Sang Jun Park

Class of 2019

From fine-tuning social infrastructure to advancing digital literacy in the developing world, entrepreneur and computer scientist Sang Jun Park '19 is hard at work realizing the possibilities of systems and societies alike.

As a programmer, Park is primarily interested in the intersections of technology and government-affiliated industries like healthcare, education, and mass transit. As a philosophy minor, he considers the impact of increasing connectivity on economies and cultures. And as an entrepreneur, he founded and leads an EdTech startup, CodePhil, that’s busy empowering students in remote villages throughout the Philippines.

“Thankfully, Columbia has a seemingly infinite amount of resources available to help you pursue your interests,” Park said.

The university’s interdisciplinary atmosphere and New York City’s diversity drew him to campus from Fort Wayne, Indiana. In his first semester, Professor John Kender’s Honors Introduction to Computer Science—“still by far the most challenging course” the Egleston Scholar has taken—cemented Park’s interest in the field. Through the Core Curriculum, he studied Contemporary Civilizations with lecturer Nicole Callahan, which he credits with opening up a whole new way of thinking, and also brushed up on his Korean with lecturer Beom Lee.

“As someone from a STEM-oriented background, I never expected to enjoy reading philosophical texts so much,” he said. “Taking these courses not only introduced me to entirely new fields of interest, but also shaped my thinking about governments and societies.”

Driven by his passions for education and development, Park started CodePhil as a nonprofit in his first year as a way to advance digital literacy and impart marketable skills among some of the world’s most impoverished students. Initially, he and his team taught basic web programming skills like HTML/CSS and JavaScript, but soon realized their students needed training in more fundamental digital skills such as typing and navigating computer interfaces.

“We’re building our own typing software to meet the unique requirements of communities with limited internet and resources in developing countries,” said Park, who has earned funding from Columbia’s Alternative Break Program and the Davis Projects for Peace initiative. “We’ve been working directly with the Filipino government to launch our product, TypePhil, and also providing consulting to overhaul digital skills training for skills and companies.”

Park has also worked with Columbia’s Data Science Institute on a project identifying bias and inequities on Airbnb, as well as overseen Jumpstarting Aspiring Developers and Entrepreneurs, a weeklong program that immerses first-year Columbians in New York’s startup ecosystem. Off campus, he has interned with the insurance startup Oscar Health, where he concentrated on making patients’ electronic health records more accessible to medical practitioners, and worked in Silicon Valley at Facebook on optimally handling huge amounts of incoming traffic per second.

In his moments of free time, Park enjoys attending concerts around the city, sampling new restaurants, and rock-climbing at the university’s Manhattanville campus.

“What makes New York City special is that it isn’t just tech, like in San Francisco or Seattle, but tech and fashion, tech and news, tech and healthcare, tech and government, et cetera.” Park said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without all the mentors and friends I’ve met along the way, so it gives me great pleasure to give others that opportunity to meet amazing people.”

Student Spotlight

What makes New York City special is that it isn’t just tech, like in San Francisco or Seattle, but tech and fashion, tech and news, tech and healthcare, tech and government.

Sang Jun Park
Class of 2019