Meet Ann Fountain

Ann Fountain
Associate Director of College Counseling
The Galloway School (GA)

How did you become the associate director of college counseling at The Galloway School?
Like many college counselors, I worked in college admission prior to switching sides of the desk. When I worked at Sarah Lawrence College (NY) and Bennington College (VT), I would have these amazing exchanges with students during their interviews or while reading their applications, but once the students were actually enrolled, they rarely stopped by to say hello. I wanted the opportunity to develop deeper and more sustained relationships with students over a number of years, rather than over the course of an admission cycle. I landed in Vero Beach, Florida, where I had the opportunity to teach English and coach crew on top of college counseling. I am a city slicker though, so I began looking for jobs in Atlanta. I was overjoyed to find The Galloway School, a place that aligns closely with my own progressive educational philosophy and values.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Anything involving writing. I love working with students on their essays. I have taught English on and off throughout my time on this side of the desk and I see college essay work as yet another opportunity to help them become better writers – not just to get into college, but to become more reflective, better communicators, better storytellers, for life. Crafting recommendation letters, though time-consuming, is incredibly exciting to me as well. It is an opportunity to find and reflect upon the value and growth in all students.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I was lucky in that I was able to see my first boss and mentor, Thyra Briggs, serving as curriculum director of NYSACAC Summer Institute, right out of the gate. I think it helped me understand immediately that college admission could be a longstanding career in which I could not only serve my own institution, but also have a broader engagement with a large, welcoming professional community. I have always enjoyed attending NACAC conferences– I am a big conference nerd– but I think my most meaningful experience was attending GWI in 2009. Connecting with other folks who were committed to equity, access, and inclusion and seeing that there could not only be space in one’s profession, but the opportunity to make it a primary focus of one’s job, was exciting to me. I have not been able to go back to GWI since then, but it helped me connect with NACAC on a different scale than I’d seen at the national conference and for that I am very grateful. Recently and very specifically, I’ve been enthused about NACAC’s responsiveness to member requests for more gender-inclusive language in print and web publications. The changes will be meaningful and important for both our students and families and within our own professional community.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing new counselors?
Aside from the steep learning curve of becoming a college counselor or high school counselor (in terms of familiarizing oneself with the myriad of post-secondary options as well as the labyrinth of application and financial aid knowledge required for the job), I think that a big challenge for new counselors is actually trusting that your voice is wanted and valued at the affiliate ACAC level and the national level. NACAC and the affiliates are doing a great job these days with respect to getting this message out, but believing it is another story. Everyone has something to contribute, and those who have experience at the affiliate or national level are happy to help you find the best place to pitch in and get involved. For this reason, I’ve been glad to see recent efforts to improve mentorship programs in our profession.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I try to spend as much time as possible with my partner, Alison, and our twin five-year-olds, Luca and Ollie. Most of the time, that means biking around the neighborhood, attending festivals (Atlanta has many), or going to any number of coffee shops or food halls around the city. I love hiking and being near water, so on an ideal weekend we’d be exploring the many beautiful trails, rivers, and streams around the greater Atlanta area. The East Palisades Trail, which flanks the Chattahoochee River, is spectacular and only about 20 minutes from our house.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Is it cheating to say Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights? Or just a sign that I love my job? She handles moments of crisis with extreme grace, she lifts up and empowers students even– and especially– when they are convinced that their lives and intellects do not have value, and I love the story of her own growth from counselor to school leader. She went through periods of self-doubt, but she took a leap of faith and ended up serving as a steely and fierce advocate for an even broader swath of students and families as high school principal. It doesn’t hurt that Connie Britton (the actress who played her) is a real-life hero as well: she’s an outspoken activist who has worked both nationally and internationally on poverty eradication and women’s rights.

Describe yourself in five words.
Empathetic. Nerdy. Sassy. Diplomatic. Hopeful.

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