by Raphael Englander
What are Dr. Kwon’s favorite hobbies?
She loves to run as many days of the week as possible, finding that it is a great way to learn one’s way around a place. She is a pet-lover and proud owner of a dog who accompanies her on her morning runs. Dr. Kwon also loves to read, cook, travel, and contribute to her sister’s quilting business in Maryland by making things
What are the most important things to know about Dr. Kwon?
Dr. Kwon grew up in Virginia and graduated from the University of Virginia. After college, she moved to Japan, where she met her husband, a United States Naval officer. Dr. Kwon returned to the D.C. area to get her Master of Education at the University of Maryland before again leaving the states.
She has spent most of her adult life living abroad, in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and then Japan again. Her children spent most of their childhood abroad, too. It was not until college that they spent the bulk of their time in the U.S. This broad worldview has contributed to Dr. Kwon’s approach to her role as a college counselor, as she is able to view higher education through a global lens. In 2013, Dr. Kwon came back to the states to obtain her Doctor of Education from George Washington University.
Dr. Kwon comes from a proud military family. Her grandfather lied about his age to enlist in the Marine Corps right after Pearl Harbor, her husband attended the United States Naval Academy and then served in the Navy, and her son joined the Marines after his own time in the Naval Academy. He will be discharged this fall. Dr. Kwon’s family likes to joke that the first song anyone in the family learns to sing is the Marines’ Hymn. In addition to giving Dr. Kwon’s family a shared first song, the military imbues them with a strong sense of service. Whether it is her son, currently serving, or her daughter, a critical care nurse, giving back is something on which Dr. Kwon’s family prides themselves.
What inspired Dr. Kwon to become a college counselor? What keeps her interested in coming to work every day?
While living in Japan after college, one of Dr. Kwon’s first jobs was advising U.S. sailors and marines as they explored higher education. This experience prompted her interest in pursuing a master’s program in the higher education process. She gravitated towards admissions, falling in love with supporting students in their search for the institutions in which they belong. Dr. Kwon is “a life-long learner,” so she appreciates helping others take the next step in their education. In the words of Dr. Kwon, the goal is to “help students find the setting that will cultivate their best self.”
What drew her to Barrack?
Dr. Kwon holds mission-driven schools in high regard; Barrack is a mission-driven school. She thinks highly of Barrack’s ability, as an independent school, to place importance on its values of honor, courage, kindness, and community. Dr. Kwon has worked at faith-based schools before, so she is familiar with this emphasis on ethics, but it is her first time at a Jewish school, so she is excited to learn more about the religion and culture that comprises the community. She also recognizes the place that faith holds in many students’ search for the next chapter of their education and looks forward to working with that in mind.
Dr. Kwon relayed that she felt welcomed when she arrived for her interview. The students asked great questions and were interested in her thoughts. She saw eye to eye with Mrs. Trajtenberg and Mrs. Pandian’s perspective on the ebb and flow of the college process. All three agreed on the priority of putting students first and ensuring they feel empowered as they head to schools where they will be happy, successful, and challenged.
for the store in her free time.
What are Dr. Kwon’s favorite things about the Philadelphia area since she has been here?
Having spent a lot of time in the Philadelphia area recruiting for the Naval Academy, Dr. Kwon is happy to be here as a resident instead of on business. While running, she has noticed that Philadelphia is much flatter than New York, making her runs more enjoyable. She looks forward to exploring on the weekend, discovering all the new restaurants and sights to see. Dr. Kwon is also happy to say that everybody here is truly nice, with “a small town feel even though it’s a big city.”
What are her favorite books, tv shows, and movies?
Most recently, Dr. Kwon reread Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. She picks and chooses her nonfiction carefully, and, as often happens, she noticed many things she had missed in her first read. Dr. Kwon recommends that anytime one has the opportunity to read a well-written work of nonfiction, they should. Other suggestions include Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, another nonfiction piece by Hillenbrand, and Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens’s 2018 fictional murder mystery set in North Carolina (the film adaptation came out this summer).
Dr. Kwon doesn’t watch much television, while abroad she would mostly turn it on to get a sense of the language, but her recent favorites include Ted Lasso and Peaky Blinders. She is a big fan of Disney films, her family is known to quote them, and some movies she never turns down the chance to rewatch are The Godfather, Forrest Gump, and any of the Harry Potter films.
What has Dr. Kwon been doing since she arrived at Barrack?
One important task has been decorating her office. Dr. Kwon loves students’ art for its colorfulness, hanging it on her walls because it brings her joy. She says to go with what makes you happy (the same reason her favorite color is yellow).
She has also been diving into the meetings with the senior class and reading the surveys they sent to her. Once senior year begins, students’ lives can become hectic, so the end of summer is a good time to start the process while life is more relaxed.
Fast forward to the end of this year, what does Dr. Kwon want members of the Barrack community to take away as her biggest impact?
She wants people to say that “she got deep and real, real quick.” Having spent much of her life moving around, she is not one to wait passively to start something. She believes that one must act the way they want others to act and wants to get engaged in the community quickly. Dr. Kwon cannot wait to introduce herself and break the ice with everyone at Barrack, especially the senior class. Her motto is “candor with kindness,” making a point of speaking openly yet always with compassion and care. During her Barrack interview, she was asked tough, direct questions, which only advanced her interest in working at JBHA.
She recognizes that anytime there is a transition, particularly in an office such as admissions, there will be questions; Dr. Kwon is happy to answer those questions and ensure that everyone feels relaxed and ready to get to work. Specifically, as it relates to the college process, she wants to ensure that students hit one of the first benchmarks of their adult lives with confidence. There is a major difference between a student at the beginning and end of senior year, and Dr. Kwon looks forward to witnessing that change while within a value-driven community like Barrack.