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Meet Jill Byers

Jill Byers
Admissions Counselor & Staff Assistant
The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute

How did you become an admissions counselor at Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute?
I previously was the director of admissions at Ohio State ATI and then moved on to other institutions. When I was looking to move closer to home a couple of years ago, a former staff member at Ohio State ATI told me she had resigned, and we joked about how I could have her position. At the next college fair I met the current director at ATI and we shared stories. On the way home after that encounter I started imaging life without director-level issues of budgets, numbers, personnel, and the like. I considered stepping away from management for a while and returning to the heart of admission—the families and the outreach. So I applied for the counselor role, satisfied curiosities about my interest in returning, and got the offer. I do miss some of my previous opportunities and challenges, but I sleep better now!

What made you decide to get into this field?
In my undergraduate days at Kent State University, the dean of the honors college often invited students to his home for dinner. I got to know his wife, who worked in admission and was passionate and enthusiastic about her job. It sounded like a stimulating field where I could promote my alma mater as well as teach students about the college admission process—and maybe even put my writing and speaking experiences to use too. When an admission position opened up after graduation, I interviewed, but apparently kept mentioning how I was going to be a high school English teacher. They politely told me to go teach. I did for three years, eventually deciding to pursue a master’s in higher education administration. I was offered an assistantship in the admission office with the warning that no former GAs had ever been hired on fulltime. I took the job nonetheless, learned a tremendous amount about the field, applied for the next counselor job that opened, and got it!

What is your favorite part of the job?
I like the variety—the range of activities, audiences, and responsibilities. I work with people, with words, and with data. Some days I’m hunkered over my keyboard; other days I’m presenting to a roomful of students. I work one-on-one with students and families who are gung-ho about college, and with those who aren’t even sure they need a degree. My job is a combination of counseling, teaching, marketing, writing, presenting, Exceling, and more—all with the goal of helping students find their best fit.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
My experiences with NACAC have ranged from presenting at the national conference to serving as an Assembly delegate, from chairing the editorial board of the Journal to serving as affiliate president. Since attending my first NACAC conference in Chicago (where my luggage was stolen so I wore the same outfit for three days), and then decades later helping my affiliate host the conference, I am abundantly appreciative of the relationships and knowledge I have gained through NACAC.  My awareness of the profession, the issues, and the players has expanded immensely because of NACAC. Making those connections has made me a professional.

You’ve been a supporter of the Imagine Fund. Why do you choose to give to NACAC?
I was moved a couple of years ago to hear a candidate for the NACAC board speak about how his attendance and interactions at the national conference transformed his thinking and his career. I’ve been fortunate to have worked at institutions that supported my ACAC involvement, but not everyone has that. So I try to give back to an organization that has provided me access and exposure to current information and challenging ideas.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I have six nieces and nephews whom I refer to as “my kids.” It’s quite an honor to be a participant in their lives, to be included in their journeys and entrusted with their secrets (well, some of them anyway). I also enjoy fine arts and craft shows and the friends who trudge along with me.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I suppose Anna from Frozen. She is determined and enthusiastic, fearless and optimistic, caring and altruistic. She’s devoted to her family and she fights for what is right. Plus, she has a great magenta cape!

Do you have any advice for professionals new to the field?
Develop relationships within your work group, yet get involved outside of your office and even outside of your institution. Take advantage of opportunities to engage with others beyond your immediate circle, job description, and even age-group. Those with more years of experience can become mentors. And one more thing, “Dress one notch higher than you feel.” It’ll never serve you wrong!

Describe yourself in five words.
Reliable, thoughtful, deliberate, diligent, and witty.  My colleague says I’m like a coffee cake: warm, welcoming, and sometimes nutty.

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