Joseph Jung’s interest in American government has taken him across the nation — from his home state of California to Clark University, where he studied political science; to the United States Supreme Court as an intern; and soon, to Harvard Law School.
The 2020 Clark graduate will begin the J.D. program at Harvard this fall, spending the next three years studying law, government, and public policy. “I want to work for a greater system of justice,” Jung says, “with a focus on the legal problems that seem most evasive and underlying in systematically producing inequality.”
A political science major and English minor, Jung discovered his interest in American government and public policy after taking an introductory course at Clark. The classroom learning piqued his interest, but it was the relationships he formed with his professors after declaring his major that led Jung to become passionate about the subject. He took as many courses as he could with his adviser, Professor Mark Miller, who helped him become well versed in American politics, as well as Professor Michael Butler, whose classes focus on conflict management, foreign policy, and security studies.
“Looking back at my time at Clark, I am most grateful for all of the professors who have taught me so much and devoted their time to helping me develop,” Jung recalls. “I learned about how we make laws in this country, how people vote and how some people are excluded from voting, how some people are involved in policy-making and others are left out — the process of how we govern ourselves.”
Jung credits Clark’s relatively loose major requirements with allowing him to dabble in other subjects, including English and French, which gave him the tools to analyze deeper issues. While being a political science major prepared him for further study in American government and law, Jung says taking classes like Major American Writers II with Dean Betsy Huang, Fictions of Asian America and Ethnic American Literature in Translation with Professor Claire Gullander-Drolet, and African American Literature I with Professor Kourtney Senquiz all equipped him with the perspectives to analyze our country’s social state and write in response to our ills and injustices.
“Lawyers are advocates, and I want to advocate for those who most need a voice from experiencing harm and injustice,” Jung says.
As a junior, Jung joined a small group of college students from across the country to participate in the Supreme Court’s internship program during his fall semester. He says the experience not only taught him about court processes, but made him want to focus on topics pertaining to federal appellate courts in law school.
“I believe that’s where a lot of important policy decisions are being made in America,” he says.
Eventually, Jung hopes to work as a law clerk for judge — a role that would allow him to observe how court decisions become law and policy. After that, he plans to practice in appellate litigation with the goal of advocating for those who are disproportionally affected by our current legal system.
In addition to Harvard Law School, Jung was accepted into law programs at Columbia University, New York University, UCLA, and USC.
The summer leading up to his internship at the Supreme Court, Jung participated in the 2018 May Term in Luxembourg. During his time at Clark, he also volunteered at the Assumption Center at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, mentoring elementary school students.
“I come from Southern California; I grew up in a nice neighborhood where there weren’t many things for kids to worry about,” Jung says. “Coming to Clark and Worcester made me realize there are ways to be involved in the greater community and help out. Ultimately, I want those kids to feel motivated about studying and know there are people who care about them, and know they can go wherever they want in the future with a positive mindset from a loving support system.”
He says the Clark community also made him more interested in what diversity looks like.
Jung, who is Korean American, grew up in an area surrounded by many other Asian American families — what he describes as a “bubble.” When he arrived in Worcester, Jung met students from around the world and from a range of socio-economic situations. “Coming to Clark made me discover what I can do to help people feel like they belong, and what can be done to facilitate greater relationships between people of different backgrounds,” he says.
Because of his advocacy work around the issue, Jung was contacted by an organization called the Korean American Grassroots Conference — a nationwide network dedicated to uplifting the Korean American community through civic engagement. Over time, he took on a volunteer leadership role with the organization and has published several articles on Medium about his experiences as a Korean American — including a reflection on the 1992 Los Angeles riots and a piece about the cultural shift he experienced when he arrived at college.
“At Clark, I got to study Asian American literature and history, which I had no exposure to before coming here,” he says. “Professor Gullander-Drolet taught those classes during my senior year, and both she and Dean Huang helped me formulate a lot of what I wrote in those Medium articles from the Asian American studies side of things.”
Jung says Korean Americans are especially underrepresented in government — a statistic he hopes to help change.
“Our hope is not just about those numbers of representation, but to have priorities being put forth from our community and to have our voices better heard in the public sphere,” he says. “I’ve developed a good sense of that from studying at Clark.”