Chang Geun Yoo

Chang Geun Yoo

The SUNY-ESF assistant professor, Chang Geun Yoo, grew up near a trade port in South Korea, which sparked a desire to travel and later attend Iowa State University to study biofuels.
Published: June 11, 2021

Chang Yoo

Chang Geun Yoo, an assistant chemical engineering professor at SUNY-ESF, was ecstatic when asked to participate in this project. He jumped at the chance to help tell more stories of Asian people in the United States.

He said telling these stories is necessary for combating stereotypes and biases that both Asian and Asian Americans face. For example, second-and third-generation Asian Americans have told him people still ask where in Asia they’re from.

“Those questions, sometimes it’s okay, but it can be very aggressive to some American people,” Yoo said. “But you know, there is no way to figure it out with appearance. So there could be the reason why we have this kind of issue.”

Yoo grew up in Busan, Korea, located on the country’s southeastern border. His hometown is a trade port between Japan and Korea, which exposed him to Japanese culture and that of other countries trading there as well.

This exposure sparked a desire to explore outside the trade port of his hometown. Yoo studied chemical engineering at Hanyang University and later attended Iowa State University to study biofuels due to the colossal amount of agricultural crops in the state.

Yoo said he didn’t experience much of a culture shock because he was used to other cultures. In Iowa, Yoo befriended other international students having African American, Chinese and Mexican roommates, whose language and culture he had to learn.

“I’ve been in Japan for three years, I’ve been in Australia for a few months and I’ve traveled to many European countries. I didn’t have a home theater and as a kid, I had to learn some culture because of communication,” she said.

Yoo then stayed in the U.S. to study its resources, which South Korea didn’t have as much of, as a smaller country. He became a professor due to the influence of his parents and uncles who are all professors.

“If you are surrounded by those people, you can easily go to that area because of them,” he said.

Yoo joined SUNY-ESF’s Department of Chemical Engineering in 2018 and became a professor to follow in his family’s footsteps. He pointed out that the number of international students at SUNY-ESF is lower than other schools he’s worked at like the University of Tennessee. He said he’s never heard major concerns from international students at the university but said from his experience, the low international student population may deter these students from socializing with local students and possibly worsen the communication between diverse groups of students.

He said the best way to increase inclusivity within and outside campus is more interaction between groups so that they can better understand each other, just like he did with his roommates and friends at Iowa State.

“We need to understand each other. So to understand each other, the best solution is to be exposed and hang out with each other. With more experience, then you will have more understanding of other people.”

From Asia to Syracuse

How six professors from China, South Korea and Sri Lanka found a home in Syracuse, and what they’ve learned during their professional journey.