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Meet Cristan Harris

Cristan Harris
Associate Director of College Counseling
Hawken School (OH)
Twitter: @cristanharris

How did you become the associate director of college counseling at Hawken School?
I joined the team at Hawken in July, after spending eight years at The Williams School in New London, CT. Prior to that I had the privilege of working in college admission at Boston University, American University, and Meredith College, in addition to a short time at NACAC. The opportunity at Hawken was attractive for a number of reasons. First of all, Hawken’s dedication to innovative and progressive education was incredibly appealing to me, as was the opportunity to work as a member of a larger team.

You’ve worked on both sides of the desk and at NACAC. What drew you to this field?
When I really step back and think about this, part of it was that I absolutely loved my college search process. I remember looking at the possibility of college and the freedom to explore so many different things and feeling really inspired. Neither of my parents were college graduates – though my mom later earned her degree –  so it was a completely different world and, at the risk of sounding like an enormous dork, flipping through those massive college guide books was something I loved to do (Internet? What internet?).

What has kept me in it are the relationships I’ve fostered, be it with students and families or colleagues from both sides of the desk, and the opportunity to really be a “mythbuster” and a trusted resource.  Another aspect of this field that I find really special is you can always grow in it; the environment changes pretty rapidly, so there is always more to learn, and you can find groups within our organizations to really chase a passion or hone a skill – anything from ACCEPT to College Horizons to Women Council for Admissions Professionals (WCAP). And I can’t say enough about the regional ACAC experience. I look forward to getting involved with Ohio ACAC because the professional opportunities I was afforded by New England ACAC and Southern ACAC were just awesome.

What is your favorite part of the job?
The camaraderie we share as professionals. Of course, helping students is a close second, but my closest friends in the world were made because of this profession and that has been so nourishing.

Do you have any advice for professionals new to the field?
Don’t focus on your title or how quickly you can move up. That will all come in time. Focus on the endless opportunities to learn. Embrace the fact that everyone in this field has been lifted up and supported by others and finding those mentors is crucial. Learn from everyone you can!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing counselors today?
I think the two experiences that are universal to counselors are college affordability and the social/emotional aspect of transitioning to college. I fear the gap continues to widen for students on both counts.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I love exploring our new home city of Cleveland. The art museum has quickly become my favorite place. I also really enjoy cooking and we are big into pub trivia nights.

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?
C.J. Cregg from “The West Wing”. I’ve been re-watching the series and adore how her character is the perfect blend of humor, toughness, empathy, and intelligence. I also admire her as a professional woman navigating a male-dominated environment.

Describe yourself in five words.
Hardworking. Hopeful. Honest. Giving. Curious.

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