How long have you been working in the counseling field? How has your career path led you to your current work as the director of college counseling at Bellarmine College Preparatory (CA)?
I worked for more than 28 years in college admission, enrollment planning and financial aid for four different private colleges in California. I loved that work and believe I was able to learn a great deal from my colleagues and from our students and families about the college process: how students dream, how they plan and the struggles they go through to make decisions about their futures. As a dean / assistant provost, etc., I was more and more removed from students and more involved in meetings and planning. I decided that I needed to find a place where I could work directly with students, use my experience and continue to learn more about our field. I consider myself very lucky to work at Bellarmine, a Catholic Jesuit boys preparatory school, where I am able to counsel students from every type of background, level of academic accomplishment and potential. Every day I use the lessons learned from my college admission experience to help young men chart their futures.
How has your involvement in NACAC changed and evolved since being chosen president-elect for 2012-13?
Since my election just a month ago, I have been gratified by the number of people reaching out to me to wish me success in this new role. There are so many of our colleagues who work hard on behalf of students and their institutions and support NACAC in so many ways. I am lucky to include many of them as friends. The Board of Directors and staff have been welcoming and are helping this “rookie” learn the ropes of how the board works and how we can get things done. Our ability to move fast in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy by soliciting information and posting information on NACAC's homepage about colleges’ extension of EA, ED and scholarship deadlines is just one example of the commitment and many talents of the board and the staff.
What is your favorite technique to use when helping students find their best “college fit?”
Finding fit is our goal, always. So many things get in the way of finding fit . . . rankings, parental pressure, peer pressure, family, and institutional financing, marketing, etc. I use two tools that seem to work best at the beginning: 1) in our junior college guidance class we have students draw pictures of “me at college” and illustrate the pictures with the things they need to have around them and the environments they want to live in, and 2) if we are really stuck in a one-on-one meeting, I have the student shut his eyes and imagine himself on a campus in September of his freshman year . . . where is he? What is around? What is he studying? The pictures become quite useful again when the students are making their final decisions. If a student is stuck on the decision, we bring out the original picture and ask him if the picture is still accurate (90 percent of the time it is!). That often helps the student get back to his original thought about the college he would like to attend.
You've worked on both sides of the desk. Do you prefer one over the other?
On the college side of the desk, I loved analyzing data and working with communication flow. I also very much enjoyed hiring and training new admission officers who could go out confidently and do great work. As the responsibilities grew, I was less focused on these and more on the bigger picture, which was fun for a while, but got to be tedious. I am very happy that I made the switch to the college counseling side of the desk—there is at least one great thing that happens every day with a student, whether he is admitted, sees the point of an essay or completes an application! In my other role, the successes came on many fewer days and in a less personal way through reports rather than smiling faces. At the same time, at Bellarmine I have been able to bring in new college counselors who are very bright and talented and helped to train them in our field. It’s a win-win!
What are you passionate about outside of work?
Outside of my work, I am passionate about two things, both of which revolve around my family. My spouse is the general manager of a professional lacrosse team, the Washington Stealth. He began his career at Whittier College and has been the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year. So, I’ve seen many, many lacrosse games and have known many great young men who’ve played the game. I also try to see our niece, Gracie, as much as I can. She is nine years-old, bright and energetic. I want to be a part of her life as she grows into the wonderful young lady she will become and make sure she has the best college opportunities possible.
How would you describe yourself?
(This is hard, by the way!)
Big Picture Thinker
Don’t take myself too seriously
Tell us about a mentor you’ve had along your journey in the counseling field.
I’ve had many mentors and many people who have taught me well along the way:
• Ed Schoenberg reminds me constantly about what is really important, and has been a mentor since I was a student worker helping him plan an open house.
• Jim Whitaker helped me understand the financing of education and budgets. He has also constantly reminded me to keep my eyes on my goals and not to let small things get in the way. He has been a mentor since we met planning the first California NACAC College Fairs many years ago.
• Bill Henley helped me establish and maintain professional relationships and has taught me how to behave gracefully under pressure. He helped me learn the ins-and-outs of college counseling. He has been my mentor since we began working on the California college fairs together.
• Sue DeRuyter has helped me solve many problems and make big plans. We have a 1-800-WhatD’YaNeed relationship.
• Peggy Hock taught me more about colleges and working with students than I can ever imagine, and with whom I am happy to team teach about college advising.
• Myron Arakawa and Jean Fukuji with great grace and tenacious spirit taught me to do my best each and every day regardless of the consequences, because students deserve our best.
• Radia Alouache, Mark vanWarmerdam, Joe Romano, Scottie Hill, Chris Fleitas, and Karly Aparicio are all very smart and do great work for students every day. They make me proud to have been a part of their professional growth and the recipient of wonderful ideas.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
In California, I have had the incredible experience to work with many counselors and college admission officers on projects that help schools, counselors, students, and families. I am proud to be a member of Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC) and to know that there is such energy, talent and commitment focused on what is important. I am looking forward to meeting more people within NACAC to learn what they know and help when I can.