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Meet Quinton Clay

Quinton ClayQuinton Clay
Director of Admissions
Northern Illinois University

What drew you to the world of college admission?
Being the first person in my family to obtain a bachelor’s degree was a special experience. My parents constantly lauded and reinforced the value of education, yet, traversing the college admission processing came with challenges. I was fortunate to have a great family structure and support system behind me. What’s more, I had a consummate admission counselor. I would like to use this space to acknowledge Jason Woods, who is now the vice president of strategic enrollment management at St. Cloud State University (MN). When I was in high school, Jason was a new admission counselor at my alma mater. He ushered me through the entire process, as opposed to only focusing on the institution he represented. I was drawn to college admission because I, too, wanted to have that level of positive impact on others.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I truly enjoy seeing the world through students’ eyes, especially when they realize that their dreams are attainable. It is important for me to continue to listen to the perspectives of our youth. From their lenses, I can better understand the world around me, and what that world could become. It is absolutely energizing for me to find ways to equip the rising generation with the pathways, tools, and relationships that will close the gap between their potential and their purpose.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I attended my first NACAC national conference in 2008, and I was ignited by the wealth of wisdom and expertise. I can’t begin to count the number of professionals whom took time to impart and share guidance. At that first conference, I developed what I later recognized to be lasting relationships, friends, and mentors whom I still call upon to this day. Just when I thought that was it, I attended the Guiding the Way to Inclusion conference, and my mind was blown. I’ve lost count of the number of conferences I’ve attended since then, but I’ve always looked forward to them. Since then, I’ve tried to give back and contributed as a presenter at GWI, the national conference, and for NACAC’s Emerging Admission Professions initiative during the Chicago National College Fair.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
It has been said that dreaming is the luxury of children. More and more, we find ourselves consumed with operational administrative challenges and pragmatic solutions. This takes a toll on the creativity and passion we need to continue to lay new foundations and systems for our future. I believe that history will point to this time as an especially important period as it relates to reshaping our country and reshaping our world. It is imperative that educators, as well as the advocates and proponents of education, contribute our best and most creative ideas. We must fuel our entrepreneurial spirits and take creative risks.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I love spending time with my two-year-old son, Ethan! I am blessed to have amazing parents, and it is a true gift to have the opportunity to enjoy and impact my own son in the ways they impacted me. In addition, I’m a musician and former athlete, and I’m able to share my passion for both music and sports with Ethan.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I’m a big fan of Marvel’s X-Men series. I’ve always admired and viewed myself to be most like Beast, also known as Dr. Hank McCoy. Although Beast demonstrated exemplary intelligence and strength, he struggled with his appearance and his desire to negotiate harmony between human and mutants. I empathized and respected the internal and external fight that Beast navigated, and in many ways, I learned from him.

Describe yourself in five words.
Imaginative. Optimistic. Eclectic. Analytical. Grateful.

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