Sheldon Tawata
Kuilei Outreach Program Coordinator
Kapiʻolani Community College (HI)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
In high school, no one mentioned college as an option. In fact, people were surprised I graduated with a high school diploma. My sister, who is older than me, attended a community college after high school, so I followed in her footsteps. The start of my college career began at Kapiʻolani Community College in remedial writing and math, which reinforced my mindset of not being college material. However, it was a counselor at the college who stood by my side with patience, support, and guidance that would change my life forever. It was because of her I was able to complete the required courses to transfer, then graduate with a bachelor’s degree with honors, before venturing out of Hawaiʻi to complete and graduate with a master’s degree. It has been a blessing to be back at the institution for the past 23 years that provided me tools for success, thus offering many opportunities to give back by supporting my students, my community, and my family.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I love listening to and learning from our students because they have so much to share. Part of my work is community outreach, so I am very lucky to watch students grow from as young as middle school to eventually see them graduate from college.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
Both the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Hawaiʻi Association for College Admission Counseling have been, and continue to be, the best part of my professional growth. I am surrounded by professionals who care about students FIRST. We are all guided by student voices that help shape program planning and strategic goals.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
There continues to be a tug between enrollment management versus doing what is right for our prospective and current students. I understand colleges and universities need tuition dollars to maintain campus operations, however, we need to remember there is a person behind those numbers. We need to dedicate time to mindfully understand the needs of our prospective and current students and their families, and continue to make adjustments that are relevant and purposeful.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I really enjoy spending time with my family. I am also a wannabe DIY’er, enjoy learning about plant care, and playing the drums.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Liz Lemon from 30 Rock is one of my favorite characters of all times because there are many times I will live life vicariously through her management style. Blergh!


Published July 8, 2024