Director of College Counseling
California Board of Behavioral Sciences - Licensed MFT (Marriage Family Therapist)
Argosy University, MA
Williams College, BA
email: dot.kowal [at] sonomaacademy.org
phone: (707) 636-2014
Dot grew up in Maryland and went to public schools her whole life. “My parents really valued education,” she says. Her parents owned various businesses over the years, including a Jewish deli and a very busy market in Capitol Hill. As a high school student, Dot helped in the stores, but school definitely came first. When it came time to apply for college, Dot decided to apply to Williams College on a whim. “Someone I went to church with had applied there and he seemed pretty smart, so I gave it a shot,” she says. “I got there and it was almost like I was in a foreign country—most students were from private schools, boarding schools, or the top NYC magnet schools.”
After four years in rural NW Mass, she moved to Los Angeles with two friends to work in the film business. Her first job was at a talent agency. “I saw everything crazy that you can think of in the movie business!” she says. After that eye-opening entry into the industry, Dot worked on a few movies, but eventually decided it was too stressful. “Movies end, and then you are searching for your next job. This cycle is your life!” she says.
Dot then decided to work for Vin Diesel, assisting with his production business, then transitioned to Hans Zimmer's scoring studio in Santa Monica. “He is basically the most prolific film composer of our time, and the composers who work under him are some of the most talented people I have ever known,” says Dot. “I learned SO much about scoring, music editing, and score production, and even landed a gig on the side as a music coordinator for an animated Fox feature.” At the time the music industry was suffering in terms of major labels -- the only arm of major labels making money was publishing. So Dot moved to Sony/ATV to work in publishing, focusing on music placement for film/tv. By then, Dot was feeling burned out by the relentless pace. “I couldn't keep up with working all day and then going to shows at night,” she says.
After some guidance from a friend, Dot decided to go back to school to get her MA in counseling psychology with a Feminist emphasis, eventually going on to get an MFT license. Then a friend from grad school asked her to work with her as a school counselor at Mercy Burlingame. “I had very little experience in high schools, let alone Catholic schools, but I needed a job that could make my life work,” says Dot. During that time, she got married and then moved to a job at Woodside Priory in College Counseling. While at Priory, Dot had two daughters, and found herself longing for a simpler lifestyle. This is what led her to Sonoma Academy.
Since joining us in 2018, Dot has been continually amazed by our school’s culture and community. “Our students are mature, independent, and respectful,” she says. “We give students a lot of freedom, and I think it makes for responsible students who can think for themselves.” Her favorite part of working here is similar: “just as we give students trust, staffulty members also get a lot of freedom, trust and independence.”
In her role in College Counseling, Dot has a unique opportunity to interact with the entire school community: students, parents, teachers, and the administrative team, as well as representatives from colleges around the country. “I get to touch all aspects of school life,” she says. “I feel so grateful that I get to have conversations with people in all stages of life about a young person's future.”
Dot really enjoys spending time with her family. “My kids are really little, so I don't want to miss anything!” she says. She also loves learning to play golf and sharing that time with her husband. “I'm pretty... well, bad!” she laughs. “But it doesn't matter. I know it's something I can keep at for the rest of my life. The other day, I played so badly that I almost threw my club into the woods. I think that means I'm becoming a golfer!”