Alumni Highlight: Justin Duckham '09

Major: History

Location: Washington, D.C.

Occupation: Correspondent and associate editor for Talk Radio News Service

Though it’s becoming clear that the student body at UC Merced is developing into a politically active hub like its infamous sister campuses, few actually know just how that political spirit grew from the leadership of key players.

A good place to start is by following the trail of Justin Duckham (History/BA/2009), one of the campus's ambitious pioneers. 

Studying for a major in history and minors in philosophy and American studies was not enough to keep Duckham settled with the simple campus life that comes with a university having roughly 700 students at the time. As with every member of the inaugural class, Duckham cared deeply about how the university grew and what interests were at stake. This led him to establish the campus’s first underground newspaper, known as the Fairy Shrimp Times.

“It basically consisted of a few Xeroxed pages, courtesy of the library’s free copy machine. The contents weren’t much prettier, and contained poorly thought-out political screeds from my friends and me,” Duckham said.

While the paper didn't last to become the voice of the students today, it definitely sparked questions amongst students about some of the university administration’s decisions before opening the campus in 2005, and it also bestowed upon Duckham the title of being a young rebel.

Duckham lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a correspondent and associate editor with the Talk Radio News Service. On occasion, one might also see Duckham on the Fox News Channel exposing bias in the media.

One of his proudest accomplishments since graduating from UC Merced was when he was given a recent opportunity to have a sit-down interview with Dan Rather.

“It’s a rare opportunity to meet one of your heroes, nonetheless spend time with them.”

Duckham credits having opportunities such as these to the UCDC program and the fact that UC Merced is a small university. 

“Getting into the UCDC program is relatively competitive at most schools, and I’m not sure I would have had a chance if I had gone to another UC.”

The experiences and connections Duckham made at the UCDC program also helped him land his job three days after graduating in 2009. In addition, Justin found that the Cold War courses he took with Professor Gregg Herken really helped him in the early stages of his career.

“While the Berlin Wall supposedly signaled the end of that period, it’s a little unsettling to see how much of that era’s mindset still remains, especially in Washington, D.C.”

In his spare time, Duckham is an active member with the National Press Club and sits on its Young Members Committee. 

“I also attend more concerts than I should and am an avid record collector,” he said.

Duckham's advice to those young rebels aspiring to become leaders and improve society.

“It’s impossible to overstate the value of working hard. No matter what you do, it’s probably the best way to define yourself.”