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Meet Stephen Ostendorff

Stephen Ostendorff
Director of Graduate Admissions
Bank Street College of Education (NY)

How did you get your start in the counseling field?  
As an undergraduate student, I was heavily involved on campus. Not knowing what I wanted to do once I graduated, I spoke to my mentor, the associate dean of students, and asked him for some advice. He said, “You need to do what I do. You were made for college campuses.” I, of course, ignored him and went into teaching. That lasted one year, I went back to him again and his advice had not changed. I found a job as an admission counselor at a very small engineering college in New York and that has launched an 18-year career in and around higher education.

What is your favorite part of the job?
The students. The feeling that the work I am doing is impacting their lives. Knowing that I am helping them achieve their goals, grow as students and professionals, and make a difference in their communities. I worked in higher education and enrollment marketing for a few years and came back to admission work because I missed that feeling. Without a direct connection to students, the work had less meaning to me.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
Depending on my role, I have been a member of NACAC, on and off, since 2001. I have been to dozens of National College Fairs, attended local and national conferences, and have presented at the NYSACAC and NACAC conferences. NACAC has helped me grow my professional leadership network, meet amazingly smart, creative, and thoughtful admission and enrollment management colleagues, and increase my exposure to new and different ways of working. NACAC has helped me grow as a professional.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
I am not one that likes to focus as much on problems and challenges but look at ways we can build on our already existing assets. We know that access to higher education has gotten better throughout the years, but how can we improve on this and build more equity into the process? How can we improve affordability to increase access to higher education? How can we, as professionals, create a more holistic process of evaluating students for our institutions?

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
As a doctoral student, it is very odd for me to not be working, but I am the father of two young boys, so I love to play baseball, cars, hide and seek, freeze dance, doctor, Spot It, and whatever else they come up with at the moment. I also love to cook and barbeque, and love to teach my four-year-old to do the same (my one-year-old is starting to get interesting in helping too).

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Philip Marlowe, the private detective created by Raymond Chandler in The Big Sleep (book and movie) as well as other stories. Marlow is a hardnosed, contemplative, and intellectual detective who is not fooled easily and has strong morals. I love the way the character is written, how he practices his profession, and that he wears patterned socks (which I have adapted in my life as well). The depth of his character is astounding, and I love to go back and reread the book whenever I can.

Describe yourself in five words.
Green tea-drinking lifelong learner.

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