Meet Marie Vivas

Headshot of Marie VivasMarie Vivas
Senior Development Manager
International Baccalaureate Organization
Co-Leader of the International Baccalaureate SIG

What drew you to the world of college counseling?
I fell into it really. I was a French teacher at Escuela Campo Alegre in my hometown of Caracas, Venezuela back in the late eighties. The counselor at the school didn’t have much experience with international students so those kids started asking me questions about my own experience as an international student. The rest is history.

What is your favorite part of the job?
At this point I have been in this profession for about 30 years. I have been on the high school side and on the higher education side and now I work for the IBO. I truly love the service aspects of my career. Helping students find the right match is super exciting.

As I moved on in my career, I found that the work I do to promote access and equity is the most rewarding part of my three-decades-long career. Access is an issue for students from around the world and also for professionals in our field. So, in my work, both my paying job at the IB, and in my volunteer capacity with NACAC, International ACAC and CIS, I focus on these questions and advocate for inclusion.This is my passion.

How did you get involved with the International Baccalaureate SIG?
Once I joined IB, my colleague Pam Joos from Washington International School asked if I would like to co-facilitate the group that she had created. It was a generous offer which I enthusiastically accepted.

Why is this SIG important to you?
It has been a wonderful way to connect colleagues who want to learn about the IB with colleagues who passionately advocate for their IB students. The most important message I want to get out there is that IB students come from all socio-economic backgrounds and are frequently in your own backyard. There’s a lot of myth busting involved.

Why should counselors and admission professionals get involved with a NACAC SIG?
It is one of the ways to find your people in this very large organization. When you first come to a NACAC national conference it is very intimidating. It seems like everyone knows each other – have you seen the amount of enthusiastic hugging that happens at our conference? SIGs provide opportunities to get to know people in a smaller setting, to make connections with colleagues who share your interests and concerns, to learn about new ways of serving students. It is absolutely a win-win.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?We find ourselves in an ever-changing admission landscape where our ethical practices are under siege and our institutional priorities are focused on revenue, rankings, and reputation. How do we balance bottom lines with what we know is truly important? For me, that is access to excellent higher education for all and equity in our profession.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I love to watch movies and share reviews with my friends on social media. Every year I make Oscar predictions. I watch the Academy Awards show and share a running commentary on my Facebook feed. For many years when I lived outside of the US, I couldn’t watch live. I share this experience so that some of my colleagues across the globe can get a little taste of the show. I do have a few fans out there who tune in every year.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
With the last of the Star Wars movies on my mind, I choose General Leia Organa. Leia evolved so beautifully. She gave up the trappings of “princess” and embraced her power as commander, as leader. This is as it should be. The princess gives way to the matriarch. As a much older woman who had nothing to prove, she was able to lead with compassion, to be vulnerable, but she was still forceful, smart, and funny. This is what I hope to do every day of my life.

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