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Meet Jeff Buckman

Headshot of Jeff BuckmanJeff Buckman
College Counselor
Eureka High School (MO)
Co-Leader of the ACAC College Fairs Coordinators SIG

What drew you to the world of college counseling?
College counseling found me; I didn’t find it. Immediately out of college I entered the world of computer programming and quickly found that it was not the right fit. While I was “in-between jobs” and trying to figure out my life, I became a substitute teacher. My interaction with high school students was fascinating and one that I truly enjoyed. This led me to apply for a position as an admission counselor at my alma mater. After spending five years in college admission, I decided to switch sides of the desk, as I desired an opportunity to work with students in a deeper capacity on a daily basis. That was 16 years ago.

What is your favorite part of the job?
The students, by far. You never know what each day will bring. We expect so much from kids right now. And I use that term seriously. They are still kids. Yet we expect them to make decisions for their future 30 years from now. I enjoy being a sounding board, life coach, punching bag, and a preacher of practicality. Each kid is different. Each day is different. And that is okay.

How did you get involved with the ACAC College Fairs Coordinators SIG?
Through my work in the presidential cycle with Missouri ACAC we were able to implement a series of regional college fairs throughout the state. We restructured and/or collaborated a set of college fairs to bring a greater experience to both students and college attendees while providing a dependable revenue stream for the association. Part of the implementation saw us partner with StriveScan for our scanning capabilities. Through this partnership, I was introduced to Steph Walsh, the Neighbor Island Fair Coordinator for Hawai’i ACAC. We then decided to form a SIG to help high schools create more meaningful fairs, and to assist ACACs in organizing/restructuring their fairs.  

Why is this SIG important to you?
While college fairs are not the single greatest factor as to why students choose to attend a particular college, it is part of the equation. If we can create a better experience for all parties involved, we hope to generate opportunities for everyone. More colleges and more students is a win-win. While the argument can be made that smaller fairs may offer a more intimate setting that gives students the ability to have lengthier and deeper conversations, our focus is on creating access and opportunities for a greater number of students. There is no perfect answer or perfect system, but we feel that having a SIG for this area will at the very least spawn conversation.

Why should counselors and admission professionals get involved with a NACAC SIG?
SIGs are a great way to connect with others facing the same challenges as you or with the same desire and purpose that directs your work. They can be a resource to assist in your day-to-day activities without having to reinvent the wheel. It’s a group where you can feel safe to pose questions, look for support, engage in meaningful conversations, and affect change. Find a topic that is near and dear to your heart, lean in, and see what happens next.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
The cost of attending college is simply ridiculous. There are many reasons as to why we have seen the COA rise significantly over the last 20 years, but it seems as if there is too much finger pointing and not enough work towards finding a solution. In my opinion, which is only that, I believe the problems started when colleges began acting differently– sometime in the late 90s. The internet changed everything. While it created a series of opportunities, it also created a series of problems. Information is now commoditized. Colleges and universities no longer house the latest and greatest data and research. I can learn anything over the weekend by binge watching YouTube videos, listening to TED talks, or reading blog posts. And colleges know this. So if that’s the case, then how do you attract an 18-year-old to your campus? Granite countertops, memory foam mattresses, dining facilities rivaling five-star restaurants and rec centers that make Club Med look archaic. Who do you think pays for that? Money rules the world and the internet disrupts every industry eventually. Hopefully colleges are next on this list, not because I want to see them fail or close their doors, but because the time has come for change. And if they are not willing to do it, perhaps they’ll be forced. An educated society is priceless. But that should not come at such a high cost if we truly understand its value.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
While a cool answer might be spelunking, skeet shooting, or competing in triathlons, the real answer is that I like to play with my kids (ages 12 and 5), cook, exercise, and watch movies. My golf clubs are itching for some action, but that’s not happening anytime soon. 

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Hands down - Optimus Prime. Who wouldn’t want to be the leader of the greatest team of fighters that defend Earth? And I could transform into a truck.

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