Alumni Spotlight: Dennis Kim

COL ’21 JUPS Major

Why did you choose to major in JUPS?
I distinctly remember going into my second semester of my freshman year with no idea what I wanted to major in. It just so happened that I was going through the course list when I saw the description for JUPS 123 (if I remember the course number correctly), Intro to Justice and Peace Studies. I always had some interest in social justice initiatives so I thought it would be a cool opportunity to take a class that would give me a general background on what “Justice and Peace” really stood for. Professor Atashi did a phenomenal job in engaging her students and creating an environment geared towards learning about the many injustices that occur across the world. From that moment, I was really interested in JUPS and its direct application to real-world conflicts.

What are your research and scholarly interests?
Generally, I found the case studies on international conflicts to be some of the most rewarding research. From these different research projects, I was able to focus on countries such as Rwanda, Myanmar, Palestine/Israel. With how much there is to learn when it comes to violence and violations of basic human rights, I really believe that it is imperative to be educated on what crimes against humanities have occurred in the past and continue to go on in the present day.
Towards the end of my time at Georgetown, I focused a lot more on the racial disparities and systemic inequalities that exist within the U.S. itself. With the timing of COVID and the tragic occurrences of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths, I had a lot of time to introspect on the realities of our country. Going into my senior year, I found myself questioning aspects of racial and ethnic identity. Through Professor Nejm Benessaiah’s cultural anthropology class, I was able to explore the challenges and discrepancies that exist within subjects like cultural relativity, privileged language/sources of informations, and American Whiteness.

What are you doing after graduating from JUPS, Georgetown?
Currently, I work at the District Attorney’s Office in New York City (Manhattan). I work as a paralegal within the Trial Bureau. I have been working on various criminal cases while learning a lot about the prosecutorial side of the Criminal Justice System. Before I came to the DA’s office, I was able to intern with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender for my last semester at Georgetown. Working with “both sides”, so to speak, has been a very rewarding experience.
My biggest takeaway from working at the DA has been the realization that there is a lot of work that goes into this public service workspace. While it is not a perfect system by any means, I truly believe that most individuals in this space are trying their best to uphold a more equitable society that is marked by true justice.

What is the most memorable experience from the JUPS program?
The people you get to meet. There is a certain mindset that people in JUPS have. I don’t necessarily know how to describe it but being around like-minded individuals who are willing to learn about topics that aren’t necessarily the easiest subjects to talk about says a lot. The ability to listen and learn from one another holds a lot of value to me. There’s a certain openness and welcoming nature to challenging dialogue that JUPS seems to provide a space for. Some of the most interesting and fruitful conversations I had in college came from talks I had with people within the JUPS program.
Perspective is a word I always keep in mind. And perspective is what you will gain from being around JUPS. A lot of the conflicts that occur in our world are a direct result of differing perspectives and the refusal to acknowledge the other side’s stance(s). I think the most memorable experiences I had within JUPS were a direct result of conversing and collaborating with my classmates/peers when it came to school assignments or just catching up over a casual conversation.

What would you say to current undergrads considering a JUPS major, minor, or certificate?
The first thing to do is to take Intro to JUPS. The class does a very good job of teaching you the core basics of what Justice and Peace Studies is. Like I said before, JUPS brings up subject matter that is very relevant to our everyday happenings. That’s what essentially kept me in this field of study. From there, it’s more about self-reflection and determining whether it is something you are passionate about.
I think sometimes people get the idea that JUPS people are extreme in their views and opinions. That might be true in some cases, but it needs to be emphasized that everyone within the program is committed to creating change within society’s already established structures. In my experience, I can tell you for a fact that JUPS has transformed the way in which I approach everyday events and challenges. I take more time in approaching a conflict and considering the multiplicity of factors that may exist. Whether it is a direct application to real life scenarios or a change in the way you approach life events, JUPS will widen your perspective and teach you what a “Just” society really is and looks like.