The UMass Boston Department of Gerontology welcomes Sung S. Park, PhD, as our newest faculty member. Park is a sociologist and social demographer interested in how institutional factors and social relationships contribute to population-level racial and ethnic inequalities in older age.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Park to campus,” says Gerontology Department Chair Edward Alan Miller, PhD. “Sung is an accomplished scholar with strong pre- and postdoctoral training. Her research reinforces our department’s emphasis on studying inequities that impact underserved and vulnerable populations. We’re thrilled to have her on board.” 

Park earned a doctorate in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she focused on family relationships in later life. She comes to UMass Boston from two postdoctoral appointments: as a Sloan Fellow on Aging at Work at the Center for Population and Development Studies at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and as a postdoctoral research scholar in the Office of Population Research at Princeton University.

Her work at Harvard, which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, broadened her interests in family relationships to include health and economic factors on aging. Her most recent work, “The impact of COVID-19 on life expectancy among four Asian American subgroups,” published in the journal SSM-Population Health, was motivated by research she began as a Sloan Fellow during the pandemic. “In the U.S., there are enormous health disparities not only across different racial/ethnic groups  but also within a given racial/ethnic group. For example, looking at the Asian American population at the aggregate level masks enormous socially-structured inequalities faced by some Asian American subgroups such as Filipinos and Vietnamese populations,” Park says.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics, Park worked for eight years to pay off her student loans and expenses stemming from a family illness before she returned to higher education to earn a doctorate. Her experience putting herself through school while helping to support her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea, will help her relate to UMass Boston’s diverse student body, she says. “I followed a nontraditional path similar to that of many first-generation college students. I’m excited to meet students, understand their interests and goals, and mentor them.”

Park looks forward to balancing her research with teaching, beginning in the fall of 2023 with the undergraduate gerontology course, Families in Later Life. UMass Boston appealed to her, she says, as “an institution committed to social and economic justice, and has a student population that reflects the diversity of the U.S. population.”