Min Jin Lee to “MINgle” with KO virtually


At Kingswood Oxford, it is an annual tradition for the Warren Baird Symposium author to visit the school during either December or January. Typically, the author addresses the student body and spends valuable time with the senior Symposium students, including having dinner with them. However, 2020 continues to change all the exciting traditions at KO since this year’s Symposium author, Min Jin Lee, will be visiting KO virtually on Friday, Jan. 8, instead of in-person.

The English department, especially Symposium teacher Heather Wayne and English Department Chair Catherine Schieffelin, have been discussing the possibility of a virtual Symposium visit with the Director of the Upper School Dan Gleason for a while now. It was not until Wednesday, Nov. 18, that a final decision was made. 

This determination arose from Head of School Tom Dillow’s recent communication with the community about a schedule change. This schedule change meant that instead of the student body being on campus on Jan. 8, the day that Ms. Lee was supposed to visit, the students were to participate in online learning instead. “The final determining factor was the fact that we as a school will be online the week of Jan. 8 because we had set that date with her months ago,” Dr. Wayne said. 

Another factor that led to this decision was concern over the health of Ms. Lee, especially since she is a famous writer. With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Connecticut and across the country, the school did not want to risk the health of a distinguished author. “I also just didn’t want to put a renowned author in a position of having to decide whether or not to risk her health,” Dr. Wayne said.

Even with these changes, the Symposium class is looking for ways to make her virtual visit as effective as possible. Regarding Ms. Lee’s scheduled student body address, Dr. Wayne has been in touch with her agent, seeking ways to make her visit as engaging as possible even though it will be through Zoom. “She [the agent] and I have been trying to work together to make sure that it’s meaningful and it’s interactive and it’s something that works well for Zoom so that we’re not just staring at a screen being talked at, but that we can do something a little bit more engaging,” Dr. Wayne said. 

Since the Symposium students will not be able to have their traditional dinner with the author, they have been brainstorming alternate ways to spend time with Min Jin Lee. Some of the ideas being tossed around include a virtual dinner, a game of virtual Pictionary, or even sharing the projects students have been working on in the Symposium class. 

Some students seemed okay with the idea that they will not get to meet Ms. Lee physically this year. Due to their immersion in her works, many students already feel a connection to Lee. “I feel like I know her as an author already and like I honestly feel so close to her,” senior Symposium student Christina Lu said, “which is so weird to say, so it’s fine if she doesn’t come, but I’m just like really excited to get one-on-one time with her as well through Zoom.” Christina also thinks that her visit will be equally beneficial and effective for the students even though she will not be there in person. “Her presence definitely means a lot and I think people will see what she can do with words,” Christina said, “and I think she’ll pull through.”