Home: Los Angeles, California
Major: Sociology and Government
Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
When I was a senior at Los Angeles Senior High School, my counselor encouraged me, along with several other classmates, to attend a November Weekend Invitational that Bowdoin was offering. So I jumped at the opportunity to explore the east coast. At the time, Bowdoin was continuing its vigorous campaigning to recruit a more diverse student population. When I got on the plane and flew over Maine's mid-coast region, I saw pine trees, estuaries, salt marshes, and rocky shores that I had only recently read about in AP Environmental Science textbooks. I thought that Bowdoin would be an ideal location for me to live my fantasy of becoming a crusader for environmental conservation and preservation. Once I touched ground, the crisp air was invigorating and I instantly connected with many students, particularly the Russwurm AfAm [African American Center] house residents, who inspired me with their life stories of overcoming adversity, which in some ways sounded similar to mine. As I returned home, I envisioned attending a residential liberal arts college such as Bowdoin. Bowdoin, I imagined, was where I would be able to become a bold leader.
Why did you choose your major?
I took Sociology 101 my first semester at Bowdoin and I decided right then and there that Sociology would be my major. Nearly everyone can identify a life-altering event that has shattered or shook their comfortable glass wall. The '92 L.A. Riots/Uprising was such an event for me, and sociology was a discipline that allowed me to understand the complexities of group interactions. I also took a challenging government first-year seminar titled "Contemporary Issues in World Politics" and was subsequently very interested in learning more about the contemporary debates and issues in the realm of world politics. In my junior year I realized that I had taken so many government courses that I decided to double major.
What has been your favorite course at Bowdoin?
This is really difficult to pinpoint. But one course that immediately comes to mind is an urban sociology course I took last spring that was taught by former Assistant Professor of Sociology Kirk Johnson. I admit that I entered the class thinking I knew more about urban life than most students. But I was immediately humbled once my own prejudices about urban communities were challenged. Urban areas are incredibly dynamic and the course allowed me to realize that common misperceptions of inner cities as vapid and dangerous can have an immense impact on urban public policies, which can also lead to unintended consequences for people living in urban areas.
What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I have worked at Thorne Dining Hall since my freshman year and I had a lot to learn about work back then! The dining hall was my first experience working for a wage and I started off in the dish room where you get to see all the food waste and end up leaving the shift smelling not exactly like flowers. It was hard work and I contemplated quitting on many occasions. However, my perspective on work changed as I gradually got to know the non-student workers who turned out to be friendly people who were working very hard for a living. I am currently among several student workers who are student managers at Thorne Dining Hall and I am delighted to do my part to help improve the dining hall experience.
I have been a member of the Korean American Students Association (KASA) and this is my second year as club president. Our biggest challenge has been to ensure that students of all backgrounds feel welcome in our organization. KASA officers and members in past years have been a pretty diverse group of people. As KASA president, I've tried to place a lot of emphasis on striking a balance between cultural, political, and social awareness. For instance, in the past two years, we organized the 6th and 7th annual KASA BBQs in the spring, which is one of our most popular events. Some political events included two panel discussions about North Korean geopolitics. Those panels have featured former U.S. Ambassador to Korea, Hon. Donald P. Gregg, Dr. John Park who is a leader of the North Korea analyst group at Harvard, and former World Bank consultant, Brad Babson. We also organized the screening of the documentary Wet Sand, about the '92 L.A. Riots/Uprising with director/producer Dai-Sil Kim-Gibson and the co-sponsoring of an Asian-American stereotype discussion forum. The forum was Bowdoin's first effort to begin to assert Asian Americans into a focused racial/cultural dialogue. KASA has been an integral part of my experience at Bowdoin and a place where I have been able to develop great leadership skills.
Finally, this is my second semester volunteering at the Volunteer Lawyer's Project in Portland, Maine, where I have done phone interviews and completed intake forms for disadvantaged individuals in Maine who are in desperate need of legal services. Evan Gallagher '06, another VLP volunteer, accurately noted that every time you leave the office, you come away with a humble, quasi-satisfied feeling that you have touched, or even saved, someone's life and that you could have done even more. It's a real-world experience that gave me a grisly first-hand look at the level of poverty and disparity that exists in our society.
Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
No, but I applied and received the Freeman Grant, which enabled me to study Korean language in Seoul, Korea for five weeks during my second summer break. It was a unique cultural experience. I had the opportunity to haggle with a Korean street merchant over the price of a leather belt! Touring the ancient Buddhist city of Kwangju, riding the subway and visiting the National Korean War Memorial Museum, and touring the barbwire landscape of the 38th parallel were among my most endearing memories of Korea.
This wasn't a study away experience, but I must mention my summer experience in San Francisco in the summer of 2005, which was made possible by the Public Interest Career Fund offered through the Career Planning Center (CPC). This was an enormous opportunity for me to explore the juvenile justice advocacy field. I had the unique opportunity to visit correctional facilities and to talk to individuals who were leading national and regional-level efforts to inform citizens about issues related to juveniles in the adult criminal justice system. I also got to do some research on youth gangs, which has transformed into an Honors Project this year for the sociology department under the guidance of Dr. Craig McEwen, Dean for Academic Affairs.
What is your best Bowdoin memory?
My best Bowdoin memories would involve my former roommates. For three years, I roomed with friends from Maine, Boston, Singapore, and Trinidad and Tobago. It was an interesting mix of different cultures, experiences, and personalities. One of my best recent memories includes having a fantastic vegetarian Thanksgiving meal in Brunswick with my roommate and his host family. For a split second, I really thought I could become a vegetarian until the thought a juicy sirloin steak entered my mind! Another one of my best memories involved getting lost with my roommate somewhere in Yarmouth after coming back from sushi in Portland.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I would like to earn lots of money after college! But seriously, I was raised in a family that stressed the Common Good. You can't place a value on the positive ripple effects that result from rebuilding communities and inspiring disadvantaged populations. One of the greatest challenges facing our society in the 21st century involves truly understanding, rebuilding, and integrating our nation's inner cities. Somewhat related to this is the challenge of effectively responding to the problem of youth and violence. The pendulum of change continues to swing and I think a paradigm shift in the criminal justice community will occur within the next decade. After Bowdoin, I will return to L.A. and explore my passion of helping at-risk youth. I'm going to apply for the Teach for America Corps along with a few year-long internship programs that would allow me to work in the office of a California state senator or assembly member. After a few years of substantive work-related experience, I intend to apply to law school.
What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
I would leave video game systems and fast computer graphics cards at home, at least for the first year. I played too many video games and this adversely affected what little time management skills I already had. After almost four years here, I have learned to budget my time much more efficiently.
The Bowdoin "bubble" is a really loose term that is ascribed to this institution because of its relative geographical isolation and its multifaceted -- and for some, uniform -- "culture." Some students don't feel compatible to this school during their time here. But for those students, I urge them to accept the challenge of creating their own "niche" at Bowdoin, which is possible given the vast resources this school offers. Be active and experiment while you have the chance here. Many students relish that challenge and become strong leaders in the process. Bowdoin can transform people. In that sense, I think it's more accurate and meaningful to conceptualize Bowdoin as a cocoon rather than a "bubble."
Many seniors profiled in the past have said the following and I will reiterate: Bowdoin has incredible resources and personnel and never take these for granted! When you feel disorganized, utilize the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching, as they will provide effective academic guidance. I also encourage first-years to explore the CPC, get a head start, and establish relationships with the staff such as Anne Shields and James Westhoff who, I must add, are extremely friendly people. Finally, it behooves you to explore and expand your horizon by joining different clubs, taking unique and interesting courses, and attending a variety of campus events. Whenever you wake from a nap feeling refreshed, go outside and meet new people. Taking certain risks pay huge dividends in this safe and friendly academic environment.