Head of School Quentin McDowell will travel to Hong Kong and South Korea on April 15 in conjunction with Mercersburg’s regional events for accepted students and families from Asia. McDowell will update attendees on the school, specifically with regard to the many projects in progress, including meaning and mastery, civic engagement, the campus master plan, and much more.
McDowell emphasized the importance of the school’s global networking initiative: “It gives the school the opportunity to connect with our families (current and past) as well as many of our alumni. It ultimately helps inform our decisions about how to best serve everyone here on campus. Personally, it is all about seeing familiar faces and exploring different places.”
The school’s previous trips have been very successful in terms of establishing a strong Mercersburg image and personal connections in Asia. “The Mercersburg brand is strong abroad, particularly in Asia, and that is due largely to word-of-mouth advertising from the students' families and alumni who live there. They are eager to share their experiences with others and encourage new families to learn more about our school. We are very fortunate to have those strong voices, and it has definitely elevated awareness of and interest in Mercersburg,” said Amy Marathe, the director of strategic marketing and communications.
Even when the representatives couldn’t travel abroad due to pandemic restrictions, the Academy made continuous efforts to stay connected. Jake Kennedy, associate director of admission, said, “The school took extra care to ensure our international students were sufficiently supported during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the Virtual 'Burg days. Many families abroad noticed that our virtual programs were far more accommodating than other schools, and those efforts were noticed and appreciated.”
In preparation for his tour to Hong Kong and South Korea, McDowell generously held a reception at the 1893 house to meet with students from both countries. “I was really happy that he invited us all to his house and asked about our experience at Mercersburg. He was perhaps open to feedback, asking for any improvements the students would like,” said Claire Chow ’26. “I was excited when I heard that Mr. McDowell will be visiting South Korea and Hong Kong this spring. I’ve always wanted to share my culture with the people here at the Academy, and I assume his trip to Asia would be a great opportunity for him to experience my culture and have meaningful conversations with parents abroad,” added Derrick Park ’25.
McDowell is determined to fully recognize the school’s large Asian population in campus life, as well. “He has been making a lot of effort and actions to acknowledge the Asian population here. He celebrated the Lunar New Year with us and celebrated our community's important events with care,” said Coco Zhai ’24. Asian Student Union President Ben Cho ‘24 said, “I am pleased that Mr. McDowell is trying to make a deeper connection with the large Asian population of Mercersburg Academy.”
Others were quite unsure of the purpose of the trip and even cynical about the motive. Ivy Chan ’24 said, “I am uncertain about the reasons behind Mr. McDowell's upcoming trip to Asia. It could be an opportunity for the school to secure financial support and funding for its initiatives.” Koon Hui ’25 added, “It is rather surprising that he would choose to only go to Hong Kong and Korea.”
Considering the COVID restrictions still in place in other Asian nations, McDowell’s stay was restricted to the two countries. “Where we would typically visit 3-5 different countries, we are only going to Hong Kong and Seoul on this trip. We are already looking at getting back to our normal routine in the fall of 2023,” said McDowell. Current and prospective Mercersburg Academy students and families can look forward to a new tradition of annual visits that will promote goodwill between the school and its Asian representation.