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2013–14 GOLD Scholars

Mathew Ha ’14

Mathew’s eyes light up when asked about his Hamilton experience. He has taken to heart the College’s motto, “Know thyself,” and feels strongly that it best sums up his four years on College Hill. “Every opportunity I’ve had [has become] an asset in helping me understand who I am, and what my purpose in this life is.”

A world politics major from North Brunswick, New Jersey, Mathew discovered both his passion and his purpose with the assistance of Henry Platt Bristol Professor of International Affairs Alan Cafruny. Under Cafruny’s guidance, Mathew used a 2012 Emerson Scholars summer research grant to explore the potential impact of Kim Jong Un’s sudden rise to power on relations between North Korea and the United States, China and South Korea. “I discovered an international issue that was not only very personally related to my Korean-American ethnicity, but also has been widely ignored by world leaders. Additionally, I learned that this problem in North Korea has become so fragmented and multifaceted that many have turned down suggestions that a solution is possible…. Since that summer, I have promised myself that I will seek a career that will directly aid the effort of bringing a better tomorrow for North Korea. … While honing certain academic skills in research, writing and public speaking, I came to ‘know myself’ through that summer experience and have begun to form a long-term plan for my future.” Toward that end, Mathew expanded his on-campus involvement beyond Asian Cultural Society to include the College’s chapter of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), an international grass roots human rights organization. He currently serves as the campus-based group’s president. He also participates in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and serves as a DJ for campus radio station, WHCL.

Mathew has come a long way since the spring of 2010, when he was still weighing enrollment at either Hamilton or Lehigh University—with Lehigh appearing, in Mathew’s mind, to have a slight edge. At that juncture, Professor of History Doug Ambrose played a key role in tipping the scales for Hamilton. After attending one of Ambrose’s classes during Accepted Students’ Day, Mathew found himself “amazed by Professor Ambrose’s intellectual capacity for his topic and his sheer level of passion for teaching. [He] electrified the 16-person class with his animated and engaging lecture.” Later in the day, when Mathew heard Ambrose speak at a pre-law forum about the benefits of Hamilton’s open curriculum, he was hooked. In the end, however, it was the College’s many generous donors who turned his plans into reality.

“Their contributions gave me the most memorable and fulfilling four years of my life. I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have.”


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