Focusing on the public good
Jung Fitzpatrick had studied in Ecuador, lived and worked in South Korea, helped with a program for needy families in California, and worked on developing entrepreneurship opportunities for Native Americans in Oregon.
Can you believe that she accomplished all this while still only in her 20s?
The common thread that runs through Jung’s experiences is her passion for work that enables communities of color to enhance their lives. Currently, Jung works on helping professionals who are working in nonprofits advance their careers by disseminating information about graduate school programs that focus on social responsibility and the public good. In her own words, Jung shares lessons learned from experiences working in diverse environments.
My experiences living in other countries, and my own personal background having grown up “other” or “different” – have given me a greater appreciation for the need to find solutions for a wide array of social injustice and disparities.
I grew up in a bicultural household. My stepfather is Irish-American and my Mom was an immigrant from Korea. For a time, my Mom was a single mother. There were a lot of obstacles for her – personal and social frustrations and challenges.
I empathize with social injustice and inequity on a very deep level. I’ve always wanted to be part of contributing to work that helps people in a positive way.
Back to Roots
After college, I decided to live and work in South Korea. It was really invaluable because in a lot of ways, I had a mirror experience to my Mom’s coming to the U.S. When she came here, she was so young and did not speak the language very well. When I went to Korea, I was a young single woman who didn’t speak Korean very well.
Living in Korea gave me an appreciation for what she has gone through, and also about the immigrant experience.
Korea made me grow up a lot, and taught me that community is really important. I was working there, and had more opportunities than most people. I spoke English, I could teach and make money, but there are a lot of similarities to the immigrant experience that many newcomers to America have to go through. I developed an appreciation for people who leave their homeland and decide to live and work in another country.
When I came back, I really wanted to give back to community, and work for positive social change.
Work at First 5 Mendocino
I worked as a Vista volunteer for First 5 Mendocino, a nonprofit that ensures health care for all residents of Mendocino County. I was interested in public health because of my own experiences growing up. I experienced first hand the injustice of not being able to afford health care. My family didn’t have health care coverage, and when we did, it was very intermittent. Health was always a really big focus for my parents. There was a lot of focus on preventive health care, because we didn’t have health insurance.
At First 5 Mendocino, one of the best takeaways is that the well-being of the community has to be looked at from holistic perspective. In the course of working on access to public health, other issues arose. It was important to look at various systems of care – such as preventive care and health education. There were also issues about providing health care access to all children, regardless of immigration status. There were challenges with doing outreach and education to parents who have limited English skills.
The most successful health care programs in California were those that eliminated barriers to access but also had families pay some sort of match to get the services. For disadvantaged families, paying $1 meant a lot, and that made them invested in the program. Families began to see the program as more than just another form of welfare. They felt they were participants versus recipients.
Focus on economic development
My work with First 5 got me more interested in economic development and self-sufficiency. I moved to Portland to work as Communications Coordinator for ONABEN, the Oregon Native American Business Network. From that experience, I learned that small nonprofits are a lot like small businesses. They face the same organizational, capacity and growth challenges, such as how to grow sustainably on limited resources.
Since February 2007, I had been working for Idealist.org, an organization that supports the nonprofit sector by connecting organizations, people and resources on its online webspace. There are opportunities to create individual and organization profiles, search our database of profiles and connect with organizations and people with the same interests.
As the Graduate Education Communications Coordinator, I have two main duties. One is to outreach to individuals for our Graduate Degree Fairs for the Public Good. My second task is to develop our new comprehensive online graduate resource center for individuals who are looking go to grad school and get a graduate degree that relates to work in the public good. With those two duties I provide support to prospective graduate students, who are typically individuals who work in the nonprofit and public service sector.
This past fall, I traveled to 19 different cities for graduate degree fairs. There are a lot of professionals in the nonprofit sector who are thinking about going to grad school. Working in the nonprofit sector, there isn’t a traditional path like getting an MBA or studying for medical school. We fill a need for professionals who are looking to develop their skills, advance their careers, while at the same time, doing good work.
With my mixed cultural background, I feel that I’m better able to relate to a diverse range of people. I grew up with parents from two different cultures, and so have a solid handle on understanding and negotiating differences.
I also tend to listen and think a little bit more before I speak or act. Sometimes this is much more culturally appropriate for different groups vs. being too dynamic and assertive. Because I am more thoughtful and quiet in the beginning, it could often be more challenging for me to be assertive in certain situations. I also tend to be a little more sensitive in the way that I use language to communicate.
I love what I do. I’m working for an organization that I had been a huge fan of. I work with bunch of very thoughtful and passionate people. More importantly, I enjoy helping demystify the process of applying for grad school, for people who are working to advance the public good.