One of Christina Han’s older sisters, Catherine, majored in sociology at UMass Lowell and served on the executive board of the Korean Student Association.
That was a club and community that Christina, a Korean American, wanted to join. So she came to UMass Lowell, too. Not knowing what she wanted to study, she spent her first year taking a range of classes in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, including a pair of criminal justice classes: one on juvenile delinquency and the other on crime and mental illness.
She was intrigued. So, her second semester, she took Introduction to Policing and Introduction to Corrections, “because those are the foundations of criminal justice.” Her sophomore year, she declared as a criminal justice major.
Han was also invited to join the Honors College. There, she took advantage of small, interdisciplinary honors seminars, including Race Matters, taught by adjunct faculty member Gregory DeLaurier, and honors courses within her major, such as Criminal Mind and Behavior, taught by Assoc. Teaching Prof. Cathy Levey.
“I really like the small classes and how you can dive deeper into certain topics,” she says.
Han also found a service-learning opportunity in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, where she acted as one of four student liaisons to the nearly 30 clubs that the office sponsors.
Han worked on public relations for the Korean Student Association as a sophomore, then rose to vice president and president. When COVID-19 shut down the campus and all of the group’s activities had to go online, Han and the executive board seized the chance to plan virtual events with Korean American student organizations at other universities. They co-hosted game nights and other activities with students at American University, Penn State and the University of Colorado Boulder.
“We created an event together so our members could meet other Korean Americans, because there aren’t a lot at UMass Lowell,” says Han, who is from Lexington, Massachusetts.
All of Han’s interests and skills converged in her Honors College capstone project: hosting an online “Support Space” for Asian American and Pacific Islander college students amid a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. She held workshops and discussions on different topics over four weeks so that students could share their experiences openly, learn of resources and strategies for dealing with bias, and support each other.
Han says that working for Multicultural Affairs and seeing how the staff plans behind the scenes and runs meetings and workshops helped her learn how to be a facilitator. With Levey as her capstone advisor, Han prepared by reading research and news coverage about hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Running the Support Space served as a way to channel her own concerns into positive action, she says. Several Asian American students from UMass Lowell and Simmons College signed up for the four sessions, along with a couple of white students who wanted to learn more about how to support their friends.
“Some students have experienced discrimination because of COVID-19 – but whatever happens in the Support Space stays in the Support Space,” Han says. “For me, just being able to help others and educate others, knowing I was able to make a difference in someone else’s day, that’s a coping mechanism.”
Han is taking a gap year after graduation to work and reflect on a year in which she confronted not only the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, but racial injustices directed against her community. She also plans to rest, inspired by The Nap Ministry, an organization that examines the liberating power of naps and preaches that “Rest is resistance.”
Her favorite Nap Ministry quote? “Rest is our path to liberation. A portal to healing. A human right.”