This article is part of a series called Success Stories, in which our journalists profile recent Hunter graduates, focusing on their careers. A new Success Story is published every other Thursday.
Whether she’s talking to a presidential candidate or a United Nations commission or anyone else, Jaslin Kaur is not afraid to say what she must.
“I’m wondering where you see conversations about Asian Americans in the United States going in 2020 and beyond,” she says to former presidential candidate Andrew Yang at an ABC News-hosted dinner with undecided voters, without a flinch. Here is someone with a voice.
“I feel like a lot of people have this stigma around CUNY students that just because we’re overwhelmingly POC and low-income and at a public institution, we don’t have important things to say,” said Kaur, who transferred to Hunter from Nassau Community College. “I’ve shared so many classroom spaces with people who have taught me so much and informed a lot of the things I said in that interview” with Yang.
Kaur graduated summa cum laude from Hunter last year with a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies, a minor in Human Rights and a breadth of experiences in advocating for women’s rights, immigrant rights and issues affecting the Asian community, from Washington, D.C. to the United Nations.
Now, she is the Special Assistant to the Founder and President of New American Leaders, a group that helps train first- and second-generation immigrants to run for local office.
“I work really closely with the founder to work on her scheduling, speaking engagements and communications,” said Kaur. “I also support some of the special programs that we’ll be rolling out in 2020 and 2021.”
Kaur became immersed in what she calls “immigrant justice work” during an internship with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C. the summer after her junior year. “It was really at the height of the immigrant detention and all the kids in cages,” she said. It seemed like a good way for her to channel her academic interests and work on an issue that, as a child of immigrants, is meaningful to her personally.
“To do that work immersively with a lot of people who didn’t have the fortunate path that my parents were able to get to acquire citizenship and have a more stable life in the United States, I think has been really transformational,” she said.
Kaur didn’t land a full-time job immediately after graduating from Hunter; it took a few months. She previously worked part-time at Dawn Design Studios, an Asian American Pacific Islander-run business. She attributes getting her current job to a combination of “a bit of a connection [with] some people,” “that really arduous application process of sending your resume [to] a lot of different places,” and luck.
In addition to her work at NAL, Kaur volunteers with Know Your IX, a group that raises awareness of civil rights protections among high school and college students.
It was as a student at Nassau that Kaur learned about Know Your IX. She saw on Facebook that the group was funding students’ trips to Washington, D.C. for advocacy training. She’s been with them ever since going on that trip. “I work with them to do a lot of Know Your Rights workshops with students to understand what their rights under Title IX are,” she said.
Kaur hopes that Hunter students will take advantage of opportunities, obstacles notwithstanding. “A lot of people say, ‘oh, it doesn’t matter what school you come from — you can do whatever you want,’ but there are definite setbacks” for students from public institutions, she said, “just structural problems that we’re going to have to fight against for a long time.”
“But,” she continued, “I’ve really found hope in the faculty and other students… You should be able to walk away very different from how you walked into Hunter.”