By Eric Ruble
Victor Qiu’s parents frequently reminded him about the importance of contributing to his community in San Francisco, where they emigrated from China. His upbringing inspired him to pursue a career in public service – which recently led to a summer internship in the office of U.S. Rep. Ami Bera (CA-7th District).
“I wanted the opportunity to see how the federal government works up-close and get firsthand experience of that, especially as a first-generation student,” said Qiu, who graduated from the University of Southern California in May 2021 with a bachelor’s in political science from the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and a master’s in public administration from the Price School of Public Policy.
Public service in action
Qiu earned his internship, which ended this August, through the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. While working for Bera, Qiu served as a liaison between the congressman and his Sacramento-area constituents. He addressed their concerns, researched Bera’s policies and legislative positions, and drafted letters to respond to messages.
“Being able to help build direct communication between constituents and their congressman’s office taught me the importance of providing citizens with a better understanding of the decisions and positions of their representative in Congress,” Qiu said.
His time in Bera’s office brought him one step closer to a position in which he can help people who are systemically neglected.
“I’m dedicated to a career in public service to improve the communities that I grew up in and to serve individuals from low-income and underserved backgrounds,” Qiu said.
“As a child of immigrants, a lot of education policy [and] housing policy really resonates with me. Throughout middle and high school, [my parents] encouraged me to volunteer at local food banks, public libraries, and the Boys and Girls Club.”
Making higher ed attainable
As the first person in his family to go to college, Qiu said he understands the value of education and the merits of making it accessible to all. He just began coursework at the University of California, Hastings College of Law in San Francisco.
“Being in the city that I grew up in, I feel that I am able to connect more with residents, specifically on housing policy, on immigration,” he said.
He just started courses at Hastings as a Legal Education Opportunity Program Scholar. The program is designed to provide legal education for students “who come from disadvantaged educational, economic, social, or physical backgrounds,” according to Hastings. It’s precisely the kind of initiative Qiu wants to promote; he says he is passionate about getting marginalized groups into college and graduate school.
Qiu was able to nurture that passion at Price. He was involved in Mentorship for an Accessible Price (MAP), where he advised a prospective student during the admissions process. Like Qiu, the mentee is a first-generation college student.
“[MAP] really helped me develop my understanding of education policy and how to guide someone else who has a completely different experience through the admissions process,” Qiu said, adding that the student he helped was admitted to Price.
A dedication to the public good
Qiu was also a research assistant at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy under Associate Professor Christian Grose.
Qiu said combined with school work, these extracurricular experiences helped him build the underpinnings of his career. In the classroom, he learned how to connect concepts with real-world applications. He specifically referred to Vice Dean Juliet Musso’s class, “Professional Workshop in Public Administration” (PPDE 505).
“Her class really gave me a strong boost and tied everything together,” Qiu said.
Musso’s course teaches students how to write, interview and network in the public administration space. Qiu said the ability to gain such practical knowledge is what drew him to the progressive degree program, which enabled him to earn two degrees in just four years.
“Classes for writing and professional workshops — those really provided me with the skills that I’m putting to use in my internship,” he said.
Upon graduation from law school, Qiu plans to work for a nonprofit legal aid organization or in government.
He said Price prepared him for a lifetime of work in the field, giving him the tools, mindset and leadership skills it requires. He added that he has already applied this knowledge during his internship.
“[Price] really gave me a strong foundation for public service,” he shared. Qiu will further build upon that foundation in law school, where he will continue learning how to fight for those who have the fewest opportunities – and will ensure they have a more equitable chance to succeed.