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Meet Jamar Keaton

Jamar Keaton
Associate Director of Admission
Southwestern University (TX)

How did you become the associate director of admission at Southwestern University?
My career in admission began at my alma mater, Texas State University, where I spent five years working as an admission counselor. During my tenure there, I developed key skills associated with counseling, travel, and event management. I gained a broad understanding of both the challenges and opportunities facing education and admission work. 

Seeking a new challenge as well as additional knowledge and growth opportunities, I transitioned from Texas State into a regional position with the University of Alabama where I was responsible for maintaining a strong presence in the key Houston market. I loved the opportunity, but I quickly realized that while the impact of my work was being felt, my efforts were not being seen. Recognizing my desire to grow into leadership, I saw this as a hindrance and sought an opportunity that would equip me with the skills required to lead enrollment management efforts.

In my quest, I was intrigued by an opening at Southwestern. I was a bit concerned that my professional background in public universities might not resonate with their ideal image of the hired candidate, but I did not let that hold me back. Instead, I saw my background as something that would offer a unique perspective on the institution’s recruitment strategy.

I started at Southwestern as an assistant director of admission and was promoted to associate director in August 2017. My promotion is credited to several key factors including effective management of individuals and projects, my ability to think creatively yet strategically, and a historical trend of consistent performance and territory management in markets across the country. I also credit a big part of my promotion to my very active participation in the Texas ACAC affiliate where I have served on and chaired committees, and represented our views at a state and national level.

What made you decide to get into this field?
After graduation, I began a career at a business organization where I facilitated the dispute resolution. While I enjoyed the community interaction, I quickly realized that I was still in love with learning and wanted to return to school for graduate studies. In seeking opportunities where my education would be supported, I noticed an opening in the admission department. I called a mentor who worked in the office to see if they felt I would be a good fit and they agreed so I gave it a go. I intended to stay in the field only through graduation. Nearly 10 years later, I’m still going strong.

What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is knowing that I have the ability to positively impact the life of a student and their family for generations to come by simply saying, “You’re admitted.” I love that each day offers something a little different, and while travelling for months a year can be grueling, it also allows me to engage with diverse groups of people and form a strong network of inspiring colleagues and friends.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC has supported my growth in many ways. I utilize the NACAC Knowledge Center, special reports, such as the annual State of College Admissions, and webinars to gain insight into emerging trends and current topics. I have been supported by Imagine Grant funds on several occasions for both programming and professional development. I have also attended several NACAC conferences, including Guiding the Way to Inclusion, where I am reminded of just why I am so passionate about this field.

You’ve been a supporter of the Imagine Fund. Why do you choose to give to NACAC’s fund?
The Imagine Fund has supported my growth and development for years so I feel it is only right to give back. I want to make sure that others have an opportunity to find their home and some great friends in admission just as I have.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
First and foremost, I like to re-center at home with my dog Emmitt. Beyond that you’ll find me watching movies, travelling with friends, exploring new cuisines, watching football, and praying for another Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl victory.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
The Royal Prince of Zamunda. Coming to America is one of my favorite movies ever. I really appreciated the humbleness of Eddie Murphy’s character, plus I’d be a prince!

Describe yourself in five words.
Loving life and having fun!

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