn, NY, native, Johnson pursued her education in her home state, earning her undergraduate degree in political science with a minor in French at Vassar College (1985), where she competed as the No. 2 singles player of the women's tennis team. She received a Master of Arts degree in comparative politics (1995), a Master of Public Administration degree (2001) and her Ph.D. in government (2001) from Cornell University.

She was a campaign volunteer for U.S. Senator Alan Cranston's (D-California) "get-out-the-vote" (GOTV) activities in Los Angeles (1985-1986) and for Walter Fauntroy's GOTV efforts in Washington, D.C. (1990). She also served as a federal caseworker for Sen. Cranston (1986-1987) and as a corporate paralegal at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (1987-1989) in Los Angeles.

Johnson joined the Western Illinois University faculty in fall 2005, after having served as a visiting researcher and instructor at the University of Ottawa where she taught international relations in French. She co-hosts a 30-minute television show, "Fifteen Minutes," on University Television Cable Channel 3. Johnson is the president-elect (2006-2009) of the International Political Science Association's Research Committee on Gender, Globalization and Democratization.

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