Most long-distance runners know that winning is equal parts speed, stamina and strategy. There's also some humility involved, as you can never be entirely sure what the course or conditions will deliver. Dr. Nicholas Kent, our new Interim Associate Head of School, has used lessons from his days as a competitive runner to propel a career that has been an accomplished adventure. Entering Reserve as the right hand to new Head of School Suzanne Buck, Kent said, "I love the optimism of this community and the excitement about what's to come."
Kent comes to Ohio via Seattle, via Jakarta, via Shanghai and via Potomac, Maryland. Ironically, his first foray into boarding school was at Culver Academy, the closest geographic point he's been to his newest home here at Reserve. Kent lists his accomplishments at Culver, as a young humanities teacher, as "falling in love with teaching and finding my vocation." From this earliest career point, he swept through the school world — and the world, itself — with gusto, first encountering Suzanne Buck as a fellow Board member for the Enrollment Management Association (EMA).
Kent brings a vivid worldview to Hudson, with a boundless curiosity and many stamps on his career passport. In Shanghai, at the Concordia International School, he had a 360-degree view of education. His roles included humanities teacher, Head of Marketing & Admissions and High School Principal. In Jakarta, he was Deputy Head of School at Jakarta Intercultural School, overseeing nearly 300 faculty, cementing school accreditation and interacting with the Indonesian ministries of labor, manpower and education. His resume illustrates the great breadth of his experience (from curriculum creation to faculty retention to boosting test scores and university admissions), but the kind demeanor behind all this accomplishment is an unwritten asset.
We sat down with the thoughtful, funny and focused Kent to learn more about this international educator who is way too humble to admit he's a member of Mensa.
What will people know immediately upon meeting you?
I think they will feel the value that I put on interpersonal relationships and accessibility. I'm a positive person, I'm passionate, and I assume positive intent. I don't like "no's" as a first response, and I embrace failure because I think you can find great ideas there. I like to take risks and to always ask, "What are we not thinking about?"
I also think people will feel my respect for this school. We all know the world is changing and schools are changing. But at WRA, I am finding a school community that is rooted in historical success yet also asks, "How can we continue to outgrow ourselves?" It is a rare school that is both confident and curious.
Ohio can't claim the best climate, and it isn't exactly "boarding school central." What would you say to convince families of Ohio's awesomeness?
Certainly it is different here than some of the cities where I have lived. But one of the things I liked most about Shanghai was the opportunity to work with and integrate into the community. I foresee many opportunities to connect with Hudson, and I desire a cohesive Hudson and Reserve experience.
With regard to selling Ohio overall, I believe in the region and everything it offers, I also believe that today's students don't exist geographically. Their footprint and perspective is so broad. We can model face-to-face values on campus, and this is critical. But the reality is, students are face to face with peers all over the world in everything they do online. They are going to carry their interpersonal skills into a very big world. Geography and geographic boundaries really are no longer an issue. A student could be in Boston, Cleveland or anywhere else and still feel like the whole world is accessible to them. This makes Reserve a bigger possibility for more students than ever before.
You began your career as a teacher. What can you tell teachers at WRA?
I feel a personal obligation for all the teachers in the classroom. I am their advocate. Administrators can forget how hard it is in the classroom. Since I have been a teacher and administrator, I always see both sides.
Tell us something you like and value in Suzanne.
Suzanne can get you excited about table salt. She just has this infectious optimism. She is truly a thought partner for me, and when she approached me about this job, I jumped into the opportunity of working with her at Reserve in this transformative environment.
What do you see as the role of leadership in times of transition?
Shepherding a school through a transition requires empathy, patience and transparency. I am open with people about the thought process driving change, and I emphasize that it is a thought process, a collaborative endeavor, and decisions are never a fait accompli. There is a lot of urgency in our world today, but I also believe in the gifts of patience and time when it comes to knowing people and appreciating their talents.
Tell us about your family.
I met my wife, Erin, in Seattle after she returned after teaching two years in Santiago, Chile. We set off on a whirlwind adventure and lived in Shanghai, which was growing and booming. We have one daughter, Alice. Teaching, getting married and having a child are the best things I've ever done.
What do you see as your most important role at Reserve?
To serve the people who work in this community and to remove obstacles so people can do their best work. My job is to say, "How can I help you be the best that you can be?"