Jamie Kwong was with her mother, waiting in line at In-N-Out Burger to order lunch, when she got some big news via email. While Kwong described herself as “speechless” in that moment, her mother burst into happy tears.
The international relations major, who is earning a progressive master’s in public diplomacy through a joint program between USC Annenberg and USC Dornsife, learned she had just been awarded a prestigious 2018 Marshall Scholarship.
The Pasadena, Calif., native will use the scholarship to build on her academic studies in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament with specialized training at King’s College London, where she will pursue a Ph.D. in war studies.
Kwong, who is USC’s 12th recipient of the prestigious honor, envisions a future career with the U.S. Departments of State and Energy, think tanks and nongovernmental organizations, where she can employ her skills to mobilize efforts toward nuclear disarmament and play a critical role in developing public policy to support it. The ultimate goal is something known as “global zero,” the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons systems.
“At USC, I’m not making the big decisions of where we’re sending troops and diplomats, but having this protected environment where I can kind of explore those thoughts … and learn how to adapt and be flexible has been really critical,” she said. “Having the real-world pressure right there has been an invaluable lesson.”
Pursuing undergraduate and master’s degrees simultaneously has given Kwong the opportunity to look at issues from different lenses.
“My IR degree is very theory heavy. We’re looking at theoretical concepts, and how they apply to real world situations. Whereas, the public diplomacy master’s program is more practice based. In my Public Diplomacy 504 class, for example, we created public diplomacy campaigns. What better way to develop skills than actually having to put them in action?” Kwong said.
USC Academic Honors and Fellowships, in the Office of Undergraduate Programs, advises candidates in the application process for competitive fellowships. Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Andrea Hodge, called Kwong one of USC’s most driven and intellectually engaged students, and a dynamic leader.
“The opportunity afforded her through this scholarship … will make her a nuclear expert prepared to mobilize the next generation in pursuit of global zero,” Hodge said.
Nick Cull, professor of public diplomacy, who supported Kwong and encouraged her to apply for the scholarship, said she is a perfect example of the kind of first-class students in USC's public diplomacy program.
“Jaime is not merely interested in understanding the world, she wants to apply her knowledge and be part of a positive change,” Cull said. “With her intellectual ability, great listening skills and integrity, I know she’ll be a great ambassador for USC Annenberg, for USC and for the country as a whole,” he added.
Kwong joins a prestigious cohort of 43 other recipients of this year’s scholarship, a competitive honor that enables top American undergraduate students to pursue fully funded graduate studies at British universities. Winners are chosen based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership potential and ability to serve as ambassadors for U.K.-U.S. relations.
With the mantra of “you’re only in college once,” Kwong has chosen to be an active student leader on the USC campus in addition to her high academic achievement. For the past two years, she has served as the campus resource liaison for all students as the Peer Leadership Team Leader for the USC Office of Campus Activities.
As a sophomore, Kwong was selected for the inaugural cohort of the USC Warren Bennis Scholars Program, which she called an incredible experience.
“It’s really pushed me and challenged me to think about leadership in a much more thoughtful and tangible way,” she said.
Kwong was also among 40 undergraduates designated nationally as participants in the Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellows Program, a government service experience designed to expose students to government work and its impact. As a junior, she was a finalist for the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship, and she was recently selected for the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress Presidential Fellows Program.
Kwong secured an internship with the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. She also interned with the U.S. Department of State for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation in the Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism.
Kwong currently serves as a USC Korean Studies Institute Fellow, conducting her own research on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Now, she is excited to graduate and start her doctoral program in England, meeting even more experts.
“As a nuclear weapons state, Britain has made some of the greatest unilateral advances towards disarmament,” she said. “I’m looking forward to engaging with policy makers and nonproliferation experts there while I’m crafting my dissertation.”
Story Contribution: Laura Paisley, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.