Name: Jalen Jones
Majors, year: 4th year psychology and English, minor in creative writing
Scholarship received: Black Lives Matter Research Scholarship
Hometowns: Grew up in Highland Park, Los Angeles, before moving to Santa Clarita at 11
What are some of the major milestones in your life?
Some major milestones in my life include directing an Emmy Award winning Public Service Announcement, receiving a nomination for the NAACP Image Award, working at and attending the Academy Awards Oscars Ceremony for over five years, having my writing published in Rainy Day, Geez, New Forum, and other publications.
Why did you decide to come to UCI and pursue dual majors in psychology and English?
I decided to attend UCI when I took a tour on campus during my senior year of high school. While strolling along Ring Road and past all of the club booths, I noticed how the students would stop by and talk to each other with bright smiles on their faces. It seemed like there was a great sense of community, despite UCI having such a large campus. Now that I’ve spent four years here since that tour, I can safely say that my intuition was right.
I like to say that I study psychology because I like to think about how people think. It amazes me that I can gain such deep insight into how other people’s minds work and change over time. I am also incredibly passionate about studying identity—I have tailored my classes in psychology to touch on related topics (such as personality psychology, memory, consciousness, etc.), but I’ve found that my delve into the humanities—specifically through my English and writing classes—has proved the most fruitful in that regard. What I love about studying the humanities is how it allows you to take a deeper look, past the numbers and facts, and into more personal narratives/experiences. Finding myself at the crux between psychology and English has allowed me to study the human experience with a complicated nuance that will inevitably be useful in my future as a writer.
What are your plans post-UCI?
I plan to graduate in summer 2022, and will be applying to MFA programs in creative writing. In the future, I hope to write fiction and poetry, as well as teach at a university.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment at UCI?
My biggest accomplishment would be fostering the great sense of community in my halls through my work as a resident advisor. I served as an RA first over the summer after my freshman year, and again during the academic year as a senior. Both times I were unbelievably memorable experiences, and I am incredibly proud of all the ways I was able to help my residents find a home. Seeing how much these students have grown has proven to me how much of an impact I’ve made during my time here at UCI.
Have you received any major grants and/or awards while in pursuit of your degree?
I have been on the Dean’s Honors List for every quarter during my time at UCI, have been admitted to the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society, have been accepted into the Humanities Honors Program, received the SURP Fellowship three times, received funding from the Humanities Honors Program, have received the Student Outreach and Retention Scholarship twice for efforts in supporting the Black community at UCI, and have had research posters/presentations accepted by the Symposium on Cognitive and Language Development (SOCAL), UROP (two times), and the John Hopkins University Macksey Symposium (two times).
What activities kept you busy on campus outside of the classroom?
In the past, I have been a research assistant for the Sarnecka Cognitive Development Lab in the Department of Cognitive Sciences, a research assistant for the Loftus Lab in the School of Social Ecology, a marketing assistant/admissions blogger for UCI’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, a director and writer for UCI’s Soulstice League (a club dedicated to showcasing our university’s talent through video and skit production), a SPOP (orientation) staffer, and a deputy editor for the newsletter Politically Invisible Asians. Currently, I am an undergraduate researcher in the Honors Humanities Program, a talent page for the Academy Awards, a resident advisor for UCI Student Housing, a writing tutor for the UCI Writing Center, a campus representative for UCI’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and a DIRHA (Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Healing) mentor for Fountain Valley High School.
Tell us a bit about your research.
I am currently researching under the mentorship of professor Julia Lee through the School of Humanities. I am researching the ways in which Blasians (mixed race Black and Asian individuals) are represented in postmodern American literature. Through my research I am able to learn from the fields of English literary studies, African American studies, and Asian American studies, and combine these realms of thought in a new and interesting way.
Who has played an important role in your life thus far and why?
My parents and grandparents have played an irreplaceable role in my life thus far—their unwavering support has made everything I’ve accomplished (and will accomplish) in my life possible. I also have to thank all of my close friends, who have always reminded me to be true to myself and to follow what I’m most passionate about.
What unique circumstances/life experiences stand out in playing a role in where and who you are today?
My identity—specifically my racial and ethnic identity—has played an essential role in how I navigate my life. My family has taught me the hardships that my Black and Filipino ancestors had to endure in America and the Philippines, and also the beauty of each culture’s traditions and history. Living at the cross-section of these worlds has been a journey of its own, as I have had to learn what it meant to embrace both parts of myself while simultaneously overcoming many of the obstacles that our country still upholds against people of color.
The biggest challenge I have faced was the ostracization and racism that I have experienced in different spaces. This is a reality that is important to recognize, as it is often a roadblock that prevents many individuals of similar backgrounds from being able to achieve what I have been able to throughout my college career. Being certain in my own identity and skills has required a great deal of resilience in the face of discriminatory adversity.
What’s been your best UCI memory?
One of my best memories from my undergraduate experience has got to be one of the many trips to Newport Beach that I’ve taken with my friends — a 2AM expedition to Seaside Donuts probably lands on top.
What advice would you like to leave with your fellow Anteaters?
Though it might sound like I’m perpetually busy, I would like to stress that balancing my responsibilities with healthy doses of rest and recreation have played an essential role in my life for me to get where I’m at. I hope those who find themselves constantly busy make sure to remind themselves that taking time for oneself—whether that’s through down time, or through fun with friends/loved ones—is productive too.