Whitney Soule
Vice Provost, Dean of Admissions
University of Pennsylvania

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
As an undergrad at Bates College (ME), I was a tour guide, overnight host—the works. When I first graduated, I was working for the American Red Cross, but then Bates had an opening in their admissions office and I wanted to try it. I had a dean who really brought me into the thinking behind the work we were doing and it was all interesting. I loved the complexity of managing human-centered work with mission, strategy, communication, creativity, and development of educational opportunity.

What is your favorite part of the job?
My inspiration comes from figuring out the best way to apply our resources to do the most good that we can. Also—this career creates space to work with amazing people— within my direct team, the school leadership, peers, committees, and boards. I have learned so much from so many people, and still do, by being broadly involved. Of course, working in education has many challenges but one of the greatest personal benefits is that the environment is filled with creative, supportive, inspirational professionals. I’m always learning.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I started by going to the regional NEACAC meetings, and then went to my first NACAC annual meeting in Boston in 1995. I also attended the Middle Management Institute sometime in the mid-‘90s. Not only did I learn good skills through that professional development, but I became friends with peers who are now also deans. We’ve come a long way since then! I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with other NACAC members to present on topics that matter to us.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
Well, it’s hard to pick just one challenge—there are so many. I would say that making progress toward equity is the priority. We need to make the pathway to and through higher education understood and accessible to all students, regardless of their access to resources. We can make progress with access to information, financial and emotional support, clarity, and meaningful adaptation to the needs of our students. I think it’s really important that we don’t ever assume that we’ve figured it all out. We’ll never be finished. We have to keep asking, listening, and adapting. Over and over again.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I really enjoy gathering with friends for just about any reason, but I also love getting deep into a good book and reading right through it. And, I’ll admit, I can get lost in random TV shows pretty easily.

What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Fidgety. Curious. Motivated. Organized. Bold.


Published Aug. 14, 2023