Clairbourn Alumna, Jamie Kwong, Class of 2010 just graduated from USC, is a Marshall Scholar and will pursue a doctorate on war studies at King's College London. She is poised, smart and eloquent.
Having just graduated this year from USC with a major in international relations, Kwong was named the 2018 Marshall Scholar and is getting ready to start her doctoral studies in war studies at King's College London. She envisions a future career with the U.S. Department of State and Energy, think tanks and nongovernmental organizations, where she can use her knowledge to play a critical role in nuclear disarmament and the eventual worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons systems.
We caught up with her and asked her how her experience at Clairbourn influenced her passion for research and inspired her to become a leader in the nonproliferation world.
When did you come to Clairbourn? What year did you graduate from Clairbourn? Where did you go after that? Where did you attend university?
While I started to visit Clairbourn in 1998 dropping my brother off at school, I didn’t enroll as a student until 2000 as a pre-K’er. I graduated in 2010 and went on to La Salle High School. I then went to USC where I graduated just this May with a BA in International Relations and a Master’s in Public Diplomacy.
What activities at Clairbourn helped influence your career trajectory and cultivate your love of research and desire to pursue a doctorate?
Mrs. Taylor’s English classes in middle school, I think, set me on this research-oriented trajectory—not so much an activity as a three-year class in how to be a good writer and critical thinker. She pushed us like no other teacher to ensure we knew how to write a perfect five-paragraph essay about the latest book we read. That dedication and the skills she taught us proved to be a lasting legacy.
Where and when did you develop your passion for policy and research, and specifically, war research?
The summer before my junior year, I enrolled in a program called Problems Without Passports, a non-traditional, USC course that took me to Washington, D.C. to learn about nuclear weapons from experts in the White House, Pentagon, State Department, think tanks and more. I was hooked from the get-go. Nuclear studies encompassed all that I found interesting—a challenging security problem affecting all regions of the world that relies on a complex combination of diplomacy, negotiation and innovation. One hundred and eighty-nine countries have signed the Nonproliferation Treaty, making the nonproliferation regime the most encompassing and broad-reaching ever. And advancing nuclear security provides the US—the only country ever to deploy nuclear weapons—the chance to solidify its leadership on the global stage, an opportunity as one of the largest nuclear states to move towards a world without these destructive weapons. I’m eager to be a part of the nonproliferation community and know that the research I’ll be undertaking at King’s College London will help me do just that.
How did you become a Marshall Scholar? Are you excited about going to the UK to pursue your research?
Lots of hard work, about 50 essay drafts, and very patient mentors. I’m thrilled to be heading off to UK in the fall to pursue my PhD in War Studies at King’s College London. While now it may feel like all of my effort has culminated in this experience, I know this is just the beginning of all the hard work that is to come. I’m excited to get started!
What advice do you have for our Clairbourn students who want to pursue a doctorate and obtain a prestigious scholarship as you have done?
Find your passion. If you plan to dedicate 3-6 years of your life developing one research project, you better be interested in the topic! Find great mentors, both those in your field with similar views and those outside with disparate views. Seek out challenges and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”—so long as you’re willing to hit the books to find the answer.
How do you envision your work shaping the world?
I participated in many leadership experiences, starting at Clairbourn all the way through my time at USC. But it wasn’t until I was selected to join the inaugural cohort of Warren Bennis Scholars at USC that I truly understood what leadership meant—and how the best leaders have their own unique definitions. While I still have a lot of learning to do, I am all the better because of my time in the Bennis program. This program taught me how to think introspectively, to reflect regularly and think deeply about what leadership means to me and how I fit into the role of leader. I hope to continue to build on these skills as I embark into the field of nonproliferation where leadership—especially leadership among Generation Z—will prove critical to moving towards a world without nuclear weapons.
Dr. Nafie is retiring this year. Do you have any words for him?
Beyond the speech I shared, I just want to say thank you once again for all that you have done for each and every student, parent, and faculty member at Clairbourn over the years. This school is all the better for your leadership and guidance, and while we will miss your smiling face welcoming us at Chapel every morning, we are so grateful for all that you have given to this school.