Member Spotlight: Lauren Wallace

Lauren Wallace
Associate Director of Recruitment
University of Pittsburgh (PA)

How has your career path led you to work as the associate director of recruitment at the University of Pittsburgh (PA)?

Sampling careers became almost a hobby of mine immediately after graduating high school. I worked as an administrative assistant for the director of government relations at the Giant Eagle corporate offices the summer after senior year. After a transition semester in college, I became a university tour guide, also known as a  Pitt Pathfinder (this will be important). After gaining some confidence in that role and getting more involved on campus (including studying abroad and interning at a sports promotions company in London), I became a high school site coordinator working with Pittsburgh Steeler, Will Allen, and the Quest for Real Life Success program. Following my time with Quest, I completed an internship as a summer associate with the Center for Inclusion at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The talent acquisition offices hired me as a part-time human resources assistant during my senior year of college.

After all of those opportunities, I realized people are my passion and that was confirmed time and time again. However, shortly after graduating, I went a step further and asked myself the very millennial question “when was the time I was the happiest in a role?” The answer—Pitt Pathfinders. So I sought out an opportunity to return to Pitt. I started as an admission and financial aid counselor shortly after graduating and later served as the senior assistant director of freshman recruitment before being promoted into my current role as associate director of recruitment. I absolutely feel I was propelled by passion.

What is the value of NACAC not in only in your career, but in all aspects of your life?

As someone who has been at the same institution since 2008, first as a student, and then as an employee, NACAC plays an integral role in broadening my horizons and in building my network within the field. It would be easy to have a singular perspective on the college admission landscape having only served one type of institution. Being involved in NACAC has connected me with people from institutions very different from Pitt—in size, in background, in location, in areas of focus, etc. I feel as if I understand a variety of places well. This is very helpful when I am having discussions with students about fit, or even in answering questions on panels; my perspective is not singular.

In life in general, it’s nice to have friends—through NACAC you make friends. It may sound brief, but for anyone who has ever needed a work-related favor, you know what I mean.

Do you plan to attend NACAC’s National Conference in Columbus, OH? If so, what tips do you have for first-timers?

Yes! I will have the pleasure of attending my third national conference in my four years working at Pitt. My suggestions for first-timers are:

1. Bring a notepad and, if possible, something electronic to take notes with. You will get a lot of good information you’ll probably eventually want typed. If you have the skills, type it while you listen—it will save you time.  

2. Bring business cards! If you don’t have some, make some. Write a note on the back of the business card with something you learned about the person you connected with as a stepping stone to continue the relationship.

3. Know what you want to make sure you learn while you are there. It will help you focus as you select your sessions. The program book will have a TON of options to choose from.

4. Don’t be afraid to suggest a “divide and conquer” strategy for sessions if you are going with a team. Go alone and learn interesting strategies to bring back to your group.

5. Most importantly—if your institution is carpooling to Columbus, sit next to the person with the snacks.

What advice do you have for professionals who are new to the field and are interested in getting involved?

If a past president reaches out his hand at your affiliate conference 5K run and says “let's cross the finish line together,” you grab it and cross the finish line (Chuck Bachman during my first Pennsylvania ACAC conference). It’s a true story, but it’s also metaphorical. Basically, I am saying to do two things. First, try things outside of your comfort zone. Second, get involved in your state association. There will always be lots to do within these groups and you may even be asked “what do you want to do?” (shout out to Bryn Campbell and the PACAC membership committee).

Keep your eye out for new opportunities. This summer I had the privilege of being selected to participate in PACAC’s Camp College. I had an extremely rewarding and career-choice affirming experience helping students learn the college admission process. Opportunities really are everywhere.

What are some of the opportunities and challenges associated with recruiting for a research institution?

The biggest challenge I have faced is caliber and the biggest opportunity is recognition. You are recruiting some of the best students in the nation while competing with some of the best schools in the nation. You have to know a lot about your institution as well as its relationship to your competitors. What makes us stand out? What is everyone else doing? How can we compete? You have to answer these questions for students who have a ton of excellent, highly-ranked alternatives, while also keeping in mind the most important thing is “fit” and that recruitment is also about retention.

When it comes to opportunity, Pitt's research is one of the things that takes our name beyond the classroom. A lot of people know the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, so it makes our job easier. Outside of being able to talk about the student experience, we can say things like, you’ll study at the place where Jonas Salk discovered the Polio Vaccine or you’ll dance on the same campus as Gene Kelly. For every challenge, there is an opportunity.

You’re a two-time alum of the University of Pittsburgh. How does this influence your role in admission?

As a two time alum, I can speak from my heart about the Pitt experience. Students and families can tell I am genuine. I don’t sugarcoat the bad or oversell the good. I know what it’s like to choose a college. I want the students I recruit to be happy here.

I find I can connect especially well to underrepresented students considering Pitt, or any other predominately white institutions because they want to know what it “feels” like to be somewhere surrounded by individuals who, visibly, are not like them. I can speak to the struggles, but I can also speak to how rewarding it is to be somewhere that expands your horizons and your worldview, and honestly makes you redefine differences and diversity. I can talk about the family I found on campus, both in people who looked like me and in people who could not have been more different from me. I know Pitt. I love Pitt. I Hail to Pitt!

List five adjectives that best describe you:

• Creative
• Enthusiastic
• Funny
• Outgoing
• Passionate

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am very grateful for this opportunity. When I started Pitt as a business student in 2008, I would never have imagined recruiting for my alma mater or having a career where I could not only change lives but also am surrounded by people who do the same.

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