The 7th Annual RSEA Alumni Panel held October 24th was an opportunity for current students to engage with alumni and reflect on possible career directions after completing their AM degree.
In opening the event, GSAS Dean Emma Dench remarked that the Regional Studies East Asia program is exemplary in crossing disciplines with its deep regional focus. She noted that RSEA graduates pursue successful careers in many different areas while remaining connected as an alumni community, and commended RSEA students for joining an intergenerational community that is worldwide and distinguished.
Six alumni were invited to participate in this year’s panel: Ms. Esther Hyun (AM '16), Mr. John Kamm (AM '75), Prof. Michael Kim (AM '92, PhD '04), Ms. Greer Meisels (AM '12), Prof. Akiko Walley (AM '04, PhD '09), and Prof. Don Wyatt (AM '78, PhD '84). The panel represented various careers from academia to organizational strategy, and from advocacy to government policy. Biographies of the Alumni Panelists are listed in the 2019 RSEA Alumni Panel program.
RSEA Program Chair Professor James Robson invited the panelists to share their experiences of and since their time in RSEA. Each member of the panel outlined the steps in their career path since graduating from Harvard, and reflected on how the skills and knowledge gained during RSEA helped them transition into professional roles. While noting the particular challenges and opportunities of the time period in which they were students and graduates, the panelists also offered general words of advice to students.
Esther Hyun and Greer Meisels encouraged students to engage, explore, and make the most of the resources that Harvard has to offer both academically and for career exploration. John Kamm urged students to rely on primary sources and to be less speculative and more investigative in their research. Michael Kim and Greer Meisels noted the importance of language skills in opening doors to job opportunities, and the value of the analytical and writing skills learned as a graduate student. Akiko Walley advised students in RSEA to define and test their interest in a particular academic field and topic, then plan out what they need to do to pursue a PhD.
Both Michael Kim and Don Wyatt spoke of the influence of certain professors in encouraging their academic and career direction, and advised students to appreciate and keep in touch with their mentors. Wyatt applauded the purpose of the RSEA program which is to prepare students for all kinds of professional engagement with East Asia, by enabling them to pursue their interests within a flexible and interdisciplinary course of instruction.
Following the panel presentations, students and alumni participated in breakout sessions for academic careers or for non-academic careers. These smaller group discussions allowed for a candid exchange of questions and advice related to discerning career directions and pursuing opportunities. Students and alumni continued their conversations over dinner, which was enjoyed by all sixty-five participants.
The RSEA Alumni Panel event was made possible by the GSAS Gochman Dean’s Fund for Innovation and Development.