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March 6, 2006

Community college students eligible for $20,000 Pister scholarships

By Jennifer McNulty

When Cabrillo College student Hye-Young Jung heard she'd won a $20,000 scholarship to attend UCSC, she burst into tears.

Hye-Young Jung and daughter Nadia
Hye-Young Jung, left, with her daughter, Nadia.
Photo: Jim MacKenzie

"I was in dance class, and the president's assistant called me into the office," recalls Jung, now a senior majoring in economics at UCSC. "It was amazing. I was just crying. Everybody cried. The scholarship gave me a chance to pursue my goals."

Jung received a Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Award, a two-year $20,000 scholarship awarded annually to one student at each of 13 regional community colleges.

Named after former UCSC Chancellor Karl S. Pister, who established the scholarships, the Pister Leadership Opportunity Awards are presented to students who have achieved academically, demonstrated leadership in their community, and would otherwise be unable to afford to attend the university.

Jung was also awarded full scholarships to attend UC Berkeley and UCLA but chose UCSC in part because she liked the campus's emphasis on undergraduate education. "At UCSC, undergraduates have more contact with their professors and get a more personal education," she added. Her husband, Mark Unruh, is in the economics Ph.D. program at UCSC.

Jung, who moved to the United States from Korea in 1999, is applying to graduate school in economics with a focus on health care. She intends to compare the health care systems of the United States and other countries to evaluate the outcomes for patients and to examine the growing trend of patients traveling to other countries for medical services.

Jung's interests were shaped in part by personal experience. Her daughter, Nadia, was born with a heart defect that required surgery at the age of two. In Korea, the country's national insurance program did not cover the procedure, and Jung was saddled with a bill for $10,000.

"In the United States, that's not much for heart surgery, but for me at the time, it was a lot," says Jung, the first in her family to attend college.

"It was my dream to get an education," says Jung, who moved to the United States and later married Unruh, whom she met in Korea, where he was teaching. "He was looking at the subway map on the wall, and I asked if he needed any help. He said no, he was just memorizing the map, but after chatting for a while, he gave me his number and encouraged me to call."

Just months after arriving in Santa Cruz, Jung enrolled in English classes at Cabrillo. "In Korea, you have to pay to go to school after elementary school," says Jung. "I had three sisters and one brother, so I had to help support them after I finished high school."

Attending UCSC is like having a dream come true, says Jung. While others complain about studying, she says she appreciates every moment. She raves about the teaching of people like Carlos Dobkin, an assistant professor of economics (and a UCSC graduate), who she says "really cares about his students." This year, she has branched out and taken some classes outside the Economics Department, including Sociology's Family and Society and Community Studies' Asian American Health. "I'm really a people person, so I've been enjoying these other classes," she adds.

And she relishes setting a good example for her daughter, now a freshman at Santa Cruz High School. "I'm so proud of her," says Jung. "She has a 4.0 grade-point average. I don't push her--she does it herself. And she's really proud of me. She brags about me to other people."

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