When Jennifer Han arrived in Pullman from South Korea on a snowy day in 2021 to begin her doctoral program at Washington State University, she faced a number of challenges. COVID-19 was still prevalent. She was adjusting to a new country and learning to navigate being a single parent while pursuing an advanced degree.
Fortunately, she had steady help from her sister Jihae Han, who moved to Pullman to provide childcare for her niece allowing her sister to pursue her degree. In recognition of this steadfast support for her sister, Jihae Han has been named the Fall 2023 Chosen Coug. She was celebrated at a ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 4, along with 23 other nominees for the prestigious award.
“The emotional support she offered was priceless. Jihae possesses a wonderful sense of humor, a warm-hearted nature, and remarkable thoughtfulness,” Jennifer Han said. “Her selflessness and unwavering support have been the foundation of my success during these challenging years.”
The Chosen Coug Award, managed by Student Affairs and sponsored by BECU, recognizes people who have made a substantial impact on a student’s experience at WSU. It is given twice a year during WSU’s Fall and Spring Family Weekends.
Jihae has “seamlessly filled the role of a second parent for my child,” her sister said in her nomination letter. Jihae provides regular childcare for her niece in addition to managing household responsibilities such as cleaning and cooking. Jennifer, who is pursuing her doctorate in hospitality business management in the Carson College of Business, spends long days in the classroom and lab – days Jihae’s help has made possible.
“Her presence enabled me to attend conferences, take evening courses, and have someone to confide in during the most challenging times,” Jennifer wrote in her nomination letter. “Without her, I might have been forced to halt my academic pursuits.”
In 2022, Jihae decided to earn her own graduate degree and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in communications in the Murrow College at WSU. Her studies haven’t decreased the help she provides to Jennifer, though. Jennifer wrote that even when Jihae’s workload was more demanding than her own, she consistently provided assistance and care.
Jihae Han was chosen as this fall’s winner by an award selection committee made up of staff from around the Pullman campus. Committee member Michael Heim, director of Migrant Education Student Access and Support in Student Affairs, said the committee was impressed by the high quality of all of the submissions and they faced a difficult decision.
“In the end, the committee could have selected any number of nominations as a stalwart example of the kind of impact a Chosen Coug provides for their Coug,” he said. “To select a clear stand-out example of the impact that supportive folks have on students is a near impossible challenge. It’s also a privilege and makes me proud to be part of the WSU community.”
Ultimately, the committee selected Jihae Han for her “commitment and selfless dedication to helping her sister through challenging times.”
“Jihae is a brilliant example of the direct, exemplary support that is often required to help navigate the life-changing circumstances and transformation our students experience at WSU,” Heim said. “The result is a beautiful dance of familial support and a student’s determination.”
Joining Heim on the committee were:
- Colette Casavant, director of student services in CAHNRS
- Lauren Graziano, development/program coordinator for corporate engagement in the WSU Foundation
- Rob Morales, associate director in the Access Center
- Kristina Peterson-Wilson, vice provost for academic administration and chief of staff
- Jeanne Weiler, community engagement director in the Office of the President