Ismael R. Ayala, Ed.D.
Director, Events
College Board

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
My desire to help students like me who were first-generation, low-income, and who needed a counselor to guide them through the admission process. What I realized was that I wanted to be an advocate to help all students, no matter their background, achieve their dreams. I also wanted to serve both students and colleagues to discover their full potential.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Today, working in events, I do not work with students directly but support colleagues in the field of admission and college counseling. One of the things I love about my job is the ability to  connect with colleagues both in K-12 and higher education, while staying updated on the current trends impacting access for students. Reviewing and collaborating with practitioners to select conference sessions and develop a program that will inspire, support, and develop all colleagues in the field is one of my passions.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
My development and growth came from starting my involvement with my local affiliate, Texas ACAC. I joined NACAC because I saw the value and opportunities of networking with colleagues beyond Texas to discuss how we can support college access for all students. NACAC has been a trusted source of data and information while ensuring we are protecting the rights of students and of each other.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
We are at a point of having to navigate multiple challenges with the Supreme Court decision on the use of race in college admission, the cost of college, and students’ perception of the value of a college education.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Spending time with family, friends, and watching film documentaries. As a WOO (Gallup StrengthsFinder), I enjoy spending time and celebrating successes with family and friends. It is an opportunity to talk and catch up but most importantly have fun, which lifts my spirit.

If you could be or have characteristics of any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I would love to have the characteristics of Penelope from Norman Lear’s One Day at a Time, a re-created series featuring a Cuban American family. I enjoyed the character, Penelope, played by Justina Milagros Machado, because she demonstrated how to be a supportive parent and child. Her character reflected the Latino struggles of immigration, college navigation, and the desire to aspire for more. This show made me laugh, cry, and connect as a Latino. If you are reading this, I hope you will take the time to view this Netflix series.


Published Sept. 11, 2023