NORMAN— Associate Professor Kyong-Ah Kwon has been named the Drusa B. Cable Chair in Education and Early Childhood Education in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at the University of Oklahoma.
For the past five years, Kwon has served as a faculty member in the JRCoE early childhood education program at OU-Tulsa. Prior to coming to OU, she spent eight years at Georgia State University after receiving her doctoral degree in developmental studies from Purdue University. Kwon also has extensive experience working with children as a teacher in South Korea and the United States. Her research and teaching have focused on children’s social emotional development and learning and how their experiences at home and at school shape their development, especially for infants and toddlers.
“Dr. Kwon is a renowned scholar and leader in early childhood education,” said Stacy Reeder, dean of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education. “We believe her leadership, as the Cable Chair in Education, will serve as a catalyst for moving early childhood education on OU’s Norman campus and in Oklahoma to the best in the nation.”
“I have a vision for OU early childhood education as a national leader in research and early childhood teacher education,” Kwon said. “The state of Oklahoma used to be a pioneering state with respect to early childhood education, as it is one of the first states to launch universal pre-K and a quality rating and improvement system. I want us to work together and work more closely with the State Department of Education to get that fame back to the state. It is an opportune time to start innovation.”
Since 2018, Kwon has led the Happy Teacher Project team, researching early childhood teacher well-being. The team, consisting of seven researchers from such multiple disciplines as physical therapy, educational policy, interior design, public health and nutrition at OU and Johns Hopkins University, has been highly collaborative and productive, publishing seven manuscripts and having five papers under review just in the past year and a half. The team offered practical recommendations for changes at the program and policy levels. The Happy Teacher Project has been recognized by various local, state, national and international organizations as a unique and innovative interdisciplinary research.
The Happy Teacher Project team was invited, along with the research team of the Columbia Medical School, to present at the Office of Head Start at the national level, which may contribute to the policy of Head Start programs to improve the workforce well-being. The team has been extended to include 11 more colleagues from seven disciplines to develop three new projects: a nationwide COVID-19 impact study on teacher well-being, a meta-analysis on teacher well-being with OU Assistant Professor Corey Peltier and Associate Professor Tim Ford, and) a grant proposal to the Administration for Children and Families on the Happy Teacher Wellness Intervention Program.
“Leading and getting involved in this interdisciplinary research is a very eye-opening and transformative experience for me personally as a researcher,” Kwon said. “I not only gained new perspectives and knowledge on advanced conceptualization and methodologies, but also learned how to work with a large group of colleagues from different disciplines effectively and harmoniously. I want to offer more collaborative research and grant opportunities like this to colleagues and students.”