As her UCI commencement looms closer, School of Social Sciences’ senior Daijanique Joseph is gearing up for a future of championing for educational equity. After being selected for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), she conducted her own research on the academic persistence of African American female college students at four-year institutions, a demographic that she found had been largely ignored in these types of studies. She also studied abroad in Barbados, and completed the Public Policy and International Affairs Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. But perhaps the most impactful experience she’s had was her time with the University of California Washington, D.C. (UCDC) academic internship program.

As part of the UC-wide program, she was able to intern with the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., giving her a real look at the world of politics, policy and research. Though she worked 40 hours a week working writing policy memos and conducting research for grant proposals, empirical analyses and briefing packets, she could not resist getting involved with local schools in her free time.

“I felt so appreciative for the opportunity to even be there in D.C. – it’s not something many students get to do,” she says. “I saw the opportunity in itself as a sign of privilege, so I thought I should use it to help others.”

Instead of using her days off to sightsee and relax, she decided to volunteer to take students from low-income communities in the D.C. area to visit local landmarks and government buildings. She hoped to serve as an example as well as motivate the high school and junior high students.

“Even though these students live so close, most of them had never really seen these places for themselves,” she says. “It was about showing them that they are just steps away from all this and that they could even be a part of it in the future. Showing them that politics isn’t far-fetched, that it’s accessible and it is relatable to them.”

Following her graduation this spring, Joseph hopes to participate in a government fellowship program and then go on to pursue a Juris Doctor (JD) and a Master of Public Policy (MPP) dual degree. Her goal is to find a career that allows her to create laws and policies to remedy problems within the education system, perhaps as a senator or representative. But she’d also be happy with a more behind-the-scenes role in public administration and research – as long as she is instrumental in making these changes happen.

“My parents always tell me to ‘just do it all,’ she says. “So who knows – maybe I’ll end up doing both.”

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Original article by Bria Balliet, UCI School of Social Sciences,