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Women of Color Scholars taking leadership role

Current and former Women of Color Scholars involved in the recent Pacific Asian North American Asian Women Theology and Ministry conference are, from left, Jung Ha Kim, Rita Nakashima Brock, Ahyun Lee, Hannah Ka, June Hee Yoon and Anne Joh.

Current and former Women of Color Scholars involved in the recent Pacific Asian North American Asian Women Theology and Ministry conference are, from left, Jung Ha Kim, Rita Nakashima Brock, Ahyun Lee, Hannah Ka, June Hee Yoon and Anne Joh.

March 26, 2013

Assistant General Secretary for Finance and Administration, General Commission on the Status and Role of Women

The Women of Color Scholars Program was established to remedy the lack of women of color on facilities at United Methodist seminaries, to increase the number of women of color who teach, lecture, write and research at the PhD level in seminaries and to heighten church-wide awareness of the need for women of color in theological education.

Already we are seeing results. Many of the leaders of the 28th annual Pacific Asian North American Asian Women Theology and Ministry conference recently are part of the program from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

All three Asian American Mentors of the Women of Color Program have been an integral part of the conference.  Jung Ha Kim, Professor of Sociology at Georgia State, and Rita Nakashima Brock, founding co-director of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, are on the advisory board, and Anne Joh, Associate Professor of Systemic Theology at Garrett Evangelical Theological School, is on the steering committee and served as coordinator of the conference.

Kim and Brock were mentors to Joh when she was a doctoral student.  Now Joh is herself a mentor to the next generation of women.  Joh has served as a mentor in various other organizations but said, “WOC is the best model out there.”

“WOC was my place of rest but also reinvigoration,” she said. “If it was not for them I would not have made it. Doctoral programs are hostile places for women of color — existentially, structurally and intellectually — and have a way of reducing you constantly to a state of marginalization and struggle.  WOC allows us to thrive.”

Boyung Lee (not pictured), Associate Professor of Education Ministries at Pacific School of Religion and Elder of the California Nevada Conference, a graduate of the Women of Color Program, credits the Women of Color Program with helping her be authentic and more importantly, more accountable to her work.  Her mentors reviewed, challenged and affirmed her and the work she was doing, she said.

Ahyun Lee is a student in the Women of Color program, getting her PhD at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, and is a co-coordinator of the Asian-Asian American Center at Garrett.  She assisted Joh in coordinating the conference.

“WOC has unique mentoring system which Asian American women students get the particular help and support.  I can’t think I can finish my study without WOC program. It helps me to develop my identity as a scholar and to affirm my calling as a teacher for ministerial setting of UMC.”

Hannah Ka, a recent graduate of the program who is serving in a local church, said her mentors kept her focused on her graduate education.

“They affirmed me when I was losing confidence in my intellect, sustained me throughout all those years, and challenged me to find my own voices in the larger academic context,” she said. “Their voices affirmed me that my unique perspective as a Korean/Korean American woman in my field was not only acceptable, but also necessary in the flourishing of other minority voices in the academic world.”

June Hee Yoon is in her first year as a doctoral student at Drew in Theology.

To get more information regarding the application and eligibility requirement, please go to the gbehm.org website.

The WOC Scholarship needs additional funding.  The fund was endowed in 2006 but with the cost of education and expenses, the payout doesn’t cover as much as it once did.  The goal is to raise the endowment to meet the needs to fund all the scholarships. The fund awards an average 5 or 6 scholars a year.  The scholars also receive mentors to help them with their work, which adds to the expense but it is a valuable asset to the program.

To support the Women of Color Scholarship endowment, please send your check to GBHEM, Scholarship Office, PO Box 34000, Nashville, TN 37203.