Vahn Chang now takes
refuge in the law
It's not unusual that Vahn Chang's parents, brothers, cousins and aunts
came to her commencement. But they, more than most, knew the long, hard
road all of them had traveled before she received her law degree.
Born in Laos, Chang and her family escaped to a Thailand refugee camp
after the Communist takeover. They lived in the camp for four years; Chang
was 3 when they arrived, 7 when they were able to come to America due to
an aunt's intervention. "It was like living in two different worlds,"
Chang recalled in a 1996 Atlanta Journal/Constitution article. "We
were able to go out and look at the city. But before night, we had to come
back to our bamboo houses. It was a drastic difference. Sometimes I wished
I could stay on the outside in a real house."
While in Thailand, Chang often encountered American researchers studying
conditions at the refugee camp. Her stateside education began as a second
grader at Decatur's Winnona Park Elementary school, and she later graduated
from Tucker High School as class valedictorian.
As an Emory undergraduate, Chang found herself pursuing an pyschology
degree. Her stellar academic career earned her a Woodruff Scholarship to
the law school, where she concentrated in real estate law.
Real estate law seems an ill fit for a former dedicated volunteer for
Amnesty International and the Georgia Childcare Council. Not really, said
Chang. She cites law school Professor Frank Alexander, well known for his
social activism, as an influence. Alexander took Chang's seminar class to
the East Lake Meadows housing project, where they learned about revitalizing
neighborhoods and the difficulty displaced tenants have in finding affordable
housing. "When I see his energy, how committed he is to low-income
housing and the poor, it showed me I can have a legal career and do community
service as well," Chang said. "He's truly a mentor."
Chang, who starts her career at the Atlanta legal real estate firm Hyatt
& Stubblefield in August, will be taking the bar exam in July. She's
looking forward to the down time between now and then, but it won't last
long. "I'm looking forward to doing lots of pro bono work," she
said. "Lots of the things Professor Alexander is doing."
to May 18, 1998 Contents Page