By Alexandra Zigomalas
Jennifer Jung entered Stony Brook University in the fall of 2008 unsure of where her undergraduate studies would take her. While she initially declared a major in business, her extracurricular work in mentoring and writing led her to a passion for education that carried her beyond the halls of her alma mater.
An accomplished high school graduate, Jung began her studies at Stony Brook as a University Scholar, a highly selective program for incoming freshmen. Through this prestigious program, Jung was exposed to peer mentoring. “During my sophomore year, I became a peer mentor for the University Scholars, answering questions that an accepted incoming freshman had before coming to Stony Brook, and helping her become acquainted to university life,” she recalled. Jung also worked in a setting that allowed her to flourish as a writer outside of the classroom, as an editor for one of the university’s newspapers, the Asian American E-Zine. “Because of my love for writing, my background as an Asian American, and my previous experience from my high school newspaper club,” Jung explained, “I took the role of organizing the articles that would be published.”
Jung’s most influential experience emerged from the combination of mentorship and a love for writing. As a tutor at Stony Brook’s Writing Center, she discovered a passion for working closely with students. “Because I recognized my own voice in writing, I tried to bring that individual voice out in other people through their writing,” Jung said. “Whether we talked about their interests (if it’s a narrative piece) or about their opinions about a text (if it’s an analytical piece), I felt that I connected with each person who stepped into the doors of the Writing Center and asked for help.”
A turning point arrived once Jung began to sample the rewards that come from teaching. She describes the experience tutoring other students in business statistics that inspired her to pursue a different career path:
“I spent the majority of my office hours tutoring the same select students and helping them with homework questions. I also held group study sessions before exams, where we went over old test questions for review. At one study session, I was the only Teaching Assistant in a group of 20 or more university students (some older than me). There was a chalkboard in the room, which I used to review questions. I chose students to come up to the board and solve the problem, and I facilitated a group discussion on whether the problem was solved correctly or not. During this discussion, I saw students’ ‘light bulbs go on,’ a phrase teachers use when they see students understand something they didn’t before. It was then that I knew that I wanted to do this for my career.”
Jung changed her major to English and transformed her business major into a minor. She graduated from Stony Brook University with a 4.0 average and was one of five students to receive the honor of valedictorian. She continued to follow her passion for education, completing a master’s in childhood education (for grades 1-6) at Adelphi University in 2016.
Jung, now employed at a public school, views learning as a process. “Like the writing process, where we go from idea to planning to drafting to revising to editing, learning should be seen as a process, not the end product,” she explained. Her aim is to foster the same kind of passion that she experienced as a child and to focus on students’ interests, extracurricular activities, and life experiences (like field trips), because, for Jung, that is where “real learning” takes place. “Not all of us are scientists,” Jung observed. “Some of us are writers; some of us are cooks; some of us are mathematicians; some of us are architects; some of us are police officers; some of us are electricians; and some of us are veterinarians.” Her approach is a practical one. “We just need to learn the skills to take us where we want to be, and our academic experience should reflect this,” she said.
Aside from working in public education, Jung is a proud member of Phi Beta Kappa. When she was inducted at Stony Brook in 2012, she felt incredibly honored to be part of such a prestigious organization. “As a writer, I align myself with Phi Beta Kappa’s commitment for freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression,” she said. “As an aspiring teacher, I believe in Phi Beta Kappa’s motto, which states ‘Love of Learning Is the Guide of Life,’ and I am glad to be associated with people who share the same values as I do.”
Alexandra Zigomalas is a junior at Stony Brook University double majoring in history and art history. Stony Brook University is home to the Alpha Beta of New York Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.