Meet Kirk Brennan

Kirk Brennan
Associate Dean, Director of Undergraduate Admission
University of Southern California

What drew you to the world of college admission?
I was not drawn initially, so I am grateful to those who taught me how compelling this work can be. Two reasons come to mind. Of course, I love the feeling of serving my alma mater by sharing the good work that we do. But the biggest draw for me is helping students find their way. We admission professionals stand next to students during a big transition, easing their burden. We help them move from a place of uncertainty to one of hope and aspiration. If we do it right, we inspire students to achieve more than they ever could imagine. What a privilege!

What is your favorite part of the job?
So much -- it is hard to narrow this down. My favorite moments are those rare occasions when a student allows me to be present as they decide to enroll. To share their joy, relief, and excitement is quite moving. At a general level, I enjoy learning about so many sides of our world through the stories students share in their applications. The breadth of our view is a rare, special opportunity. As I read about their achievements and their dreams for the future, I know we are in good hands.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I can think of several friends who will read this and laugh because I have not always appreciated the value of a professional association. I now stand corrected. NACAC connects me not only to colleagues who can help me do my job better, but also to the pioneers who blazed trails before us, to school counselors who help me understand how our work is seen by their communities, to emerging professionals who bring new views, etc., etc. I especially appreciate the resources like the national conferences, the Exchange, the research publications, The Journal, and, of course, the Code of Ethics and Professional Practices helps guide us every day.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
Public trust. It seems more and more people are questioning the value of education and counseling. Taxpayers and voters can persuade government officials to strengthen schools, but we have to tell our stories clearly and effectively, so the public understands the needs that might be invisible to many. The kids are counting on it.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
You’ll find me enjoying family and friends over good food, likely with a glass of California wine. I also hope to watch HBO and Netflix (when the Dodgers aren’t on), and find more time to improve my golf game.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I think Spiderman. I’ve always wanted to be able to fly around like he does. I suppose I might have picked Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch, as he had a happy family and a loving wife. Then again, I’ve got all that, so I’ll go with a “Mike Brady who can fly.”

Do you have any unique hobbies?
My daughter and I keep a collection of names that are also complete sentences. My favorites are C. Thomas Howell, Norman Fell, and a USC colleague, Gene Bickers (his surname is not descriptive; he’s a very friendly guy). We now have over 200 entries, which include some NACAC members. I also dabble in collecting baseball cards. I own the second-highest graded collection of Mario Mendoza cards. He is the namesake of the “Mendoza line,” which means he is known for being a terrible batter. In short, I keep a modest hoard of useless things that make me smile.

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