Alumni Profile: Cindy Wu

‘The program offers such a special learning opportunity—it would be a shame to put any pressure on yourself to have the “right kind” of experience.’

From PCJ to Harvard Law School, Cindy Wu has combined her background in peace, conflict and justice to the real practice of justice.

Cindy graduated from UofT in 2019 with a double major in PCJ and International Relations. She credits the latitude to explore interdisciplinary courses through the PCJ program and the connections she made with her PCJ cohort as influences on her current path.

Now in her final year at Harvard Law School, Cindy currently serves as the Executive Managing Editor for the Harvard Human Rights Journal and the Programming Director for Advocates for Human Rights alongside her work in a human rights clinic.

Learn more about Cindy Wu’s journey in the PCJ program and how it has impacted her in her studies since!

 

Q: When did you graduate from PCJ and what other programs did you study at UofT? 

A: I graduated from U of T in 2019, and I double majored in Peace, Conflict and Justice and International Relations.

Q: What was your favourite aspect of PCJ?

A: Initially, I did not have a clear idea of how I wanted to approach my interests. Instead, I just took courses that I thought sounded interesting and could help me build my knowledge of peace and justice. I ended up taking so many obscure but interesting courses which really enriched my knowledge — I took Hungarian history, a lot of courses relating to environmental justice, and even one on mass incarceration. At the end of four years, I had a very well-rounded understanding of these topics that I could apply to my work in the future.

Q: What influence did PCJ have on your path both at U of T and after?

A: PCJ helped me to think outside of the box and approach topics from different vantage points. More specific to my path, the program helped me see how justice and the law can structure and sustain peace and democracy. On the flipside, it also taught me how those elements can sometimes be tools used to undermine processes of peace. The program really helped me put together those building blocks and learn how to work more justly. Another thing that PCJ helped me with, specific to the law, was improving my ability to approach topics narrowly and systemically.

It also gave me the opportunity to meet so many brilliant people and I got to learn from my classmates who all had such diverse interests. It is really cool that you get to stay with your classmates for three year—it’s not really common at such a big school like U of T, so it’s nice to have a cohesive community.

Q: PCJ is such a broad and interdisciplinary program. How were you able to explore your interests and find a path that suited you?

A: I had a lot of freedom to take courses that I was interested in, and in my experience, the best ones were when I got the opportunity to get a credit for independent research. In the summer between my third and fourth year, another PCJ student and I went to Uganda to do a research project and then took that forward for an independent study course the following year. That was one of the best experiences I could have had as a student, being in a post-conflict setting first-hand, and it really gave me an opportunity to think about what kinds of areas in peace and conflict that I might follow in my career path. It also gave me the sense that if I wanted to pursue work in this area, that I could work on issues important to me.

Q: What does your day-to-day work entail?

A: Currently, I am going into my final year of Harvard Law School. In my day-to-day life as a law student, I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule and get to take a lot of interesting courses. Right now, I am part of a human rights clinic where we work with NGOs around the world on different human rights issues and provide legal research and support. I am also involved in extracurricular activities as the Executive Managing Editor for the Harvard Human Rights Journal and the Programming Director for a student organization called Advocates for Human Rights. As part of Advocates for Human Rights, I partner with NGOs to again provide human rights research support and last year I was lucky enough to get to work with Human Rights Watch on a research project.

Q: What is something that you wish you knew when you were in PCJ?

A: Just to have fun! As students, we push ourselves to achieve as much as we can, whether it be to get specific internships or to check off certain boxes. I think I should have just explored what I was passionate about and tried to meet as many people as possible instead of putting pressure on myself to fit into a specific category.

Q: Do you have any last piece of advice for current students?

A: In undergrad there’s so much pressure to get professional experience or to come away with that one line that you can put on your resume, but I think what a program like PCJ allows you to do is so unique and so special. It’s such a special learning opportunity—it would be a shame to put any pressure on yourself to have the “right kind” of experience.


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