Jake Bubman knew when he entered USC that he wanted to be a lawyer.
Actually, his exact words were that he’s known he’s wanted to be a lawyer since he “could speak.”
He comes by it honestly, though. Both his parents are lawyers, and his sister is currently in law school. So, as he prepares to enter law school after graduating from USC this month, he thinks back to the wisdom imparted to him from his family: pursue what you’re passionate about.
Bubman took that to heart in both academics and extracurriculars, graduating with degrees from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in international relations and the global economy and Spanish, several internships at top law firms, an international championship with his a cappella group and as a salutatorian for the Class of 2021.
“I was absolutely stunned when Provost [Charles] Zukoski shared the news with me,” he said. “I spent the entire call with my jaw on the floor, completely speechless.”
Though a career in law was always a sure bet, attending USC was not. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Bubman knew he wanted to stay in L.A. but had a tough time deciding which school he wanted to go to. However, a visit to the University Park Campus changed all of that.
“I found myself on McCarthy Quad in a giant huddle of students just walking to and from class, and there was just this one moment where it just totally felt like home,” Bubman said. “That one moment, everything kind of clicked and I knew this is where I needed to be.”
USC 2021 salutatorian’s interests range from a cappella to immigration
Even though he knew then that he was meant to be at USC, he had no idea how he was going to get involved. In searching of student organizations to join, someone suggested Bubman attend an a cappella performance, something he admits he had no interest in at the time.
“I just on a whim went with a friend and was totally surprised … the caliber of musician and vocals was just unbelievable,” he said. “It had never crossed my mind that it was such an intense art, so after I was like, ‘All right, I need to do that.’”
Despite his initial resistance, seeing that first performance inspired him to audition for the SoCal VoCals, USC’s oldest a cappella group. He made the group and eventually served as both treasurer and president.
If you ask him, though, he’ll tell you the most memorable part of SoCal VoCals was being a part of a group that won a collegiate a cappella international championship and was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York.
“We had been working on that set for probably seven or eight months. three hours a day, four or five days a week, so there was sort of a soul bond that we all formed in that time,” Bubman said. “We were absolutely a family, and that set was everything to us after putting so much blood, sweat and tears into it.”
In addition to SoCal VoCals, Bubman also spent time in the Model United Nations of Southern California, where he also served in several leadership roles. However, it was his work with the Immigrants and Global Migration Initiative that really shaped his legal path.
Bubman helped build an immigration court watch program, which sent different volunteers into immigration courtrooms in L.A. to evaluate how much courts were complying with due process rights for immigrants and asylum seekers facing deportation.
“It probably wasn’t a typical college experience, but when I look back, that’ll be something that really sticks out for me, because I really felt like I was doing something for my community in that moment,” he said. “That was something really cool that I feel like I would not have been able to do had it not been for USC and the professors and faculty that I met along the way.”
Finally comfortable in his own skin, Jake Bubman looks forward to celebrating with the Class of 2021
It’s safe to say that most of the Class of 2021 probably didn’t have a “typical” college experience, given the pandemic. Bubman admits that the past year hasn’t exactly been easy, with classes moved online, extracurriculars canceled or conducted virtually, and isolation from friends. However, he acknowledges that he and the rest of his classmates will be better off in the long run because of their resilience.
“This has been really tough mentally and very draining, but we’re all going through this together,” he said. “It’s been really great to lean on friends, sort of knowing that we have that shared experience because we can all relate to each other. I think it’s been a really unique opportunity to stay connected in a very different way.”
When USC announced that commencement would be in person, he was absolutely ecstatic at the prospect of having members of his family in attendance and seeing friends for the first time in over a year.
“When that announcement dropped, it was just like happy tears all around,” he said.
This has been really tough mentally and very draining, but we’re all going through this together.
With more people getting vaccinations and the country starting to return to some semblance of normalcy, Bubman is excited to relax and travel a bit this summer before attending law school in the fall at UCLA — a move to USC’s crosstown rival that his friends won’t let him forget.
As he prepares to walk across that stage at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this week as a salutatorian, Bubman can’t help but look back at some of his early struggles. He admits that he was bullied throughout elementary and middle school, but he always told himself that the one thing the “popular kids” never had over him was work ethic.
He probably wouldn’t be the first to talk about his own work ethic to others, but then again, he doesn’t have to. The achievements speak for themselves.
“For me personally, this was a very full-circle moment,” Bubman said. “Looking back on that time in my life now that I have received this incredible honor and am finally genuinely happy and confident in myself, I am so proud of everything I have achieved since then and feel like I can tell my younger self, ‘We did it.’”