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"Ugly Chang," Professor or Friend? Both.

Written by Kyle Kelley 10

It’s 10:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night. The Roy H. Park School of Communications closes in an hour, and most of my friends are already in the Commons for hump day senior drink specials. Not me. Instead, I’m in room 138 -- the soundstage -- with a dozen or so other students from my cinematography class. We’ll be here until 12:30 or 1:00 a.m., but no one seems to care. The reason is that our professor, Changhee Chun, has asked us to hold this late-night class to go over some topics he wants to cover. Fearful of the wrath of Chang’s stick, which he uses to chastise students when they are unprepared, we all obliged. Ok. That’s a joke. Chang does actually wield a stick, but it’s just one of the many tools he uses to make the class atmosphere more fun and relaxed. 

The Park School, and Ithaca College in general, has a lot of great professors. There are very few like Chun, however. Better known simply as “Chang” or “Ugly Chang” (despite the fact that some students think that “ugly” is a completely unrepresentative term), he is the most passionate, interesting professor any of us have ever had. Following film school at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea, Chang began a career in broadcasting. He produced over 30 television commercials, television documentaries, and the Korean broadcast of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He then moved to the United States where he attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. During his last year of graduate school he was hired to teach at Ithaca College, where he has remained ever since. Chang’s works -- which include commercials, documentaries, short films, features, and music videos -- have won numerous honors and awards, and have been featured in countless festivals.

In addition to the wealth of knowledge Chang provides from his professional experiences, he also brings an excitement for both film and filmmakers that is incredibly inspiring. He says his life philosophy is, “The privilege to create a valuable film is granted only to those who can succeed in the challenge.”

Chang works every day to make sure students succeed in this challenge. He is willing to do just about anything to help out fledgling filmmakers. In addition to late-night classes and weekend workshops, he visits student sets to help out as often as possible. He’s stayed in Park with me until 12:30 a.m., seven hours after I would have had to leave otherwise, just so I could finish my film.

And that’s just the beginning. Chang has been known to travel to sets out of state, help pay for film if students are strapped for cash, and even make seven-hour round-trips to bring camera batteries to absent-minded students. School policy does not allow for transportation of equipment overseas, so when Ben Miller ’11 needed equipment to film part of his senior thesis in Europe, Chang loaned him his own personal equipment.

Some people just don’t get it, though. When asked by my roommate why I would voluntarily take an extra class, at 10:00 p.m. no less, I told the truth -- because I know Chang would do the same for me. More importantly, I seriously believe that if Chang and I were ever to apply for the same job someday, he would be as happy, or perhaps happier, if I got the job instead of him.

This passion for teaching is apparent in all of Chang’s classes. After a student turns in a film, Chang provides not only a grade and the usual comments and constructive criticism, but also gives every student a one or two page typed “love letter” specifically breaking down every aspect of the project. This is why Chang is so beloved by his students, and why he's more than just a great professor. For many students he is an example of excellence, a mentor, and most importantly, a friend—and who minds hanging out late at night with their friends?



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