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American dream comes true for student from Korea

May 13, 2010

She has had plenty of support along the way – from loving parents who made many sacrifices, and from mentors including New College professors and members of the law enforcement community. But ultimately Hae Rim Jin’s success is a result of her own hard work, intellectual curiosity and commitment to making a positive impact on society, especially the criminal justice system.

Jin just completed bachelor's degrees in psychology and criminal justice. This fall she will start graduate school at the prestigious John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, studying forensic psychology. Both New York and Phoenix are far removed from Seoul, South Korea, where Jin lived until she moved to the United States with her family when she was 9.

“My parents left the comfort of their own culture, language and country for me and my brother,” says Jin, a 2006 graduate of Phoenix’s Thunderbird High School. “We know the sacrifices our parents made, and the reason we are so driven and determined is to ensure those sacrifices weren’t made in vain. I know that in America, as long as an individual is determined to success, study hard, and do well in school, there is always a way to get a higher education. To me and my family, America truly is a land of opportunity.”

Opportunities opened up for Jin through the relationship she developed with Dawn McQuiston, associate professor of psychology in New College’s Social and Behavioral Sciences division. McQuiston is founding director of the Legal Psychology Research Laboratory, which she has structured as a research laboratory for undergraduate students considering graduate school or law school. In the laboratory, students investigate issues such as jurors’ evaluation of expert evidence, extra-legal factors in courtroom decision-making, and eyewitness testimony.

Jin’s research focuses on victimization, sexual assaults and sexual homicide. Her senior thesis for Barrett, the Honors College was titled “It was your fault! How jurors blame assault victims in the sex industry.”

“Dr. McQuiston was with me every step of the way in the research process,” Jin said. “Earlier this year I had the opportunity to do a poster presentation about my study at the American Psychology-Law Society Conference in Vancouver, B.C. Attending this and other conferences benefitted me as a student and researcher while helping me to establish professional contacts. None of my success in the field of psychology would have happened without Dr. McQuiston.”

McQuiston is equally effusive in her praise of Jin, who served as a senior research assistant in the Legal Psychology Research Laboratory. “Hae Rim demonstrated remarkable passion for the work we do in my lab. When I assigned her a task, I could rest assured that it would be completed correctly. On the academic side, her Barrett Honors thesis is another great example of her dedication to our research.”

Along with her work with McQuiston, Jin has been interning with the Glendale Police Department. “My supervising agent is a Task Force Officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration,” she explains. “I am very much involved in special investigation unit; obviously working with the DEA means my investigations involve drugs. I assist my agents in tasks such as analyzing phone calls, locating GPS pings, locating properties, and filing surveillance photos.

“I also go out to search warrants with my unit. It is a very thrilling experience, with adrenaline pumping through your blood,” she says. “The S.W.A.T team is called for each home. As soon as the scene is cleared, we enter the house to search. During my internship, I have learned about policing at the federal and state level. I applied what I have learned in criminal justice and criminology and psychology classes to real life settings. I also have learned how the system treats and protects victims, which is especially interesting to me since victimization is one of my research areas.”

At John Jay College, Jin hopes to work with noted professor Louis Schlesinger. He is co-principal investigator in a joint research project with the FBI Behavioral Science Unit studying sexual and serial murder, rape, bias homicide, suicide-by-cop, and other extraordinary crimes.

As for her career goals, Jin says, “I know what I want to do, but to choose one specific path is impossible at this point.” She aspires to work for the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit.

“I also hope to go back to Korea to assist the criminal justice system there,” she says. “Korea’s laws regarding sexual assaults are in need of dramatic changes.”

Last but not least, Jin would like to follow in McQuiston’s footsteps in earning a doctorate and becoming a tenured professor. No matter where her career path takes Jin, it’s a safe bet that McQuiston, and her parents, will be proud of her achievements.