August 1, 2023

JSI Scholar: Jerwin Tiu

Tell us about your story

In a sunny valley in Nevada, my name is Jerwin Tiu and I was born and raised in the heart of Las Vegas! And as such, my childhood was filled with bright neon lights and traffic noises that eventually became comforting to me. I grew up in an ethnically Chinese and Filipino household to an extensive family of immigrants. With my hero, my mother, as our sole caretaker, my two sisters and I felt the harsh realities of our low-income status. Resource accessibility was a huge issue for my family to navigate growing up, particularly when it came to healthcare. I wish to focus on issues of accessibility and amplifying the voices of underserved communities. I have had the opportunity to involve myself in the Las Vegas Roots Community Garden, UNLV Buddies, and other service-related organizations, where I have been able to work hand-in-hand with underserved communities and learn more about their unique experiences while also educating them on things that may help their process. I understand how communities are impacted by the information allotted to them, and I wish to be at the forefront of change when it comes to service design and program evaluation when it comes to public resources for underserved communities. Because financial struggles were at the forefront of my mind growing up, they completely overshadowed my feelings of identity, especially when it came to my ethnic background. I did not feel “Asian” enough growing up. I could not relate to my Asian peers, so I have since spent a lot of time trying to understand my Asian identity and what it means to me. In that task, I have had the privilege to work with the Oral History and Research Center on my university’s first oral history research project on the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. I have learned so much by speaking to members of my community, and in doing so, I have become equipped with addressing the specific needs of a community that means so much to me. Overall, I live my life with love and laughter at the crossroads of everything that I do! I am really just a boy that likes to eat sushi and make jokes with his loved ones. I just hope to be someone that serves as a lighthouse for others that do not know where they are headed in the sea of life. I hope my waves of change come in floods and rush in to help others.

What path did you take when you first started college?

Truthfully, I never even considered a path in public service. A Majority of my family found jobs in the hospitality industry, and as a student at UNLV, a university known for their Hospitality program, I thought my destined path was to follow suit. However, with many conversations and debates with loved ones, I went from being a Hospitality major, to a Pre-Professional Biology major on a pre-medical track, to eventually a Business Marketing major with a dual interest in public service (give or take a few majors in between). Things I seemed so sure of started to become so unfamiliar, and so I decided to create a path that felt more like me.

What made you consider a career in public policy/public service/international affairs?

Two things made me consider a path in public service and international affairs. First, I have spent the majority of my educational journey involved on a student council/government level. But my interest in public service piqued with my time at UNLV’s Student Government which helped me get a grasp on terms familiar in the public service world. I started to draft agendas, resolutions, and bills, to the point where I wondered if this was the path for me. Second, it was my time as an Oral Historian and Researcher at the Oral History and Research Center. I was able to learn so much alongside my partner and friend Cecilia Winchell, from Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders that I look up to as role models like Tia Ka’auamo, Erica Mosca, and Emily Ku, just to name a few. In this, I was also able to meet one of my career idols, Bill Imada who I wish to emulate in my career journey.

Who inspires you to think about public service?

I would say my grandmother. While she was never a community leader or did anything impactful to communities of people, she stood in front of waves of opposition, and with her goals in mind she said “Watch me.” She inspires me every day to live with grit and an unwavering passion while remaining kind and giving to others. I hope to give back to whole communities of people, in honor of my grandmother who has been giving to others her whole life.

What are you most excited about the JSI program at UW?

I am really just excited to be able to learn! Learn more about public service and my role in it, learn more about myself as I navigate a place so unfamiliar and far from home, and learn more about others and their experiences in life. I feel as though I have lived in a world where I was covered with love from my family and friends, and I feel that this separation will be one that truly helps me learn about the world, others, and myself, more so than I could even imagine!