Kathryn Bezella
Vice Dean, Director of Strategy & Innovation
The University of Pennsylvania

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
As a resident adviser for first-year students at Barnard College (NY), I started to see “behind the curtain” into what college administrators spent their time and energy on within a campus setting. Before then, I hadn’t ever considered working in higher education, but I was drawn to a space where I could have meaningful impact, work with smart people, and tackle complex problems. Fast forward to this summer when I cleaned out a box of papers from my high school life and found one of those career-match tests that I must have taken as a teenager. My highest career match was “University Administrator.” So, the algorithms of the ‘90s really had me pegged!

What is your favorite part of the job?
Learning. The profession has changed so much since I entered it, and continues to evolve, which offers so much room for creativity, thoughtful evolution, and growth. Whenever I interact with faculty, I learn; we did work with Penn’s Positive Psychology Center recently, which was fascinating. I learn from every person I work with and manage. Their approaches to our work have made me more effective, more open, and more curious. And my role also requires me to explore the experiences and mindsets of our student audience, which means I constantly need to set aside my own preconceived notions to better understand what the journey to college looks like for a student today.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC is a rich source of inspiration. Attending NACAC events always broadens my perspective by exposing me to many ways of doing — and thinking about —  this work.  It’s also an organization where I turn to get energized. Seeing so many people who I’ve known in different capacities over time and catching up with them, hearing others present their views on topics I’m currently focused on —  these are wonderful ways to replenish and stay motivated.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today? 
I tend to think about challenges from three lenses: people, data, and systems. No matter which of these lenses you point at our profession, it is clear to me that much of what we do in admissions needs to be reexamined with a view toward access, human-centered design, effectiveness, and empathy.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I am currently a regular customer at my 3-year-old daughter’s in-home beauty salon where I can be found getting updos involving a LOT of butterfly clips that look (I am told) “fabuluth.” I also write fiction, listen to podcasts, love a Netflix binge, and my partner and I are pretty intense about Russian banyas and the Wim Hof Method.

What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Creative. Synergetic. Terrible Cook. “Fabuluth.”


Published Oct. 23, 2023