Soyeon Shim is a big picture entrepreneur at the School of Human Ecology

When Soyeon Shim was young, she wanted to be a teacher.

“I’d come home and gather all the kids in the neighborhood and play like we were at school and I was the teacher,” she says.

For a girl growing up in South Korea, there weren’t many other options. “Teacher or nurse,” Shim says. “But in the back of my mind, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur.”

Today, as dean of the School of Human Ecology, or SoHE, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she’s both.

Shim arrived on campus in 2012 from the University of Arizona, where over the course of 22 years she helped build both an acclaimed retailing and consumer science program and a $25 million building to house it.

When Shim won the university’s inaugural faculty fundraising award in 2008, her dean, Eugene Sander — for whom the award is named — said of Shim, “She’s an absolute wonder.”

Shim’s arrival in Madison in summer 2012 coincided with the opening of Nancy Nicholas Hall, a 200,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified home for UW–Madison’s School of Human Ecology.

It meant Shim could set her entrepreneurial sights elsewhere, expanding her school’s mission (and people’s perception of it), attracting collaborators and embracing data analytics.

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