Arts and Humanities People and Community

Ken Jeong tells students, ‘make the most of it and make it your own’

For the second installment of its “What Matters to U” lecture series, Student Government invited actor, comedian, and physician Ken Jeong to the University of Miami to discuss his atypical career path.
What Matters to U with Ken Jeong

Korean-American actor, comedian, and physician Ken Jeong spoke in the second installment of Student Government's "What Matters to U" lecture series. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

Best known for his roles in “The Hangover” trilogy, “Community,” and his very own television show, “Dr. Ken,” Ken Jeong visited the University of Miami on April 11 as the final act in this semester’s Student Government “What Matters to U” lecture series.

The Student Engagement Planning Agency (SEPA), the newest agency within Student Government, spearheaded the event. The event was moderated by Jack Camoratto, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, and Winston Warrior, lecturer for the School of Communication. Keegan Gibson, SEPA chair, expressed how this interactive series came about and why Jeong was chosen.

“We strongly felt that he would be able to touch on serious issues in our society in a manner that would be engaging and relatable to our student body,” said Gibson. “While there were many incredible takeaways from this process one can apply to life, the most notable is to dream big, and not let anyone get in your way.”

Being the minority in any space, whether it be in a classroom setting or – in Jeong’s case – the entertainment industry, comes with variable challenges. Jeong expressed how finding his passion for acting blossomed while attending Duke University.

Growing up, Jeong did not have aspirations to be an actor—or even a doctor. But he felt he owed it to his parents to pursue medicine. He later obtained his medical degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Jeong moonlighted as a stand-up comedian while training for his residency in internal medicine at Ochsner Medical Center in Louisiana.

After several conversations with his wife Tran, she insisted that he quit being a doctor and take that leap of faith to focus solely on entertainment.

Students at the What Matters to U event with Ken JeongJeong expressed his efforts to “stay real” to not only himself but his community as well. He shared with the students gathered in the Shalala Student Center ballroom how it’s a priority for him to portray original characters without making his race the focal point. He also mentioned how after his role in the hit movie, “Crazy Rich Asians,” roles for characters that were “color-blind” – meaning not specific to an Asian character with an accent – began to pour in.

“Intent is what carries me,” said the Korean-American actor. “I got that part [Mr. Chow] on a fluke. It was kind of a role that could be considered very stereotypical. I just decided to play it very ironically. in my head, I was making fun of the poorly written ‘Asians’ stereotypes.”

Jeong gave the student body some sound advice on stepping out on faith and following their dreams.

“Know you’re not alone,” said the comedian. “Everybody has a right to pursue what they want. Whatever reality gives you, you make the most of it and make it your own.”