Dr. Junghwa Suh kicks off every semester with students by sharing this quote: “Happiness is the new rich. Inner peace is the new success. Health is the new wealth. Kindness is the new cool.” – Unknown.
Suh, an associate professor of Environmental + Interior Design at Chaminade, said her goal is to help students understand that success in life comes from “embracing differences,” helping those around you grow right along with you, and working to be thankful everyday for all that you have.
Those are lessons Suh also takes to heart in her own work.
And her commitment to not only her research but the craft of teaching has earned her this year’s prestigious Father John F. Bolin Excellence in Scholarship award, which recognizes full-time faculty who have made notable academic and professional contributions to the University.
Suh, who received her doctoral degree in Architecture from the University of Hawaii in 2013, has an interdisciplinary background that also includes research in interior design, mathematics and fine arts.
She said in her teaching, she’s sought to challenge students to see the relationships between architecture and the urban-scape with sustainable, interdisciplinary and tech-driven design strategies.
“I encourage our students to think about design with people, culture, climate, and environmental contexts in mind,” Suh said, adding that she wants to help students become versatile designers who can connect the theory they learn with innovative practice. “It is crucial to educate our future designers to analyze and synthesize design solutions in the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary way.”
Suh helps bring theory alive with innovative techniques of her own.
She uses digital and social media tools with her students, seeks to extend learning outside the classroom, incorporates hands-on and project-based learning into lessons, and looks for opportunities that allow students to learn from each other as they think through a tough problem.
Suh is also passionate about fostering empathy in her students. They have to understand that design really is about people. Once they do that, “they are better able to understand the project and clients.”
As part of receiving the Bolin award, Suh received $1,500 and her photo displayed permanently in the Sullivan Family Library. But the real reward, Suh said, is the recognition and support from her colleagues.
“My time at Chaminade University has been a period of tremendous growth as a versatile instructor, curriculum and course designer, and scholar in innovative research, creative activity, and service,” Suh said. “This recognition encourages me to do more meaningful and innovative work for our students.”