USC Dornsife senior named 2018 Marshall Scholar

Jamie Kwong will pursue her goal of helping the world move toward nuclear disarmament as a graduate student in England

December 05, 2017 Laura Paisley

Senior Jamie Kwong was waiting in line at a restaurant with her mother 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 learned she had just been awarded a prestigious 2018 Marshall Scholarship.

The Pasadena 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 PhD in war studies. She is concurrently pursuing a Master’s in Public Diplomacy from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Kwong envisions a future career with the U.S. Department of State and Department of Energy, think tanks and nongovernmental organizations, where she can use her skills to mobilize efforts toward nuclear disarmament and play a key role in developing public policy to support it. The ultimate goal is something known as “global zero,” the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons systems.

She currently serves as a USC Dornsife Korean Studies Institute Fellow, conducting her own research on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. It’s a timely subject and one that is constantly changing.

“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.”

USC Academic Honors and Fellowships, in the Office of Undergraduate Programs, advises candidates in the application process for competitive fellowships. Andrea Hodge, vice provost for undergraduate education, 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.

A competitive honor

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.

Eager to reach the U.K.

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 Harry S. Truman Scholarship, and she was recently selected for the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress Presidential Fellows Program.

She secured an internship for herself with the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. She also interned with the Department of State for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation in the Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism.

Now she’s 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 toward disarmament,” she said. “I’m looking forward to engaging with policymakers and nonproliferation experts there while I’m crafting my dissertation.”