By Lindsay McNeish
On Friday, March 24, Dr. Hye Seung Chung was awarded the Alumnus of the Year for UCLA’s Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media at the 2017 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference held in Chicago. Established in 2012, the award has been presented to seven other scholars including world-renowned film scholars such as Eric Smoodin, Lea Jacobs, and Hamid Naficy.
“This award was really unexpected,” said Dr. Chung. “The program at UCLA is very strong and has generated many distinguished graduates. Being selected, honored, and reconnected with my alumni is an honor.”
Dr. Chung started loving films as a child, partially influenced by her father, a big classical cinema fan. She completed her undergraduate degree in Korea, majoring in English and studying film studies on her own. At the time, film studies was not an academically respected discipline in Korea. More “practical” majors included acting and directing.
“I came to the United States just to study film, especially classic Hollywood film,” Chung said in a recent interview. “UCLA really focuses on American Film History. I came to learn about my favorite Hollywood stars and discrimination, segregation, and racial politics in film.” According to Chung, she knew more about American Film History than her U.S. classmates. “That’s how much I self-studied in Korea!”
Dr. Chung came to CSU in 2011 as a film studies scholar, and teaches a variety of courses, including history and appreciation of film, film and social change, and Asians in the U.S. media.
“My love, my heart belongs to American film history, but probably the most important class I teach is film and social change,” said Chung. “With film, I can provide materials that connect to students on a deeper level. You can learn about issues academically, but when you read it there is distance. You process it in your head, but not your heart. However, when you see images, it makes a difference.” Generating an awareness of social issues through film is at the heart of Chung’s purpose as a teacher and scholar.
Looking back on her time at UCLA and the honor she’s been presented, Chung said she owes her biggest thanks to her Ph.D. advisor Dr. Chon Noriega. “He’s a towering intellectual and advocate for the Chicano/a community, who hopefully visits us for the Gravlee lecture next month,” Chung said. “I am also indebted to two of my inside dissertation members: Dr. Peter Wollen and Dr. Nick Brown, who are both pioneering film theorists who helped shape the field. And although she was not my committee member, I was greatly influenced by Dr. Kathleen McHugh and feminist film theory seminar.”
Congratulations again Dr. Chung on receiving the Alumnus of the Year for UCLA Department of FIlm, Television, and Digital Media!