CAPAL Intern Spotlight Jung Jun Cho ’18

Jung Jun ‘JJ’ Cho is a rising third year at the University of Virginia. He is pursuing a major in foreign affairs with a minor in entrepreneurship. Outside of school, JJ is a volunteer at NAKASEC which is an organization that serves to organize Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice. This summer, he will be interning with the USDA Agricultural Research Service for the office of Technology Transfer in Washington D.C.

What are you excited to learn about during your internship this summer?

I am excited to learn about the workplace culture within the government during my internship this summer. Not only do I want to immerse myself in the roles and responsibilities my internship requires of me, but I also want to learn how to build and widen my professional network. That would include building relationships and making connections with my supervisors and co-workers and being able to collaborate well with others. The saying, “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know,” could not be any truer.

In terms of what I want to learn in the actual internship at the USDA Agricultural Research Service itself, I would like to learn more about the peer review process from the standpoints of the scientific researcher and the reviewer. The USDA is such a wide and vast agency, yet they still manage to maintain a working system to conduct successful peer reviews from across the agency. Learning the process would enable me to examine just how systematic and static the ARS peer review process is for the hundreds of research projects conducted each year.

Most importantly, I am most excited about the unknown and all the new experiences to come. I look forward to waking up every morning not knowing what I am going to accomplish or experience each day. I view an internship as an opportunity to experience a trial run for a possible career in the future. Since the trial run allows you to experience the workplace without making the serious long-term commitments, it provides you with the opportunity to gain real work life experiences and the ability to make long lasting friendships.

Why did you decide to spend your summer with CAPAL?

I decided to spend my summer with CAPAL because the overall mission of CAPAL and the opportunities the organization provides to young professionals was just impossible to pass up. From a very young age, I have been exposed to the promotion of AANHPI interests and the various policy issues affecting the AANHPI community. Thus, being able to be a part of an organization that directly aligns and focuses on the AANHPI initiative on a larger scale is a dream come true.

Also, the dedication CAPAL places on the educational and professional development aspects of empowerment for the AANHPI youth was a major factor in spending my summer with CAPAL. For one, CAPAL organizes Washington Leadership Programs (WLPs) each week that allows young professionals to learn more about the AANHPI community and our role in public policy. Second, CAPAL provides ample opportunities to practice professional development skills through various events and networking mixers. Having the opportunity to speak with well-respected mentors on a one-to-one basis is not an opportunity that comes by very often. So not only are interns provided with the history and the policy issues surrounding the AANHPI community, but we are lucky enough to apply our professional development skills with amazing mentors.

Most of all, I am very grateful to have the chance to work with smart, motivated and like-minded individuals within the organization this summer. By thriving off the energy of those around me, I know it will make me work that much harder. What can I say, CAPAL is the best organization out there! Who wouldn’t want to be a part of such a great organization?

What are the projects that you’re working on this summer and how are they connected to your interests in public service?

For my internship at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, I work specifically at the Office of Scientific Quality Review (OSQR). Just to provide a little background about the OSQR, it was created by the ARS in 1998 as a response to the Agricultural Research Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 Public Law 105-185. The farm bill basically calls for USDA to establish procedures to perform scientific peer reviews of all research projects conducted by the ARS.

As the OSQR manages and implements the ARS peer review system for research projects, I am currently learning how the OSQR centrally coordinates and conducts panel reviews for project plans. In the near future, perhaps I will be able to assist or even oversee and manage one of the research projects on my own. For now, I am responsible for the input of data in the OSQR database and managing the files of research projects, ad hoc, and re-review project plans.

The OSQR manages and oversees the research projects to make sure that ARS’s research has scientific merit and programmatic relevance. Most importantly, the OSQR also strives to create an environment that promotes responsible conduct which fosters integrity in research. The OSQR’s goals are connected to my interests in public service because I have the amazing opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and create a better society. By being a part of an agency that holds the processes associated with scientific research accountable, our work may eventually lead to the implementation of future legislation or even resolve issues faced within our society. As the USDA ARS covers a wide range of issues such as nutrition and food safety, animal production and protection, and natural resources & sustainable agricultural systems, I can create an impact within a wide variety of issues which is something I have always wanted to do as a public servant.

What do you do in your free time?

I am a very active person so I typically like to play sports (such as football or basketball) or work out at the gym. I also love to travel and explore so look for me gazing out into the distance admiring the beautiful nature while taking in the beautiful weather.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

The best piece of advice that I have received goes a little something like this.

The worst thing you can do for yourself Is become complacent. You can’t wait for things to happen to you – if you want something bad enough, you have to go get it and make it happen. And if you find something that sounds too difficult, it probably means you don’t want it bad enough.




Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.

Sharon Le is a rising third-year student at the University of Virginia, double majoring in Psychology and Spanish, on the Pre-Law track. Sharon served as the External Vice President for the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA@UVA) the past year, and is also involved in Phi Alpha Delta – the International Pre-Law Fraternity, and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team at the University. She was greatly exposed to the Asian Pacific American representation not only through her involvement with the Vietnamese community in Northern Virginia with VSA but also through her background – having grown up in Vietnam and moving to America in high school. Sharon hopes to promote Asian Pacific American leadership with her commitments and to give the community a bigger voice in the country.