Kevin C. Hudson ’97
Director of College Admission and Advising, The Wight Foundation;
Master’s Degree Candidate, Higher Education Management,
University of Pennsylvania
Looking for answers
I came to Princeton not entirely sure how I was going to use college for my future pursuits. I was a first-generation college student (I did not know the terminology then) and was only familiar with the ideal of college. Now, I would need to figure out how to make the experience work for me. I was involved in a program called INROADS and was planning to pursue a career in business. After all, successful people pursued careers in law, medicine, or business, right? My ultimate goal was to be successful and have options. It all seemed pretty straightforward. Of course, when I arrived at Princeton, I realized having options began with being open to the many academic opportunities at the University. There was no one direct path to a career through academics at the University. I remember the classics major who was doing an internship in investment banking. I learned of an engineering major who was applying to law school. I quickly realized that the careers available to me were only limited by my work beyond the classroom and not necessarily the major I chose to pursue. YES!!! I would be able to just pick a major that really grabbed my attention.
By my sophomore year, it was evident to me that sociology best fit the interests I developed during my first year at Princeton. I spent my freshman year doing work-study in the Princeton Admission Office. The difference in access to quality education for students from “low-income, under-resourced communities” and the “well-resourced” high school I received a scholarship to attend was striking. While I maintained an interest in economics and business, I began to recognize my passion for tackling issues of inequity in education. Sociology addressed issues of psychology, history, economics, and public policy and, at its core, asked the questions “Why?” and “How?”
Majoring in sociology provided an opportunity to explore the purpose and structure of educational institutions and businesses and to delve into the issues of social stratification. Introductory and required courses were small. Professors were accessible and passionate about their areas of research. Looking back, I wish I had engaged in more conversations with the dynamic sociology faculty who were affecting policy on the local, national, and international stage. I spent time away from the University helping to start a small school on the South Side of Chicago through a Project 55 and Class of 1969 internship with a grass roots nonprofit organization. Upon returning to Princeton, sociology allowed me the opportunity to review the experience through an analytical perspective via my independent work. I was able to highlight the issues, challenges, and models of success that were garnered from the experience. I am not sure if such an opportunity to evaluate an experience in my life would have been possible through other majors.
Addressing higher-ed access
I worked as an admission officer at Princeton University upon graduating. I initially wanted to make sure more students from underrepresented communities (race, income, etc.) considered Princeton as a viable option. Heeding the lessons of sociology, the opportunity to work at Princeton allowed me to witness the ways students across the country and world were educated and sought challenging educational opportunities themselves. It was also invaluable to know how one of the most competitive universities in the world evaluated prospective applicants. It is often easy to take for granted access to privilege and opportunities. Sociology has helped me to ask and answer the question “Why me?” Why have I been afforded the opportunity to receive a great education and have opportunities that people I grew up with would not imagine accessible? More importantly, my classes helped me to consider ways to answer the questions “How can others, who would not deem these opportunities accessible, have the same access?” It became clear to me during my time in the Admission Office that I wanted my lessons at Princeton to benefit others. This has led to my foray into the nonprofit world.
Following my stint at the Princeton Admission Office, I spent a couple of years at another job working with students on issues of retention and graduation from college. I have spent the last five years working at The Wight Foundation. As director of college admission and advising I guide our scholars into college, through college, and into graduate school and careers. When I came to the organization, I was charged with improving the college experiences of our scholars. My experience with sociology provided me with the tools to answer, “Why are these students facing challenges?” and “How can they have a better experience?” Professor Howard Taylor’s “Sociological Research Methods” helped me to develop a game plan to answer these questions. I developed a survey, conducted interviews, and even engaged in participation observation. The feedback provided by the alumni and scholars guided me as I developed a program to support the needs of scholars. My other title at the Wight Foundation is director of external relations. My responsibility includes developing relationships with corporations, government entities, and individuals. Sociology has prepared me to do research and ask probing questions that consider the situation and needs of potential partners as varied as medical research programs and investment banks.
I am hesitant to say that my present career in education and career development is what I will be doing the rest of my professional career. As I write this I am preparing to enter the Higher Education Management master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania. Nine years after graduating from Princeton, I was able to ask my thesis adviser, Professor Miguel Centeno, to write my recommendation. I may continue to work with adolescents, adults, and families on preparing for higher education and finding careers that fit their passions and skills. I may decide to follow another path in human resources or development. I am absolutely positive that my major in sociology has prepared me to communicate my thoughts effectively and to think critically. My work experience has further honed those communication and analytical skills as specifically applicable to my present career. I am happy that I chose a department that gave me the opportunity to explore my passions through academic study and to always ask “Why?” and “How?”