Three Mercerians were named to Georgia Asian Times’ 2023 list of the 25 most influential Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the state. The honorees were announced in late April and celebrated during a banquet in July.
The Mercerians who made the list are Double Bear Sharon Lim Harle, assistant vice president of Mercer’s Office of Alumni Engagement and University Special Events; Mercer School of Law alumna Soo Hong, a Georgia House representative for District 103; and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumnus Farooq Mughal, a Georgia House representative for District 105.
“Congratulations to all three for this well-deserved honor,” said Todd Smith, associate vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the Mercer Alumni Association. “They are outstanding Mercerians. I was honored to be in attendance (at the banquet) to celebrate their achievements.”
Sharon Lim Harle
Harle, who is from Malaysia, earned her bachelor’s degree in 1986 and master’s degree in 1990, both from the School of Business. As a Mercer student, she served as a student ambassador and received several outstanding student awards, including the James Baggott Award for Community Service and Academic Excellence.
Now a staff member in her 41st year at the University, Harle is passionate about assisting international students. She has coordinated and run special events for students and helped them with specific needs, in addition to many other responsibilities and initiatives.
“It is a joy and responsibility for me to share the Mercer story with this community,” she said. “As a Mercer Double Bear, it gives me great pride to represent Mercer, and as a former international student and Mercer Ambassador, I am able to continue to support and promote global goodwill that adds cultural value to our campus community.”
Well-connected in the Atlanta community, Harle has represented Mercer in several international programs. In 1996, for instance, she was chosen by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games to serve as a “Dedicated Hostess” to Malaysian athletes and dignitaries who were in town for three weeks.
Among her many community involvements, Harle has been an active member of Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Buckhead for 35 years. She became the first Asian deacon in the church’s 170-year history when she was ordained in 2000. She is also on the development board for Day1 Media, an Atlanta-based ecumenical nonprofit media ministry.
Harle was named to Global Atlanta’s 2007 list of “Who’s Who in Asian American Communities” and was inducted into the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi honor society in 2020. She was also a board member for the inaugural organizing committee for the Atlanta Asian Film Festival, which debuted in 2005.
“I am honored to receive this award,” Harle said. “From the educational platforms to the judicial circuits, from the halls of community centers to the learning centers, this vibrant Asian community gives us all the opportunity to participate, innovate, and promote our ideas and dreams.”
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Hong was 10 years old when she and her family moved to the United States. She received a Bachelor of Science from Georgia Tech in 2003 and a Juris Doctor from Mercer School of Law in 2008.
Her resume includes serving as a legislative aide to the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee; an associate attorney for Rickman & Blevins law firm; and an instructor at Chattahoochee Technical College. She is a founding partner at Blevins & Hong law firm, which has offices in Marietta and Duluth. The firm, established in 2012, provides legal services for criminal, DUI, bankruptcy and personal injury cases.
Hong, a Republican and Marietta native, began representing District 103 in January, becoming the first Korean American woman to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives. She was appointed as a floor leader for the 2023 legislative session, is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and Judicial Nomination Committee, and is the chair of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, according to her Georgia General Assembly biography.
“To be an immigrant living in such a diverse state, it’s an honor and a privilege to represent House District 103 in the Georgia General Assembly,” Hong said. “Because of the hard work, sacrifices and support of so many before me, I’ve been incredibly blessed to live the American dream — and I’m passionate about ensuring that we create every opportunity for future generations to live their version. From working to create more jobs and lower taxes, investing in public safety, making health care more affordable and accessible or protecting our constitutional rights, I’m proud of the work we’ve been able to do — and we really are just getting started.”
Hong has been involved in legislation addressing gang violence, human trafficking, representation of minority business in state contracts, and financial support for pregnant women. One of her main platforms has been preserving the American dream by providing equal opportunities.
In addition, she was selected as the 2023 president of the Cobb County Bar Association, the first Asian American and Korean American woman to serve in this role, and named the 2023 Legislator of the Year by the Junior League of Atlanta.
Mughal is a Pakistani American who has lived in Gwinnett County since 1995. He came to Mercer on a student visa and earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology in 2000.
He said his passion for public policy and government affairs was established at Mercer, and his professors — especially Dr. Leona Kanter, who was sociology chair at the time — taught him the best practices he needed for his career and shaped him into the state lawmaker and public policy professional that he is today.
Following his graduation from Mercer, Mughal furthered his knowledge at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute. His career background includes serving as a clerk for Judge Griffin B. Bell, a Mercer Law School alumnus, at King & Spalding; a legal aide to the chief assistant solicitor general in Gwinnett County; a government and political adviser for the city of Atlanta; and an appointed constituent member for the Overseas Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of State.
In 2008, he founded a bipartisan public policy firm called MS Global Partners, which primarily represents minority business owners.
“The demographics were changing so quickly (in the state). The majority of the small business owners are minorities. I wanted to make sure they had a fair representation in their voices,” he said. “I didn’t see any other public policy firm that was representing the interest of minority businesses. I thought that using my experience and knowledge, I could help shape public policy toward different minority groups.”
Mughal, a Democrat, became the first Pakistani American as well as first American Muslim serving in the state House when he took his seat representing District 105 in January.
“I just took a leap of faith and thought, ‘Not only are we going to create history, but we’re going to impact at the state level and my communities,’” he said.
In his freshman year in the House, he has already had six bills signed by Gov. Brian Kemp. Some of his top priorities are issues related to mental health, public safety, gun violence and supporting small business owners. Mughal is a member of the House Special Rules Committee, Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, and State Planning and Community Affairs Committee. Atlanta Magazine named him to its “500 Most Powerful Leaders” list for the third consecutive year.
“Here I am, a very proud alum representing Mercer at the state Capitol. Sometimes I just go and sit at the Capitol and think, ‘Wow, a foreign student went to Mercer and got elected,’” said Mughal, who still has his Mercer student ID and stops by Macon to walk around campus a couple times a year. “Within 22 years since I graduated from (Mercer), I am now a legislator, a history-maker in the state. That’s what my message is to other students: The sky is the limit. Go and work hard.”