Double Alumnus Spreads Research Literacy Around the World
While a senior majoring in History at St. John’s University, Raymond Pun ‘07C, ‘13G began a career trajectory that would take him around the world – from New York City to Shanghai, and then to California. Pun landed an internship at the New York Public Library (NYPL) that led him to pursue a Master of Library Science (M.L.S.) degree from Queens College. Coupling this first master’s degree with a Master of Arts (M.A.) in East Asian Studies from St. John’s, he became an ideal candidate to develop a research center at New York University’s (NYU) Shanghai campus and was recruited for that position.
Pun spent two years abroad in China, but remained connected to St. John’s throughout that time. He collaborated on research and teaching with his mentor and former professor, Elaine Carey, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of History at SJU. Said Pun: “All of my support from St. John’s came into effect” as he helped to build an American university in China with a library at its center, drawing upon his background supporting research, as well as his language skills and understanding of the Chinese economy from his East Asian Studies degree.
After returning to the United States, Pun landed a tenure-track position as First-Year Success Librarian at California State University, Fresno. In this role, he focuses on student learning assessment and high impact practices to promote information literacy among first-year students. A typical day involves meeting with students for research consultations, working with faculty to support their teaching, serving as a key liaison to student affairs, and organizing events like a Wikipedia “edit-a-thon.” These activities unite around the same focus: to promote information literacy, critical thinking, and the use of library resources among students.
“If not for that history internship [at NYPL], I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Pun. “I’m doing history, putting history in practice, and applying what I learned” at St. John’s.
His history capstone seminar with Carey, during which he developed an in-depth research project, gave him “the confidence to support researchers in the humanities.” And it was the beginning of an ongoing professional relationship with Carey. “Raymond Pun is an exceptional scholar and librarian who inspires and amazes me in his professionalism, his research, and his endless interest and curiosity in history and the contemporary world,” she said. “Although I was his professor, he has had a tremendous impact on my teaching and research. He motivated me to change my pedagogy to introduce basic research methods in an introductory class and to seek out ongoing collaborations with librarians and archivists.”
Pun also recalls a course on Middle East history taught by Nerina Rustomji, Ph.D., that sparked his interest in the region and inspired him to study Arabic. This knowledge base allowed him to serve as Asian Studies and Middle Eastern Studies Liaison at the NYPL and understand the impact of Islamic culture in China while working there. A first-year Scientific Inquiry course taught by Maura Flannery, Ph.D., was “joy at 7 a.m.” and helped him develop an interest in scientific literacy. He now reads the Science Times regularly, as Flannery recommended, and leads scientific literacy workshops for first-year STEM students at Fresno.
“Ray has not only made his mark, but he has re-defined what it means to be a librarian, researcher, and public educator,” said Rustomji. “He could have gone a more conventional route, but he did not. He just kept pushing himself as a learner and a professional. As a result, he is at the forefront of the creation of public knowledge for the public.”
“St. John’s encourages you to learn as much as you can, while realizing that there is no perfect path to knowledge,” said Pun. “It’s not just developing content; it’s about being inspired by role models. I kept getting encouraged to step outside of my comfort my zone, and it led me all the way to China and now to California. The faculty really care about student development.”