On May 26, Princeton Day School's National Organization for Women (NOW) Chapter welcomed alumna Dr. Hei-ock Kim '85 as a virtual guest speaker. Dr. Kim is the Founder and Executive Director of the Kim Center for Social Balance, a nonprofit with a mission to accelerate the achievement of equal status for all genders in the workplace. NOW student co-heads Nazareth Mehreteab '21 and Mehak Dhaliwal '22 hosted the discussion with Dr. Kim in which she described how her passions for music, environmental justice and gender equity advocacy have developed since venturing on from The Great Road.
After graduating from PDS in 1985, Dr. Kim earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Princeton University, a Master of Music degree in piano from The Juilliard School and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance from The Catholic University of America. She has performed classical piano professionally and also taught piano for more than 30 years in both private and academic settings.
About 15 years ago, Dr. Kim shifted gears to pursue environmental advocacy as a member of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). She dedicated her time to educating people in the community and furthering the organization's mission to promote and protect native California plants and habitats.
All the while, Dr. Kim was always interested in gender equity issues in the workplace and in developing processes to help overcome gender equity obstacles. Her own success and her passion for promoting professional equity and inclusion ultimately led her to change paths again, focusing primarily on advancing these efforts via the Kim Center for Social Balance.
The PDS Chapter of NOW has provided a space for students to explore their interests in gender equity. Director of Alumni Programs & Giving Kaylie Keesling helped connect connect Nazareth and Mehreteab with Dr. Kim to share her unique perspectives with the PDS Upper School.
"I have always had a keen interest in social justice and equity issues. It was inspiring to hear about Dr. Kim's experience in helping businesses achieve equal status in the workplace. From being a classical pianist to exploring environmental and social justice, she shared her distinct passions and encouraged us all to explore our interests wherever they may lead us," Nazareth said.
"I also definitely took away the message that you shouldn't be afraid to try and follow a lofty goal, like changing the world," Mehak stated. "Dr. Kim urged us to take the leap and start participating and contributing to the causes that we feel strongly for because the only way you can ever make that dream a reality is if you look past the intimidation of such a broad goal and just get started," she added.
"I think that it is important for members of the community to hear about her journey because Dr. Kim started out in our very own community, in a time much less inclusive and diverse than now. Despite that, she rose to follow a passion for achieving equality in a world where she saw it was so clearly lacking, and followed that goal despite it being a total shift in her career and life. I've come to realize that there is no rule that you have to just pick a career and stick with one thing. Dr. Kim's work shows us that any time is the right time for trying to make a difference and that it's never too late to pursue what you are passionate about," Mehak concluded.
Photos (from top): graphic with Dr. Kim's headshot (from the Kim Center webpage); a screenshot during her virtual visit to PDS