Professor Neil Hwang: The Power of “Ghee”
Before he came to Bronx Community College, Assistant Professor Neil Hwang had a successful career in the business world.
“I worked in corporate finance for ten years. I was Chief Financial Officer of a large investment firm, I sat on boards of public companies. But throughout my career, I was always teaching weekend classes. As I reached the end of 2016, I realized I was enjoying teaching more than my full-time work. I looked forward to my Saturdays.”
Inevitably, Professor Hwang began thinking of teaching as his career.
“I did some soul searching and whether I should stay in mid-town Manhattan or look at the Bronx. I came to the states from South Korea when I was in high school. My parents had minimum wage jobs, I worked in burger joints, convenience stores, all through high school and college. With that background, I felt like I had a more of a connection to students in the Bronx area.”
Professor Hwang came to BCC in January, 2017, as a substitute. By the fall, he was a full-time assistant professor. Today he teaches accounting and information technology. But his role at BCC extends beyond the classwork alone.
“In my own youth, I didn’t know how to do a lot of simple things that if I had met the right people, they would have told me. How to apply for colleges, financial aid and scholarships, career paths. I try to give my students the benefit of hearing from someone who’s been where they are and what they can do to make it better for themselves.
“A number of my students have done really well – One student barely knew English when he started. After two years, he got a full ride scholarship to Yale.
The other major part of Professor Hwang’s work at BCC is research.
“I have a couple of grants now — the CUNY Book Completion Award and a CUNY Community College Research grant. These research programs give me funding to hire students from my classes. I meet with them weekly, I teach them how to do research and write papers.” Every semester he helps around ten students in this manner.
Professor Hwang sums up what successful students need in one Korean word: ghee. ”It means spirit but it also means self-confidence, optimism. I tell my students they are in charge of the next two years. And those two years can do wonders for them.