Serving justice through teaching

Michelle Ki, Editor in Chief

Justice: (n) the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness. Fighting for justice on the front lines is Diamond Bar High School alumnus Mushtaq Gunja, having served as the chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education, a criminal prosecutor in Maryland and now, as an assistant dean and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University.

In high school, he served as the news editor of The Bull’s Eye and an attorney in Mock Trial. He graduated from DBHS in 1996.

“I enjoyed the puzzle and the performing aspect [of Mock Trial]. It was really great training for becoming a lawyer and the rigor of DBHS education prepared me,” Gunja said.

Gunja graduated with a B.A. in Political Science and Diplomatic History from Brown University and a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.

He continued his passions at Harvard, as he was the articles editor for the Harvard Journal and coached the student Mock Trial team.

Before moving to Washington, Gunja served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Baltimore, where he prosecuted a variety of crimes, including racketeering offenses, drug conspiracies and financial fraud.

Gunja was initially drawn to public policy and law when he was in high school and continued to work hard to achieve his ultimate career goals.

“Lawyers solve problems for people–it is such an interesting and important line of work of being able to help people navigate their lives. I always believed that solving crime was important. I had this dream to be a prosecutor and I’m lucky enough to do it now,” he explained.

Working under the Obama Administration for over five and a half years, Gunja served as the chief of staff to the under secretary of Education, in which he provided strategic and policy advice in the development and implementation of policies across higher education, including improving access and affordability, encouraging increased innovation, improving the experience for students with federal loans and ensuring fair treatment for all students of higher education.

wIn 2013, he was detailed to work at the White House Counsel’s Office, vetting Senate-confirmed presidential appointees.

“It was a fascinating experience. The Obama Administration was a really inspiring place to be in. The amount of care that the president and his administration put in picking the [cabinet] nominees, to make sure that they were qualified and ethical, was of significance. It is extremely contradictory, especially compared to today with President Trump’s vetting process,” Gunja explained.

Currently, as an assistant dean in JD Programs and a law professor at Georgetown University, Gunja mainly works in the academic department, helping develop curriculum with an emphasis in criminal law.

Prior to this, Gunja also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Law School and Washington Adventist University.

“I have always loved teaching–there is no other different satisfaction than being able to teach students. However, being a federal prosecutor was the most fulfilling job I could have asked for. When you’re a prosecutor, the word justice is very important. I took it very seriously–trying to figure out what was best and just was really emotionally taxing. I saw victims that each came from very different circumstances,” he stated.

Gunja advises high school students, especially current seniors, to identify what is actually important to them through extracurricular activities in college.

He was part of student leadership at Brown, along with being in mock trial and serving as a teaching assistant.

“I pretty much do all of those things now. Folks that don’t do well in the future is because they’re not passionate.”

Gunja currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children.