The College of Arts & Letters is mourning the loss of Ok-Sook Park, Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures (LiLaC), who died on Jan. 18, 2024. She was 62 years old.
Park dedicated much of her life to education and was nationally known in the area of Korean language teaching. She developed and directed the Korean Program at Michigan State University, which thrived under her direction, and she was instrumental in establishing the Korean minor. For that program, she created and implemented online placement testing and worked with the department’s academic advisor on student advising and enrollment management. She also presented at many conferences highlighting the features of MSU’s Korean Program.
“Ok-Sook’s unwavering commitment to teaching, mentoring, and leadership was truly extraordinary. She will be sorely missed and stay in our hearts forever.”Yen-Hwei Lin, LiLaC Department Chair
“Ok-Sook’s unwavering commitment to teaching, mentoring, and leadership was truly extraordinary,” said Yen-Hwei Lin, Chair of the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures. “She will be sorely missed and stay in our hearts forever.”
Actively engaged with the Council on Korean Studies at MSU, many of Park’s students were proud recipients of scholarships from the Council presented during the annual event of Global Korea Awards. She also was a member of the American Association of Teachers of Korean and had served on the board.
Park always worked to advance herself in teaching/mentoring, leadership and research, while fostering productive and collaborative relationships across multiple programs and units. She was committed to keeping undergraduate students engaged and to mentoring graduate teaching assistants. She was very much respected and loved by her colleagues, mentees, and students.
“Professor Ok-Sook Park was a dedicated mentor for her students,” said Steven Gagnon, Ph.D. Candidate in the Second Language Studies Program and Interim Program Coordinator for the Korean Program. “She will always be remembered for her kindness and the encouragement she gave to her students both in and out of the classroom.”
In addition to teaching and directing the Korean Program, Park made major contributions to several important departmental committees, including chairing the Non-Tenure-System Annual Review Process Committee.
In 2019, she received the Fixed-Term Faculty and Academic Specialist Leadership Excellence Award presented by the College of Arts & Letters. The award recognizes individuals who demonstrate leadership excellence, who make a substantive impact in their area, and who mark the difference between a good program and an excellent one.
“Our Korean Program would not exist without Ok-Sook Park. She developed the curriculum for all the Korean language classes at MSU. We now offer four years of Korean and have a minor that she developed,” said Charlene Polio, Professor and Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures. “She also was a great mentor to several of the Second Language Studies Ph.D. students who taught Korean with her. I’ve been hearing from former students who are grateful for the guidance and opportunities that she provided them. Several have gone on to teach Korean in prestigious programs throughout the country.”
“Our Korean Program would not exist without Ok-Sook Park. She developed the curriculum for all the Korean language classes at MSU. We now offer four years of Korean and have a minor that she developed.”Charlene Polio, LiLaC Professor and Associate Chair for Graduate Studies
Park was a graduate of Michigan State University, having earned her Ph.D. in Linguistics: Phonology, specializing in Korean Phonology, from MSU in 2002. After receiving her Ph.D., she taught at the University of Michigan in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures where she also served as Director of Korean and Southeast Asian Language Programs. During her time at the University of Michigan, her innovative efforts resulted in some vast improvements, including revamping the placement testing process and developing teaching materials for Korean verb conjugations.
In 2007, Park was recruited to Michigan State University to establish MSU’s Korean Program. She also taught for four years (2015-2018) during the summer at the School of Korean at Middlebury College in Vermont where she served as Assistant Director of the program and Lead Instructor for Level 3. During the summer of 2011, she served as Resident Director of the Critical Language Scholarship Program: Korean for the United States Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, American Councils for International Education. In 2018, she served as a first-round panelist for that same program.
Born in Buan, South Korea, Park earned her bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from Woosuk University in South Korea in 1984 and her master’s degree in English Language and Literature from Sookmyung Women’s University, also in South Korea, in 1988.
The College of Arts & Letters wishes to express its heartfelt condolences to Park’s family and friends.
The funeral service is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 26, at 11 a.m. at Lehman Funeral Homes, 210 E. Bridge Street, Portland, Michigan. Visitation is on Thursday, Jan. 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the funeral home. Online condolences may be made on the Lehman Funeral Homes website.