INTERVIEW: QUINN DUNKAK ’15 — HOW I SPENT MY 4 GAP YEARS
Quinn Dunkak is originally from San Francisco, CA. His family moved to Northport, New York when he was nine years old. Quinn graduated with an International Baccalaureate Diploma from Northport High School in 2011. At Hopkins, Quinn majored in International Studies and minored in Entrepreneurship & Management. Outside of academics, Quinn was a member of the Johns Hopkins Model United Nations, Foreign Affairs Symposium, and Men’s Club Volleyball Team.
During what would have been the Spring semester of his Junior year and Fall semester of his Senior year, Quinn took a leave of absence to earn money toward his degree and pursue credits through cost-effective online courses. He took 21 credits in his final semester and graduated from Hopkins in May 2015 after just three years of physical attendance.
Quinn joined Accenture upon graduating from Hopkins. He serviced technology initiatives at the US State Department and United Nations. After nearly two years at Accenture, Quinn assumed a leadership position at Splashes of Hope, a Nonprofit dedicated to transforming healthcare facilities and promoting healing through art. Quinn has spent the past year serving as a caretaker for his ailing family and preparing applications to law school. Quinn is currently finalizing applications and expects to enroll in law school Fall 2019.
Quinn spends most of his free time outdoors with his best friend, Rooney the dog. Otherwise, Quinn is an avid reader of classical literature. His favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird.
Why did you decide to wait several years before applying to law school?
After I graduated from Hopkins in 2015, I wanted to get some work experience. My whole life had been spent in academia. I thought it was important that I get to know myself better outside of the classroom first. I also knew that once I committed to graduate school, it would set me on a pretty fixed path. The period after college was unique in that it would afford me the flexibility to try new things and pursue different evolving interests. I also had college loans that I needed to address, so I was condent that going to work was the right move to make once I graduated.
How did you spend your gap years?
In my First job, I worked as a Management Consultant for Accenture Federal Services (AFS). As I entered my last semester at Hopkins, I was torn between going to work in business or government. The private sector is alluring for obvious reasons, but I’ve always had a desire to serve and some of the greatest role models in my life have been public servants. At AFS, I found an opportunity to get the best of both worlds.
The two main clients that I worked for at Accenture were the State Department and United Nations. At the State Department, I managed a supply chain integration within the Diplomatic Security unit. There I learned much about supply chain technologies and how government agencies operate. I also came to find that Management Consulting work at Accenture involved less problem solving and more project management and execution of technology initiatives.
At the United Nations, I oversaw a strategic assessment of Umoja, an administrative reform initiative for the UN Secretariat aimed at streamlining their business processes. When I joined the team, they had just finished implementing the first stage of the program and were looking to secure additional investment. I worked with Accenture leadership to quantify the benefits of phase one and articulate the future of Umoja in a way that was accessible to diplomats. Both experiences helped me to realize that I am a very mission driven person and confirmed my interest in public service.
After close to two years with Accenture, I realized that a long-term career in consulting was not for me. However, I wasn’t quite ready to go back to school. I wanted to take on new challenges and explore my interest in the social sector. When I was offered a leadership position at a nonprofit called Splashes of Hope, I knew it was the right next step. The mission of the organization is to improve healthcare environments around the country through handpainted murals. As the head of marketing and business development, I designed interactive sponsorship programs to engage communities and corporations in the mission and increase the breadth and depth of our impact on partner facilities.
During this time, I decided to start preparing for law school. When I reflected on my experiences since college, I realized that everything I had learned about myself pointed me in the direction of the law. First, I had conrmed my desire to pursue a career in public service. Moreover, after speaking with leaders at the State Department and UN, I determined that a law degree was most common among individuals in such roles. Second, I found that my strengths, interests, temperament, and educational background strongly predisposed me to this path.
As I neared the end of my first full year with Splashes of Hope and prepared law school applications for Fall 2018 enrollment, my family was confronted with a series of medical crises. My grandparents, who had just entered their 90s, were in and out of the hospital with various maladies. Around this time, my mother also fell victim to a crippling spinal condition which necessitated emergency surgery to stave off paralysis. As a result, I decided to put my professional endeavors on hold for the time being to provide support through this difficult period. Fortunately, everyone is now in relatively stable condition, so I have been able to shift some of my focus to completing law school applications for Fall 2019 enrollment.
What do you think you have gained from your experiences after college and from taking a break from academia before law school? Given the choice, would you do it again?
Taking a few years to work and explore between college and law school has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I truly feel that every experience has served a purpose and that I have grown immensely from all of them. For example, the incident with my family helped me to realize that life can get in the way of anyone’s career at any time — and that’s okay. Sometimes one of the best ways to grow individually is to put your own individual interests aside for a while and serve a bigger purpose, even if it’s one you can’t put on a resume.
This period has also undoubtedly strengthened my standing as an applicant. I’ve been able to boost my LSAT and overall add dimension to my profile. Law schools want to see that you are academically adept, but that’s a standard expectation. The key is differentiation. I believe that taking a gap year or multiple years between college and law school can help you find or refine what it is that makes you unique as a person and applicant.
What guidance do you have to offer to undergraduates that are considering a gap year(s) between college and graduate school?
I would say to go into it without any expectations and use it as an opportunity to explore your interests rather than just focus on getting ahead. Coming from a place like Hopkins, it can be easy for studious graduates to throw themselves into their first job and have it become their whole identity. I was certainly guilty of this when I started at Accenture. However, I realized over time that there is no straight line to success or contentment. It really depends on who you are and what you care about most. It can be easy to lose sight of that in the busyness of our lives. Moreover, as graduates prepare for life after college, they might think they want to be someone or pursue something that doesn’t actually resonate with their being. Taking some time to explore these tough questions can help ensure that your values and actions are aligned and that you are returning to school for the right reasons.
What types of undergraduate opportunities did you pursue that led to your decision to apply to law school? Were there any other experiences that you felt were particularly helpful in strengthening your application to law school?
As an International Studies major, my academics strongly influenced my decision to pursue law school. First, I feel that my studies enabled me to develop strong analytical abilities and communication skills, both of which will be essential in law school. Second, in taking a multitude of courses across the disciplines of History and Political Science, I have a sincere appreciation for the law and an understanding of its evolution and philosophical roots.
Quinn is happy to answer questions and is reachable by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.Tags: 2018, Law, November