New Simpson professor brings unique perspective to students

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by Courtney Kirkland, contributor from the Newswriting and Reporting class

Eun Hee Shin knows exactly when she decided to teach religion.

“When I was young, in high school, I heard some kind of spiritual sound-a supernatural experience if you will,” she said. “I saw a figure while I was in a half-conscious, half-dreaming state.”

That vision, along with the influences of her brother and grandfather, are among the things that inspired the Korean native and new religion faculty member at Simpson to pursue a career in religion.

Shin is experiencing what Americans might call the best of both worlds.

Because teachers are considered the emotional and spiritual leaders of students in Korea, Shin said she entered the teachers college in Soung Myung, South Korea, proud of her career ambition.

Yet after receiving her bachelor of arts degree in 1991, Shin – saying she has always been “spiritually sensitive” – decided to pursue her passion for religion. She set out as a Christian Protestant missionary and spent the next two years in south Asia, learning English while there.

A short time after Shin finished her missionary work, her sister married a Canadian man and the entire Shin family immigrated to Canada.

Shin finished learning English at the University of Toronto and graduated in 2000 with a doctorate in religion. She taught at Ohio Northern University, another United Methodist-afiliated school, for one year before coming to Simpson this fall.

Shin said that she’s lucky to be able to work in the United States.

“In the United States there is a need for Asian Religion teachings, as well as the need for the teaching of multiculturalism,” said Shin.

Shin said she enjoys living in the United States. Although she says that she’s never felt isolated, she was presented with challenges in the beginning.

“American society is very individualistic,” she said. “At first it was hard for me to claim my own rights. Asian culture is very community-oriented, while America is more a person to person-environment. I had to adjust, because society was not going to change.”

Teaching in the United States is also different for Shin.

American education relies on rational and analytical thinking, she said. That differs from Asia, where Confucian thinking is practiced, and Korea, where teacher-student relationships are more personal.

“In America, students pay tuition and the instructor provides a service for them,” she said.

Shin said she hopes to develop into a better thinker, writer and teacher. She said that teaching tolerance and acceptance of more than one religion is one of her most valued goals.

Shin said she has enjoyed her time at Simpson and the United States, especially valuing what she called Simpson’s “intimate small community.” She said she enjoys conversations with her colleagues and learning about American students’ world views.

Students and colleagues said Shin has been a welcome addition to the campus this fall.

“It is nice to learn and listen to someone who I identify with, someone who is living here and adjusting, yet also feeling things from another cultural perspective,” said sophomore Inanc Karacaylak, a Turkish student at Simpson College.

“She brings a first-person perspective from a different culture to Simpson students, which serves as an important contribution to our campus,” said Gary Kinkel, associate professor of religion. “She sees the world through Korean eyes, which is something we need at Simpson and have needed in our department.”