Business professor traded South Korea for South Dakota

Business professor traded South Korea for South Dakota
Jaekyo Seo. Photo by Camryn Hay

Jaekyo Seo is teaching his second semester at Augustana this spring, bringing with him over a decade of business experience from South Korea and a welcoming spirit in the classroom.

Right out of college, Seo initially wanted to work as a producer at a television station in South Korea, but did not score high enough on his exams to get a job. Instead, he started working in sales and worked his way through the business world from marketing to human resources.

Seo has spent much of his adult life working for Johnson & Johnson in both sales and human resources in South Korea. While working there, he went back to school to pursue a master’s degree part-time.

After completing his master’s degree, Seo decided he wanted a career change. Seo found he enjoyed helping other people progress while working as a human development manager. His desire to help others led him to pursue employment as a professor.

Jaekyo Seo and his family visit Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills National Park. Photo submitted by Jaekyo Seo.

“I used to teach a lot of courses at my workplace,” Seo said. “I realized that people can change through teaching and learning and that teaching is a very beneficial and valuable job.”

Seo decided to go back to school to pursue a doctoral degree at age 40. When choosing a school, Seo chose to attend the University of Minnesota, rather than an institution closer to home.

“I wanted to broaden my perspective — one way is to live in another country,” Seo said.

The transition from living in Seoul to Minneapolis,and finally to Sioux Falls has not been without challenges. For Seo, one of the downsides to living in smaller cities is having less variety in grocery stores and struggling to find the foods he likes to eat.

Seo taught his first classes here this past fall. He says all of his classes are his favorite to teach, although he thinks he is best at teaching human resources because of his extensive experience working in the field.

Seo’s classes stand out for their focus on collaboration and group work.

“I’m very lucky to see what passion in a career field looks like,” said Molly Boyum, a student in Seo’s business ethics class. “It’s definitely really cool to see someone who is not only excited to talk about what he knows but also who’s always just super excited to see us. It’s fun to go into a classroom where you feel like someone’s excited to see you.”

Boyum and Devon Jones, both in business ethics, described Seo as a friendly, caring professor who makes his lessons easy to understand.

Professory Jaekyo Seo camps in the Black Hills with his family. Photo courtesy of Jaekyo Seo.

“The atmosphere in Dr. Seo’s class is inviting. I say this because although he lectures, he allows for our opinions to be heard,” Jones said.

Outside of teaching, Seo enjoys hiking and camping with his wife and two children. He started five years ago after he moved to Minneapolis with his family when his neighbor invited him and has continued to go each summer since.

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