Staff Spotlight: Justin Kiersky

Title:
South & Southeast Asia Program Director

Justin has spent the majority of his adult life traveling and working around the world, and eventually based himself in Yunnan Province, China where he worked as an Editorial Director for printed magazines and a producer of film documentaries. He began leading Dragons programs in the summer of 2011, and has led custom, summer, semester, and Princeton Bridge-year courses in China and throughout Southeast Asia.

What is your favorite travel memory?

The dark alleyways of dozens of countries, exaltation in the highland jungles, stripped naked in the deserts, or huddling in the high Himalayan valleys as the winds tear at the fabric of the earth... Waking up to Holi in Hampi, finding the ruins of Kuelap, impromptu soccer matches in the Zocalo. Often, the memories that endure are thoughts elicited from the travels that end up scrawled across the pages of notebooks and napkins.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Fatherhood has changed me most significantly. And yet, I see that growth running parallel with our responsibility to hold a program vision for a region, and to see the big picture of education. The role of a Program Director forces one to apply patience, care, creativity, and courage for teams in the field which require support.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

The best story I've heard recently is from a student who had no interest in politics or global affairs. After attending our Myanmar semester course, she returned home with great confidence, passion, and drive to devour all the news she could – ultimately deciding to transfer universities – in order to keep herself informed about the world.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

The Colombia course provides profound, timely insight into peace and conflict reconciliation in a country that has suffered for generations and is only recently sowing the seeds of a better future. I'm fascinated by the human history, biodiversity, and social change in restive places around the globe.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

When times are toughest, I work with some of the best in our industry. Our commitment to radical safety (leaning into risk) and to deep immersion is, when tested, unparalleled. In no other work environment have I been surrounded by people as knowledgeable about the world and committed to education as a tool of social change and activism.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Respect for community and culture. True connection comes with humility.

A company that treats others as it would like to be treated is an organization that understands an adherence to a higher value of ethics (than simply work or money), and one that breeds loyalty in its employees.

The more we challenge our own entitlement, the more authentic our programs are.