Academic Shout Out: Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan


“I want your job.”

Those were the first words that I spoke to Jeffrey Kuan.

I was in my first semester in the MDiv program at Pacific School of ReligionI felt “called” to ministry, but I knew that I didn’t want to become a pastor. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until my first class, which was Kuan’s Introduction to Old Testament. I could not believe that he got paid to study and teach the Bible. I went to his office and told him that I wanted his job.

He did not blink.

He did not encourage or discourage me. Instead, he launched into a list of all of the things that I needed to do to be a competitive applicant to doctoral programs in biblical studies. I wrote down every word. He became my official advisor, and I did everything that he said. Classical Greek, consortium classes, GRE, etc. After I completed the MDiv, I began my doctoral studies in Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, but Kuan remained my unofficial advisor.

Kuan cares about my personal well-being and professional success. He has written letters, made phone calls, sent emails, and run interference on my behalf. I see him every year at the SBL Annual Meeting. Despite his numerous SBL responsibilities, he always makes time for me. He greets me with a big smile and an even bigger hug, and we discuss what I am doing and what my next steps should be.

Today, I am an Assistant Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Howard University School of Divinity. I love my job, and I would not be where I am without Kuan. Although one’s academic pedigree is usually traced from one’s Doktorvater/mutter, I am proud to be one of Kuan’s students.

He has moved into administration and will become the president of Claremont School of Theology, but to me, he will always be my advisor.