Tulane Spotlight: Survivor edition

Aidan McCahill, Associate News Editor

This past fall, millions watched one of Tulane University’s own compete for $1 million on CBS. Director of Admission Engagement Owen Knight participated in season 43 of “Survivor”, a reality competition that places contestants on a remote island — this season located in Fiji — where they participate as “castaways” in various physical and mental competitions. 

Knight, who grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, recalls falling in love with the show as a kid with his family. 

It was a big part of our weekly routine,” Knight said. “So it left a huge impression on me”

But it was not until rediscovering the show on a flight for Tulane recruitment in 2017 that he became motivated to get on. 

“Oh my god, this is still amazing,” Knight remembers immediately thinking. “I want to do this one day.” After deep diving into online fan communities and podcasts, and one unsuccessful application in 2017, he finally saw his dream come true this year. 

At times on the show Knight seemed like an underdog and was nearly the first contestant to be voted off. 

“That was really terrifying,” Knight said. “[It] had been a five-year process for me and the thought of it ending after just three days would have crushed me.” 

However, Knight won immunity challenges, entered strategically cunning partnerships and fought his way to the final three, outlasting 15 other contestants. Knight described his strategy as “keeping shields around him,” allying with more threatening contestants while embracing the fun, vulnerable side of his personality.

Knight credits some of his success to the skills he has learned after nine years of being an admissions counselor. “It’s such a weird profession because it is very transactional in a way … but it is also very personal and relationship oriented,” he said. This experience, along with his outgoing personality, allowed him to cement bonds with other contestants while maintaining his goal of surviving to the next round. 

Knight further prepared for the show by practicing puzzles and getting back in shape at Orange Theory, where he is now a coach. 

Tulane students may recognize Knight from his viral TikTok videos for Tulane Admissions. He has seen huge increases in his Instagram and Twitter followers as a result of “Survivor.” Despite this, Owen has no intentions of altering his social media behavior. 

“I have no plans on becoming an influencer,” he said. “But it’s certainly kind of fun to have a platform and get to engage with more people than before.”

Knight, originally born in Korea and adopted when he was four months old, unexpectedly found himself representing many fans from similar backgrounds. 

“I started getting all these DMs on Instagram from other Asian kids with white parents or other Korean-American people who just said that they had never seen someone like themselves on TV before and that was really, really moving,” Knight said. “It was awesome.”

Looking back on his experience, Knight’s only complaint was the uncomfortable bamboo beds, eventually leading him to sleep in the sand. Despite not winning the $1 million prize, he was grateful for being on his dream show, as well as the support from Tulane. 

“Tulane is an institution that is willing to have one of their admissions professionals run around on national TV in their underwear,” Knight said. “I think that fits our whole brand … we try to have fun and we try to keep things light while still providing a really good student experience and a great education.”

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