February 10, 2012 12:00AM
A Pittsburg State University business professor who has been working passionately for the betterment of several central Asian economies has received one of the highest honors an educator can attain.
Dr. Choong Lee, a professor in the Department of Management and Marketing at PSU, has been named a Fulbright Scholar by the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) based out of Washington, D.C. The award comes with a grant that will allow Lee to travel internationally for weeks at a time over the next two years.
For Lee, the honor means he will spend much more time in the countries he has been working closely with for more than a decade: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, countries that are rich with natural resources, yet struggle with poverty as well as establishing their independence and maintaining economic stability.
Lee, whose research includes strategic development of sustainable economies, began working with Central Asia back in 2004, developing programs to assist universities, businesses and governments there. In 2010, he was formally appointed as an economic development adviser to the Kyrgyzstan government.
Lee said he pursued the prestigious scholarship upon the urging of his colleagues at Bishkek Humanities University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, a school he has worked closely with for years. He will serve as a Fulbright scholar through December of 2013.
“It’s a personal honor for me, but it also means a lot for PSU institutionally,” said Lee. “Pittsburg State University is recognized as one of the most active universities in Central Asia for our outreach there. It’s an area that is becoming more and more important - where the superpowers of Russia, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, and the European Union all collide. It caught my eye a long time ago because of its importance politically, diplomatically, and economically.”
Lee, who moved from his home of Soeul, South Korea, to pursue his graduate degrees through the University of Iowa, first came to PSU in 1989. In the past decade, he has received three Business and International Education grants from the U.S. Department of Education, which have totaled nearly half a million dollars. He has used the funds to develop programs at both PSU and in Central Asia. He has also earned several grants for PSU from the Korean government for programs such as PSU Baja. Over a decade, he helped bring more than 200 Korean students to Pittsburg State to study at the Kansas Technology Center.
His work is not only benefiting PSU, but also the state of Kansas. In October, Lee traveled to Kazakhstan with Gov. Sam Brownback in an attempt to forge international business and trade agreements with Central Asian countries. Currently he is working with Brownback’s office to plan a similar trip to Korea.
“A lot of people in Central Asia still have the wrong perception about our country, and I want to make some kind of a small bridge there,” he said. “I want to do my best to help them develop their economies because that will make those countries more stable, which is important to our national interest. These are beautiful countries with nice, peaceful people. I just want to share my interest and knowledge with them.”