Kevin Dong ’09, G’11 readily admits that he lacked a clear sense of direction when he first arrived at college. He had attended a high school focused on science and technology in New York City, where he describes himself as having been a shy, “middle of the pack” student.
But at Syracuse University, some transformative experiences helped Dong discover his strengths and set the course for his future.
Finding His Fit
One turning point came during his first semester, when Dong attended a meeting of Asian Students in America after some nudging from the president of the student-run organization. The experience was eye opening. “For the first time I was sitting in a room with a lot of vocal Asian Americans—everyone discussing issues on campus. And I felt really comfortable. I found my voice there.” He joined that organization’s executive board and started getting involved in other student groups as well. “I basically went to any meeting where I knew someone, and I participated in the range of causes my friends introduced me to because I wanted to learn about different cultures and understand different perspectives,” he says.
Discovering his affinity for community involvement helped Dong gain traction in his studies, too. He chose to major in information management and technology because it allowed him to combine technical studies with a focus on people. “Through the School of Information Studies I could learn a lot of different skills like project management, the semantics of coding, web design and information security, while also thinking about information resources and systems, with the users in mind.” While he enjoys understanding how the “back end” of information systems and processes work, Dong says he always gravitates to the “front end,” where he can interact more directly with people. “At Syracuse, I became that person who can translate—I take information and present it in a digestible way that people can understand,” he says. This skill became a defining feature in his career path.
At Syracuse, I became that person who can translate—I take information and present it in a digestible way that people can understand.—Kevin Dong ’09, G’11
Adventures and Experience
After earning his undergraduate degree, Dong enrolled in the master’s program in information management at the iSchool, where he bolstered his expertise in project management, information security and web design management. But he also pursued interests in other fields, stepping out of his comfort zone and gaining new skills. He got involved with the Syracuse University chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, based at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications , and traveled to Florence, Italy, through the Syracuse Abroad short-term program Mediterranean Food and Culture.
’Cuse Conversations: Kevin Dong '09, G'11
An operations analyst for JetBlue Airways, Dong collects and studies data and feedback from customers to improve the flying experience. Dong discusses how COVID-19 impacted the airlines and how the airlines are working to make customers feel safe when they fly, how Syracuse helped him discover his voice, how the loss of his father to cancer inspired him to give back to his community, his advice for students and more!
Dong says that it was when he allowed his interests and values to guide him that he started to find meaningful work opportunities. He focused his efforts on companies whose products he admired, and soon secured a major internship with the Madison Square Garden Company. Dong relished this position for the access it gave him to sports and entertainment, and his experiences there opened doors for another formative internship with ESPN and Walt Disney World in Florida. When he eventually landed a job at JetBlue Airways, Dong’s eclectic background enabled him to serve in multiple capacities—including as a flight operations analyst working directly with pilots and in project management and with the hospitality program—before eventually stepping into his current role in operations.
I wanted to learn about different cultures and understand different perspectives.—Kevin Dong ’09, G’11
The Value of Helping Out
Dong is still passionate about getting involved in his community through volunteer work. “I even have a Facebook group that’s just for inviting my friends to different volunteer opportunities when they come to New York,” he confesses. Most recently, he has been devoted to initiatives supporting Make-A-Wish Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital—causes that have an added significance for him since he lost his father to cancer.
Dong appreciates opportunities to contribute to the Syracuse University community as an alum—especially when he connects with current and prospective students and can share insight he’s gleaned from his experiences. “It’s important to remember that there are opportunities out there in places you might not initially think of,” he says. “Consider JetBlue. It’s a commercial airline, but it needs people with a wide range of expertise—in information technology, for example, and in finance and marketing.” He hopes his story provides a boost of confidence. “I remind students that I went through the struggle too,” he says. “I think I went to every single job fair ever hosted at Syracuse University. I remember putting in long days on job applications. But I did find my path—and they will too!”