June 23, 2003
Internships open doors for aspiring lawyer
By Jennifer McNulty
Jenny Jiang has had her heart set on going to law school since she was
13 years old. This fall the UCSC legal studies major is enrolling at
Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley.
Its a dream come true for Jiang, who immigrated to the United
States from China when she was nine years old. But the dream may have
a slightly different ending after four years at UC Santa Cruz, where
Jiang discovered a passion for public service.
"I came to UCSC determined to study law because I wanted to be
an attorney with a briefcase brimming with money on my side," Jiang
told the crowd gathered June 14 for the Cowell College commencement
ceremony. "I am walking away four years later determined to devote
my life to public service."
Jiang attributes the shift in her priorities to opportunities she had
during college. She excelled academically, with a minor in East Asian
studies, while pursuing off-campus academic internships.
By graduation, Jiang had interned in the Santa Cruz District Attorneys
Office, the Public Defenders Office, and the offices of former
California Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Fred Keeley and Assemblyman John
"I was encouraged--even compelled--by faculty members to take
all that Ive learned into the outside world, and to really become
an active member of this community," Jiang told the commencement
From drafting pretrial motions for the assistant district attorney
to preparing the social histories of people hopelessly addicted to drugs
for the public defender, Jiang got an insiders view of the legal
system before entering the world of politics.
In Keeleys office, Jiang started out helping constituents, including
a man who was tracking down the World War II military medals of a gravely
ill family member.
"That was the best thing about the internship--almost every day,
youre helping someone and making a difference," said Jiang.
"And people are so grateful. Sometimes theyll write a letter
thanking you--to me, those letters mean the world."
As her responsibilities grew, so did Jiangs passion for the law.
She says she was hooked from the moment she read her first legal case
during freshman year. "I thought This is so hard--I love
it!" she recalled. "The language was so convoluted,
it took me an hour to figure out who won. But I found it fascinating,
and I eventually got the hang of it. Now, when I open my casebook, I
feel like Im opening a gift."
During her junior year, Jiang took Introduction to International
Law with politics professor Isebill "Ronnie" Gruhn and
discovered a mentor who would become her adviser on her senior thesis.
"Shes the most amazing lady," Jiang said of Gruhn.
"She is reassuring and disciplined, fair and demanding. I dont
know who I wouldve been without her during my college years."
Jiang wrote her senior thesis about the international criminal court
in The Hague, the first permanent international court created to try
cases of human rights violations, genocide, and war crimes. Jiang received
the Deans Award and the Chancellors Award for her critique
of the Bush administrations opposition to the court, but she wanted
to do more, so she drafted a resolution in support of the court and
put it before the Santa Cruz City Council. Presented by then-Mayor Christopher
Krohn and City Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice, the resolution was approved
September 10, 2002, by a vote of 5-1.
"That was my moment of glory," said Jiang. "I cant
believe that I was allowed to stand before a lawmaking body and present
my idea. To have them accept the resolution was profound. Looking back
on it, it seems gutsy! Part of me still cannot believe that I went through
Jiangs zeal for learning extends beyond the legal field: She
studied Chinese because she didnt want to lose her heritage, and
she spent hours learning about recombinant DNA for a bioethics class
she found interesting. Nothing competes with her love of the law, however.
"Knowing another culture besides the United States made me more
aware of other types of politics, other forms of government, and other
forces that come into play in shaping law and policy," said Jiang.
For Jiang, UCSC offered opportunities to pursue her interests in a
supportive environment. "At UCSC, if youre motivated and
know what you want, there are so many more opportunities here than there
are in other places," she said.
"Everybody in Santa Cruz has been so open and available to me--even
prominent people in government have taken time to mentor me--and I wouldnt
be the person I am today without their guidance and encouragement,"
said Jiang. "Ive met amazing professors, policy makers, and
friends in Santa Cruz, and for that, I am grateful. I really wanted
to put myself out there for the community that has done so much for
This article is part of Profiles in Excellence, an ongoing
series highlighting the outstanding educational opportunities and achievements
of UCSC students and graduates. Other profiles are posted on the Profiles
in Excellence web
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