Leadership studies assistant professor Bo Yun Park in front of Jepson Hall

Meet Dr. Bo Yun Park

January 18, 2023

A Q&A with the new assistant professor of leadership studies and sociology

Cultural and political sociologist Bo Yun Park researches political leadership, digital politics, technology, and social change in democracies under stress. After earning her doctorate in sociology from Harvard University in 2021, she worked as a postdoctoral scholar in the Social Science Data Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, before joining the University of Richmond faculty. Last week, she began teaching Leadership and the Social Sciences (LDST 102), her first class as an assistant professor of leadership studies and sociology.

How did you become interested in pursuing a doctorate in sociology?

As a child growing up in Paris, I dreamed of becoming a diplomat—until I interned as a college student in South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Neither diplomacy nor my internship were what I imagined they would be. Disappointed, I met my dad for a beer. He asked me, “Who do you think had a greater impact on the world—Marx or Stalin?” I had an aha moment when I answered, “Marx, because his ideas went beyond borders and time.” My dad replied, ‘That’s the power of ideas.” I became fascinated with the idea of ideas. The cross-spatial, cross-temporal nature of sociology intrigues me. Now I pose my dad’s question at the beginning of every course I teach.

What is the focus of your research?

I study culture and politics, often in comparative international contexts. Currently, I am working on a book manuscript on what it means to be presidential and how political consultants craft narratives of leadership for presidential candidates in France and the United States. It’s not just about which tie a candidate should wear anymore. Technology has changed the way presidential candidates are perceived and want to be perceived and has cut down national boundaries. In one case study, I analyze François Hollande’s 2011-12 campaign for president of France when his team reached out to Barack Obama’s team to assess what had and hadn’t worked in Obama’s 2008-09 presidential campaign. I may also use presidential leadership in South Korea as a case study.

How does your research connect to leadership studies?

My doctoral dissertation looks at both presidential leadership and the transformation of the political consultancy field in the digital age. Rapid technological advances raise important questions about the impact of social media and data analytics in the political sphere. I research how new technology affects the leadership of tomorrow and transforms the way ideas are exchanged and spread. The nature of political discourse is changing, both in tonality and content.

What excites you about working at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and living in Richmond?

When I interviewed at Jepson, the passion and engagement of the students touched me. I am excited to learn with the students and equip them with the skills they will need as future leaders. I am also excited about the interdisciplinary nature of the School. My thinking flourishes and I am most productive in an interdisciplinary environment. I look forward to bringing the sociology perspective to the School.

Prior to coming to Richmond, I lived in big cities—Seoul, Paris, Boston, and San Francisco. I already love the air quality in Richmond and the fact that I don’t have to fight for parking. My husband, a data analyst, and I have a five-month-old daughter. Richmond will be a great place to raise our child.