Making the Grade - Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Written by Eric Cooperman, C'04

Nov. 14, 2003

Whether on the court leading the Quakers to a volleyball victory or in the lecture hall expanding her intellectual horizons, senior Elizabeth Kwak-Hefferan has shown everyone that she can excel in many a demanding environment. As a three-time Dean's List communication major, Kwak-Hefferan has decided to not only write her name on more than a few honors and distinctions, but to use that written word as a future.

After being accepted to the communication program in the spring semester of her sophomore year, Kwak-Hefferan began to think of her career choices. "I want to be a writer, a journalist or go into some other genre of writing. I figured that I would be better suited [for this career] as a communication major rather than as an English major," said Kwak-Hefferan. Her choice allowed her to look into various alternative media opportunities in addition to fictional writing.

Kwak-Hefferan has been able to extract the most from her communication classes, participating in the highly recognized COMM 395 - Communication of the Presidency. Under the supervision of Professor Eisenhower, Kwak-Hefferan received a grant to travel to Texas and the LBJ Presidential Library. "I got a taste of heavy-duty research, comparing the civil rights policies of LBJ to JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr. For a short time, LBJ and JFK were aligned, and then they splintered in different directions." Kwak-Hefferan is a strong admirer of history, with America in the 1960s taking the top position as one of her favorite classes.

Her knack for research and understanding of interpersonal issues led Kwak-Hefferan to write her own column in The Daily Pennsylvanian last semester entitled, "6 foot 1." "I like to write feature stories, or soft journalism, over front page articles. I also prefer lifestyle features," Kwak-Hefferan explained.

The column served as an alternative to the heavily politicized columns that normally fill The DP's editorial pages, explaining the many facets of undergraduate life. "I hope it made me a better writer," stated Kwak-Hefferan, "It thickened my skin because I had to deal with criticism from the readers. Hopefully I can do it again next semester."

Kwak-Hefferan's resume does not end with The DP. The volleyball star worked as a summer freelance writer for Human Relations Media, producer of various educational videos for students. Kwak-Hefferan wrote scripts and teachers' guides to accompany the videos this past summer.

"It was great to freelance on my own schedule. Working from home [Wheaton, Ill.] was a good summer job," said Kwak-Hefferan.

Two summers ago, Kwak-Hefferan worked as an editorial intern for a Chicago-based magazine. "I got the chance to see the articles a few months before they were printed and communicated with several interesting people to check on the accuracy of statements. It was good to see how things worked in the editorial process," explained Kwak-Hefferan.

As for the future, the sky is the limit for Kwak-Hefferan. She plans on working her way up the literary ranks, ideally in Chicago or another Midwest location. Other options the volleyball star has left open include applying for Fulbright London study fellowships and Americorps, the community service organization.

"I feel very strongly that it is important to give back if you can. Because of my volleyball schedule, I haven't had the time to do so. It would be a great educational and lifetime experience for me," she said. Her ultimate dream, however, is to write novels revolving around lifestyles and relationships.

Fueling her occupational desire is a plethora of influential forces. Of her literary inspiration, Kwak-Hefferan cites John Irving, the Bronte Sisters, Dickens and Edith Wharton as her main influences. Continuing, Kwak-Hefferan explains, "It's a combination of factors. I have always been interested in reading and writing, and my parents read a lot to me. They were great for understanding my early stories."

All of her positive influences have pointed Kwak-Hefferan in the direction of success. The aspiring writer garnered the honor of national Academic All-American last year and was named Academic All-Ivy in 2001 and 2002. Given her extraordinary combination of on-the-court heroics and off-the-court academic prowess, the next chapter of Elizabeth Kwak-Hefferan's story should be very exciting.