EP2: On Writing & Joining a Scholarly Conversation with Dr. Stephanie K. Kim

There is a story behind every scholar. 

Welcome to Global Scholar Stories, a podcast by the Journal of International Students. We share the personal stories of scholars behind their research in international education.

From this episode, we will have Seasons with unique themes. In Season 1, we will explore how scholars develop their relationship with writing. Whether you are someone who loves to write or whether you are someone like me who needs a lot of time and cups of tea to write — writing is a major part of what we do as graduate students and as professionals. 

Writing is also a way to share our work and connect with others. So how do scholars become writers? In Season 1, we will have a series of conversations with our guests on how they developed their relationship with writing to become authentic and strong writers in the field of international education. 

In this episode, I am joined by Dr. Stephanie K. Kim, an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University and the Senior Editor of JIS. Her research focuses on internationalization reforms in higher education, international student mobility, and comparative education policy. 

In this conversation, Dr. Kim will help us demystify what goes on behind the scenes in academic publishing and how to integrate your authentic self into writing. So let’s dive in.

Asuka Ichikawa: Alright, welcome back to the show, Stephanie.

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Thank you. Asuka.

Asuka Ichikawa: Thank you so much for being back on the show. We are really great to have you again. Before we dive into our conversation, I just wanted to note that we are recording this on February 25th, the second day of the attack on Ukraine by the Russian military. And so we wanted to take a moment to express our concerns and send our thoughts to those who are in Ukraine right now. 

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for raising that Asuka. Certainly, this is a difficult time for the people in Ukraine and our thoughts and prayers are with them…

Asuka Ichikawa: With that, we'd like to begin our conversation for this episode, which is mostly about, academic writing and the journey behind that. 

So in our global connections newsletter, you've shared how you've imagined being a writer as a child and eventually pursued an academic career because that will also give you the creative outlet. In your journey in becoming a scholar, could you tell us about how your relationship with writing evolved over time?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Yeah. Thank you so much for raising the question. I'm really excited to be here, Asuka. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Um, you know, writing to me was something that I was drawn to by default. So I'm not a particularly talkative person. I wasn't born with the gift of gab. Even in this podcast medium I feel incredibly anxious and out of my comfort zone. 

But, the writing presented a way for someone like me to express myself more fully and at my own pace. Even though I sometimes imagined myself as a writer when I was a child, I didn't really take myself as one, all that seriously. More than a writer I thought of myself as a reader. I read a lot as a child and in college. I majored in English literature mainly because I just enjoyed reading. And when I did write, it was whenever the mood struck as a creative outlet like you mentioned. So I used to write stories and essays for my own amusement. Like many people in the early two-thousands, I kept a blog for a number of years. Really I just wrote whenever inspiration struck, but I would hardly have called myself a writer. 

My relationship to writing evolved when I became a grad student and was writing my dissertation. So for most graduate students, that's the first time that you're producing an original work of considerable length and substance. And certainly, that was the case for me. And it was also really, really hard. And it's then that I realized that I couldn't just write whenever I felt like it because I never would have finished my dissertation that way. I had to treat writing as a job. 

There are days when the last thing I want to do is sit down and write. I can find a million excuses not to write. For example, I can always use teaching or meetings as a pretty good excuse not to write, but once I understood that writing is just, more than inspiration, it's also just sheer determination. That's when I started to think of myself as a writer and that's not to say that writing became less enjoyable for me.

I mean, if we're being totally honest, any writer will tell you, there's actually nothing enjoyable about the act of writing in and of itself. You sit there alone in front of a computer for hours, everything hurts. Your back hurts your shoulders hurt your brain hurts. Your ego hurts. It sucks, but I'm convinced that writing is 10% talent and 90% perseverance. You write not because you can, but because you have to, and you have to dedicate a certain amount of focus, time, and energy to do it because that's the only way writing gets done. 

So for me, I dedicate two hours every morning to writing. I block off my calendar for that time every Monday through Friday. I decline other appointments and treat my writing as a standing appointment. And I find that to be more effective than blocking off, say an entire day, once or twice a week, because there's a startup cost for me when I take some time away from writing and return to it later. And I might still block off an entire day to writing if and when I have the time and energy. So sometimes I have good days. I can produce pages of texts that I'm happy with other days I've probably deleted more writing than I've written, but, regardless, I think it's important for me to dedicate that time in a consistent way and so that's my approach to writing.

Asuka Ichikawa: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you for speaking your heart out about this writing process, which can be painful physically and mentally, but also, your sheer determination to go through this. Also thank you for sharing some routine advice. 

Now that you have become a scholar, how do you write both as a scholar and also as a creative writer?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Yeah, to be perfectly honest, I don't differentiate much in my writing style for academic versus general audiences and maybe that's to my detriment. I don't know. Ultimately I don't think academic writing needs to be dressed up for lack of a better term. I write simply, which actually requires a considerable amount of complexity, ironically, there's a lot of thought that goes on behind simple writing. 

What is different about my approach to academic writing though, is the baseline knowledge that I assume that the reader already has. So when I'm writing other scholars, I can refer to certain terminology or frameworks without having to overexplain.

And just to give you a concrete example, I might use the term positionality and not have to explain that it means the social, cultural, and political context that creates our   class, race, and gender identity. That's just a commonly understood term, at least within the scholarly community I engage with. When I'm writing for a more general audience, I put a lot more focus on the tangible effects that my writing will have what's the lesson that I want to instill, or the action item that I want to happen, or the feeling that I want to leave a reader with and whether it's an opinion piece or a policy paper, or a reflective piece about my family or something personal, I'm much more concerned with the imprint I leave behind more than the idea that I want to convey.

I think ultimately though, whether it's for an academic or a general audience, the most important thing is to write for the reader. I used to teach academic writing courses and, those of us who have taught writing called this reader-centered writing. Ultimately you want to produce writing that responds to the reader's needs.

Asuka Ichikawa: That is brilliant to hear. You've mentioned, for example, your recent really beautiful and resilient piece about your deceased aunt, Dr. JaHyun Kim Haboush. And this is, a very different type of writing than academic writing, as you mentioned and I was just wondering, how was this process like?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: I think that particular piece started with a feeling that I had internalized and that I wanted to convey to the reader. I wanted to convey what I was feeling in a way that the reader could understand too. I mean, ultimately I missed my aunt. She was a very important influential figure in my life and I wrote that one from the heart to really express that.

Asuka Ichikawa: Thank you very much for sharing such a personal piece to a wider audience. Part of this podcast that we're aiming to do is to really, connect with the personal side of scholars, as human beings and so thank you so much for that. I will put a link to this piece on the website so that people can also read it as well.

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Thank you.

Asuka Ichikawa: And, for anyone who may be new to academic publishing, whether as a first-generation student or international student, perhaps, could you share some insights on how and why being published matters and what goes on behind this publication process of academic journals?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Sure. I like to think of publishing as joining a conversation. What is it that you want to say? How do you want to say it and who do you want to say it to? And then this is what I tell students and others who are trying to publish something for the first time. Publishing allows you to be part of the scholarly conversation.

Now in terms of what happens behind the scenes during the publication process, every journal is a little bit different, but I can tell you what happens at JIS, just in a step-by-step process. So first a manuscript is submitted. It gets initially screened by the Managing Editor, just to make sure that it meets all the minimum requirements. Then it goes to the Editor-In-Chief who reviews the submissions and makes a determination about a paper's relevance and quality. And at this stage, a paper is being evaluated on whether there's a clear connection to the aims and scopes of the journal. And there are two things that can happen from here.

The manuscript script can get desk rejected or it's assigned to an Associate Editor. Once it's assigned to an Associate Editor, then it goes through another layer of review. And the Associate Editor is most concerned with whether a manuscript makes a new and demonstrably significant advancement in research on international students.

If the Associate Editor doesn't believe it does so then it gets desk rejected at that stage. But if it potentially does, then it goes out for review. We Associate Editors will assign three reviewers to evaluate the manuscripts. And one of the reviewers is drawn from the pool of Assistant Editors.

Assistant Editors are essentially powerhouse reviewers who Associate Editors can rely on to make quality reviews. And the other two reviewers are drawn from the journal's database of reviewers, or perhaps even the Associate Editor’s professional networks. Once the reviews come back, the Associate Editor makes a decision on the manuscript and typically it will be either revise and resubmit or reject.

It could be accepted though. It just, in my own experience, I've never encountered a manuscript that was accepted without revisions. I'm sure it happens. I've just personally never seen it. So the Associate Editor’s decision is based on the reviewer's comments, but ultimately is that person's professional evaluation and they may follow what the reviewers recommended, they may not, they might make a different decision. And there are also times when an Associate Editor has to make a decision when the reviewers have made very, very different recommendations. So for an author, getting a revise and resubmit is actually a very positive indication. It means that the journal is interested and seeing the manuscript improve for potential publication. 

But even if the manuscript is rejected, I wouldn't take that as the end of the road. I would say, reflect on the feedback that comes with a rejection and use it as an opportunity to rework the manuscript for submission elsewhere. I like to think of rejection as a positive sign. It means that you're pushing your boundaries and maximizing your opportunities. Because if your manuscript is never rejected, it means you're not actually putting your work out there enough.

Asuka Ichikawa: Um-hum. I'm also wondering, for those who may be new to publishing, what does being published mean in this academic journey?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim:   Publishing allows you to be part of the scholarly conversation. So it's really being able to engage with other scholars whose work that, that you read and cite and incorporate into your own work and adding to that conversation by bringing in your own unique perspectives and insights.

Just from personal experience, I'm always flattered when I see, my work cited in someone else's work, or even when I get an email from someone saying hey, I really liked your work on such and such. And I cited it in my own work and my dissertation, for example, and they send me a copy of their dissertation. I mean, that's always flattering to any scholar and, and that's really what the publishing process does. It gets you both recognized by the scholars whom you want to engage and lets you join that conversation.

Asuka Ichikawa: Thank you for that. 

On publishing, we do have a question from our audience. This is from Marisa Lally, a Ph.D. student at Boston College. And she asks, what are the recommendations for ordering authorship when working as equally as possible with a peer?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: That's a tricky question and I'll share what worked for me though I'm going to caveat that and say that it's different for different people in situations. So the greatest advantage to co-authoring is that you have double the brainpower. So why not double the output, map out at least two different publications that you can produce, each one that speaks to each person's different strengths and you can switch who gets first authorship between the two different papers. I will say that the most important thing is to set clear expectations of authorship before you start writing. I've always established those parameters first before agreeing to coauthor anything. Of course the greatest disadvantage to co-authoring is also that it's extremely complicated and two different people are not always going to see eye to eye on the same issue. Especially in qualitative research and they might also have different working styles. And so for that reason, I've also turned down opportunities to co-author when everything didn't align perfectly and that happens. And it's important to make an honest assessment before you start writing.

Asuka Ichikawa: Um-hum. Do you mind if I ask, what kind of things go into these expectations? 

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: I think ultimately it's how, how you want the argument to shape up in a particular, for example, journal article. Both authors really have to be on the same page about the argument that they want to advance.

Asuka Ichikawa: Um-hum. Maybe this is also about how to order names, but for example, there's double sort of first authors or first, second, how does that play out in higher education or international education field?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: It matters more in science journals, the very strict ordership of authoring. Than I think it does in a field like education or social science, where certainly it helps to be first author, but there's a lot of collaborative work that also happens. And, you can make an equal contribution, not necessarily as first author. But I think that’s just making sure that those expectations are set out from the beginning, not having this conversation after paper is drafted and then, doing that out after the fact.

Asuka Ichikawa: Um-hum. Definitely, because you want to stay in a good sort of relationship with your collaborators and, I think, yes, setting expectations at the start might help.


Asuka Ichikawa: I am very excited for your forthcoming book from MIT Press titled Making Global Students: How Universities Shape Student Mobility Across Berkeley and Seoul – If the title hasn't changed from what it was, and, I hope it is correct, but, could you provide sort of a sneak peek into the book?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Yeah, absolutely. So the title actually has changed. yeah, no, no worries. My, my reviewers universally hated my last title. So I, and the book has actually gone through four or five different titles since I started writing it. So anyway, the title now is Constructing Student Mobility: How Universities Shape Pathways Between Berkeley and Seoul.

And I use the term constructing to refer specifically to how universities create the very pathways that allow students to be mobile in the first place. And it ties into a larger metaphor of the infrastructure of global higher education and student supply chains, where universities funnel students in one direction or another based on market demands. And so the book is about the considerable lengths to which universities will go to draw in international students in pursuit of profit and prestige.

And what's unique about the book is that it centers on universities rather than students as the most important actors and understanding international student mobility. And I focus on two universities, one in Berkeley and the other in Seoul. That turned to international students as a kind of financial panacea after the Great Recession.

Why I focus on these two universities is because they're a part of higher education sectors that either has a notably large number of inbound mobile students. For example, in the case of California or a notably large number of outbound mobile students, for example, in the case of South Korea and I spent years doing multi-sided field work in both California and South Korea. I also studied and worked at universities in both those places. And I unravel what happened at these two universities in Berkeley and in Seoul and to the students who attended them during the 2010s, which was this incredibly turbulent decade for higher education.

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: And so the book will come out in the spring of 2023. I'm really excited. It feels far away, but it's probably just around the corner and I'll be sure to share more information on the date draws nearer.

Asuka Ichikawa: That'll be super wonderful. Thank you so much. 

On the topic of the book, we actually have another question from our audience. This is from Tessa DeLaquil, a Ph.D. student at Boston College, and also the same question from Hannah Hou, a Ph.D. candidate at Old Dominion University. And their question is this one. How do you decide when to publish from your dissertation research? This could be during Ph.D. or afterward and in what the modality in terms of articles or a book?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Yeah, I would say. You are ready to publish from your dissertation research when you have an argument because when you have an argument, you have a journal article, and this typically happens after you finished collecting data, completed the fieldwork and drafted at least one dissertation chapter that's not your lit review or your methods chapter. 

So I will also say that journal articles are, actually very constricting mediums though. They're quite different than a dissertation chapter in that they really only have the ability to explore a single topic and an argument. And they're also rather formulaic. And so they typically do one of the following. One, they eliminate a phenomenon that's never been looked at before. Two, they revisit something that's already been studied with a novel framework or three, they make a critique on someone else's work or an existing framework. And they also need to clearly articulate the larger conversation that they're situated within.

When crafting a journal article out of a dissertation chapter, be clear about the conversation you're joining. Target your manuscript for that scholarly audience that you want to write for. And this is the most important aspect of crafting a journal article. That's very different from a dissertation chapter, which is more focused on showing that you have a command of relevant literature.

As for when to publish a book, I think that's very field-specific. So in the field of education, it's very article-driven. So turning your dissertation into a book, it's not something that's immediately expected right away, anyway. And certainly for me, I didn't really start thinking about writing a book until at least four or five years past the dissertation. Um, at that time, I was much more focused on publishing journal articles out of my dissertation chapters. 

Now that I've actually written a book, I find that I've become very much a book person, meaning that I like the medium that it allows me to, it allows me to write a little bit more freely than a journal article that it's a bit more constricting. And I know that might be strange to say that I'm a book person, even though I'm a journal editor, but, um, but for me, I didn't start even thinking about the book until several years out. It's going to be different for different scholars in different fields though.

Asuka Ichikawa: Um-hum. 

In our last episode, you've shared what is special about your role as a Senior Editor at JIS in terms of identifying and providing feedback to new authors with potentially promising manuscripts, but perhaps something that needs more of a lift and editing so they could get a chance to resubmit. And to me, this sounds like a kind of work that calls for patients and passion for mentorship. I'm wondering what motivates you to support these emerging scholars?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Yeah, well, I research and write about how the recession affected higher education, but it also really affected my own personal journey and how I ended up doing what I'm doing today. So you know in 2008, I finished a master's program in global affairs. And at that time I had ambitions to find a job in international relations and I would become a world traveler and so forth.

But of course the 2008 financial crisis. We were right in the middle of it, it was the absolute worst time to graduate and look for a job. I did end up finding a job, which was teaching English language classes to adult learners in the Chinatown community of New York City, which was where I was living at that time. Absolutely no teaching experience at that point, my only qualification was that I was a native English speaker, but I needed a job and they needed to hire someone. And there I was. So from that experience, especially when I realized that all of my students were significantly older than me, also college-educated, but here I was standing as the teacher, the authority figure in the classroom by virtue of my linguistic ability.

And that's when I started to ask a lot of questions about power and privilege and language and education. And that all eventually led me to pursuing a Ph.D. in education. And I think that early teaching experience also shaped how I approach academic publishing as well. And my reasons for wanting to support emerging scholars, I'm very aware of the structural conditions that advantage some individuals over others and that's why I was excited to carve out this new role of Senior Editor to support emerging scholars.

Asuka Ichikawa: Thank you so much. And, I'm curious to know, how you've mentioned, how your intersectional identities, impact your work as a scholar today?

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Sure. And that's actually a hard question. So I'm going to answer it the best way I can. 

I consider intersectionality a core part of who I am. So I'm bi-cultural I'm of Korean heritage and grew up in the U S. I'm bilingual. I grew up in a bilingual household. I'm also bi-coastal. I grew up on both East and West coast and I feel equally at home in both places. So I think it was only natural that I became interested in questions of identity, belongingness, mobility, migration.

And that's really how I became interested in researching the pathways of international students. I was drawn to these larger questions, even though I personally, at that time, I wasn't an international student myself. I was briefly an international student during grad school. I was a Fulbright student at Yonsei University in South Korea from 2011 to 2012. And that was an interesting experience in and of itself to be Korean American in a South Korean university, but that's a different, that's a different tangent. 

Asuka Ichikawa: Another episode for that. And I'd love to, but yes.

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Uh, I am very interested in seeing work that makes a unique intervention in certain intersectional identities. So for example, How can we think about international student experiences? Not just in terms of students moving from one direction or another from, for example, east to west or south to north, but in more multi-directional ways, for example, I've read some really fascinating work about Mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong universities or, Indonesian students in Japanese universities. There's also a lot of fascinating scholarship that's come out recently on the intersections of international student mobility and diaspora formation. So what are the theoretical and practical implications of not just when students go abroad, but when they stay or return home and on actually that same note, I am very interested in theoretical frameworks that also have these real-world applications. So for example, right now at my university, I'm currently co-chairing this international student working group. The goal of the group is to put forward these policies that better support international students at our university and one of the questions that our group has grappled with is when is an international student? So does one become an international student even before enrolling? What about after graduation? So the concept of time and temporality is a theoretical framework in international student mobility is really intriguing to me and one that I think also has very important policy implications.

Asuka Ichikawa: That is brilliant to hear. Personally, I'm very interested in hearing more about how this project that you're co-chairing develops. And I think it's fascinating to see that from a theoretical perspective. I think we're approaching the end of the program so far, but I was wondering if you had any sort of final thoughts you wanted to add or…

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: I hope this was helpful. 

Asuka Ichikawa: Yes, this is, this was so amazing. You've shared so much. And so I just wanted to wholeheartedly thank you again for sharing generous guidance around the world of academic publishing and how to connect your personal side into this process as well. And, thank you for those of you who posted your questions for Dr. Kim, and please continue to take part in co-creating this podcast.

Dr. Stephanie K. Kim: Thank you so much Asuka this was a lot of fun.

JIS is an open-access journal that empowers the voices of international students around the world. We would like to thank the generous institutional sponsorship of the American Council on Education, Old Dominion University, and publication partnership with Emerson College. 

For updates on the new episodes, please visit our website or Twitter [at] jistudents. To share your feedback please write to us at globalscholarstories@gmail.com

This was Asuka Ichikawa. Thank you for tuning in. Until next time, please stay safe and well.