A mentor nudged Naomi Kim to get involved with multicultural clubs when she was homesick. 

Mentors Helped Naomi Kim Reach Her Potential, Now She’s Returning the Favor

By Becky Kramer

Naomi Kim is the friendly face at the Carson Center for Student Success’s front desk.

Whether she’s greeting students in person or through the virtual desk available during COVID-19, Kim knows how much a smile or a word of encouragement can mean to fellow Cougs.

A senior at the Carson College of Business, Kim has packed leadership roles, clubs, professional networking, a double major, and close friendships into her time at WSU. But early in her freshman year, Kim struggled with acute homesickness.

“I went from sunny beaches and warm skies to the Palouse, which is great, but it was definitely an adjustment,” says Kim, who grew up in Waipahu, Hawaii.

A student mentor at WSU’s Office of Multicultural Student Services nudged her to get involved in multicultural clubs at WSU, which launched her into campus life.

“I also owe a lot to the Carson Center,” says Kim, who will graduate in December with double majors in management information systems (MIS) and business management with a human resource focus.

Pursuing a double major

Helping others achieve personal growth has always appealed to Kim, who initially considered a teaching degree. When she realized she was more interested in business than the classroom, a Carson Center advisor helped steer her to human resources.

A coworker at the Carson Center also encouraged her to pursue a second degree. “He was another student from Hawaii—an upperclassman who kind of took me under his wing,” she says.

After an introductory class, Kim was eager to take more management information systems courses. But she didn’t see MIS fitting into her human resources track.

“He told me I was ahead in my classes, and I’d still be able to graduate on time if I added MIS,” Kim recalls. “And look at me now—I’m doing that!”

Having the MIS skills will give her flexibility in her career path, says Kim, who could picture herself in project management as well as human resources.

“I like working with people and working with teams,” she says. “And I like knowing that I’m making an effective contribution.”

Serving students and the WSU community

Kim brings those attributes to her Carson Center job, says Sheena Kerr, the center’s office manager and administrative assistant.

“Naomi is a key player in managing our virtual front desk. She is the face on Zoom students first see,” Kerr says. “She’s very knowledgeable about directing students to get the help they need.”

Whether she recognizes it or not, Kim mentors other students in her front desk role, says Stacey Smith-Colon, the Carson Center’s assistant director of academic advising.

“She helps them understand expectations and the system so they can advocate for themselves,” Smith-Colon says. “We see our student employees as part of the team that supports student success, and Naomi has really taken that to heart.”

“I like serving students and the WSU community,” Kim says.

She’s a Carson senator this year, representing business majors in student government through the Associated Students of Washington State University. She’s also a student mentor for WSU’s Office of Multicultural Student Services.

In that role, Kim has come full circle. Now she’s the mentor keeping in touch with WSU freshman from multicultural backgrounds. Through regular text messages to 21 freshman, she gets to know them, asking how they’re doing and if there’s anything she can help them with.

“It’s really validating to know someone is rooting for you—someone who has been through the same things you’re going through,” Kim says.