The Smiley Award supports global educational opportunities for current undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Education (SOE) at UNC Greensboro. SOE students who serve as outstanding Global Education Ambassadors through international or local engagement are encouraged to apply each Spring, particularly students who demonstrate leadership, innovation, and impact in both international and local settings based on both previous and proposed engagement activities.

This year, the 2021 Smiley Award was presented to Joshua Burns (TEHE undergraduate student) and Seongeun Kim (ERM international graduate student).

Joshua Burns is a rising senior in the SOE, majoring in History and Secondary Education. In his first year at UNCG, he joined the Lloyd International Honors College and the UNCG Teacher Education Fellows Program. Joshua studied abroad in Poland in Spring 2020, and although his stay was cut short due to COVID-19, he says: “It showed me that I could live in a different country and learn from their culture and apply it to my own background and future career.” Learn more in Joshua’s video below.


Seongeun Kim is a rising fourth-year Ph.D. international student in the Educational Research Methodology (ERM) Department. In her own words, Seongeun describes her research interests and experience below:

Seongeun Kim Smiley Award
Seongeun Kim, ERM international graduate student

“My research interest lies predominantly in the areas of Item Response Theory, test equating and component based structural equation modeling. Even though my focus is on educational measurement and psychometric, I also had the opportunity to take program evaluation methods courses which were quite challenging to me. Our faculty and peers were very supportive of my learning experiences. I had opportunities to share my perspectives and experiences and felt that my experiences were valued in our classes. Additionally, as a member of ERM Graduate Student Association I have worked with peers from different countries. I appreciate learning from other students with different cultural backgrounds and would like to contribute my cultural perspectives as well. 

I volunteered as a student representative of the Korean-American Educational Researcher Association (K-AERA). K-AERA was built to share the advancement of knowledge and practice in education by bridging Korean and American researchers. By serving on K-AERA, I learned how to organize a conference by collaborating with international scholars. Specifically, this year I worked to help plan new virtual meetings, implemented better ways to divide sessions in virtual meetings, and created discussion boards with awareness about the time zone differences between Korea and the United States. I also published an annual newsletter to update member’s news to every member and to advertise proposal submissions to help run the association smoothly. By attending monthly executive officers’ meetings, I presented an agenda to help strengthen graduate students’ work ethic. Personally, I participated in a mentoring session as a mentor for a pre-ABD (All but Dissertation) group to give advice for students who just started their program in the education field. I shared my tips in being successful in course work as well as my personal research experience.

After graduation, I will join K-AERA executive officers to give back my insights to this community. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with future international graduate students by staying connected with ERM faculty and colleagues. This is because I believe that if I will positively impact my colleagues at UNCG and mentees all over the world and in turn, they will have a positive impact for those around them.”


Joshua and Seongeun’s accomplishments were recognized at a virtual Award Ceremony on April 30th via Zoom. Sandy and Gary Smiley, who established the Sandy Margolis Smiley Class of 1960 International Education Fund, attended the ceremony and were able to personally congratulate Joshua and Seongeun. Other members of UNCG, including SOE Dean Randy Penfield, SOE Global Committee members, and the International Programs Center, attended the ceremony as well (pictured below).

Smiley Award Ceremony 2021

Congratulations, Joshua and Seongeun!