Senior Dain Kim had never been to Notre Dame before she arrived on campus for orientation. As a student at an international high school in Seoul, Korea, she knew she wanted to go to college in the U.S. — in a city, preferably, like one in New York or California.
Instead, she ended up in South Bend.
“One of my dreams was to go to a beautiful campus,” Kim said. “And after I got my acceptance letter, I felt like Notre Dame was the most welcoming place out of all the other colleges.”
As a psychology and statistics major with a minor in computing and digital technologies (CDT), Kim plans to pursue a career working to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion programs — helping others like herself who need to adapt quickly to entirely new cultures or circumstances.
Although she lived in Virginia for a couple of years as a child, Kim only grew familiar with American culture once she became a student at Notre Dame. She learned a lot through her friends and dormmates and joined several clubs on campus that helped her better understand her new environment.
“I never knew about football, about slang, American language, or anything like that,” she said. “But coming here really opened up chances for me to meet a lot of people from different cultures because I never grew up in an environment that was only Americans.”
A passion for research
That process of adaptation also inspired her to switch her major to psychology, as she realized she wanted to study a social science that would help her learn about people and their unique personalities, cultures, and origins.
After her psychology graduate student mentor suggested joining a research project, Kim started working in Jessica Payne’s Sleep, Stress and Memory Lab. There, she discovered her interest in statistics and data. She added a supplementary statistics major to explore those topics further, and later picked up a computing and digital technologies minor to enhance her tech skills.
“Working in a lab definitely gave me an idea that I'm interested in something related to research,” Kim said.
Over the past two years, Kim has explored how to bring her research interests and cultural background into the workplace through a pair of internships focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
Kim interned as a healthcare consulting research assistant at Prometheus Federal Services, a software and IT government contractor, where she helped to integrate DEI concepts into their programming. This winter, she worked as a DEI recruiting intern at Mediaocean, an advertising and software company, where her duties included making job descriptions more inclusive.
“Psychology really helped me a lot because it involves a lot of thinking and research, and CDT was beneficial there because I had taken an ethical and professional issues course, which was what that work was all about,” she said. “I’m very interested in involving different types of people in a workforce and how that helps with doing more effective work as a company.”
“Notre Dame really emphasizes helping each other — while on campus, but also through the alumni network — and that really made an impact on me, because throughout college I was involved in mentoring and tutoring programs. That really helped me to build my path and has helped me succeed — that constant desire to support each other as a whole.”
Home away from home
Around Korean holidays, Kim attends events hosted by Korean professors who share the language, games, and cuisine of Korea with students. In turn, she has shared aspects of that culture with her friends by being the multicultural commissioner in Farley Hall and a teaching assistant and peer tutor for students enrolled in Korean courses.
“Being a tutor really has helped me to meet a lot of people who are interested in Korean culture and the language,” she said. “And that also gave me a new perspective on how people come from different areas of the world and have an enthusiasm for our country.”
After graduation, Kim will start a full-time job as a sales development representative for Kudo, a New York-based startup that provides a multilingual web conferencing platform. She will be based in Seoul, Korea, working to connect with Korean clients with the product, which breaks language and cultural barriers for people around the world.
As she pursues a career exploring cultures by working in DEI, Kim will continue to utilize the collaborative skills she learned through exposure to different perspectives at Notre Dame.
“Notre Dame really emphasizes helping each other — while on campus, but also through the alumni network — and that really made an impact on me, because throughout college I was involved in mentoring and tutoring programs,” she said. “That really helped me to build my path and has helped me succeed — that constant desire to support each other as a whole.”