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Meet Zak George

Zak George
Associate Director of Recruitment, Chicago Regional
DePauw University (IN)
Twitter: @
ZakPat21

How did you get become an associate director of recruitment at DePauw?
Just as we advise our students to find their college match, we, too, spend time finding our professional space in a college or high school that will be a match for us!

I graduated from Augustana College (IL) wide-eyed and ready to face the world, but unsure of what it is I wanted to do. My career counselor had previously worked in undergraduate admission and was able to make connections to help start my career in Galesburg, IL, at Knox College. From there, my career then centered around my “College Fair Alphabet Buddies.” Each fair, I would be sandwiched between “Lake Forest” and “Kenyon,” whom I enjoyed chatting with and getting to know, but after two travel seasons and a desire to move to Chicago, I left the admission field and started a new (albeit very short) job at the YMCA.

Shortly after moving to Chicago, the opportunity to transition back into college admission at Lake Forest College presented itself to me, as I had made some quality connections with my “College Fair Alphabet Buddies”, and I was fortunate to join an incredible team at Lake Forest College for three years.

After attending the IACAC Middle Management Institute, I left with a lot more questions than answers within our profession. I had made great connections at the Institute but also had thoughts on diversifying my professional portfolio to gain experience at a large, urban, Catholic institution. Fast forward a few years, and I was working in undergraduate admission at DePaul University. While my time at DePaul was fantastic, I am the product of a small private liberal arts college, and I yearned to return to my small school roots. Again, I called upon my “College Fair Alphabet Buddies” and moved one more table down, changed one letter on my business cards, and continued my career at DePauw University. I now get to stand next to friends and old colleagues, while also promoting the small private liberal arts college experience that I value so much. I am fortunate to have the support of great networks and “College Fair Alphabet Buddies” in the Illinois ACAC and the Chicago Area Regional Representatives Group (CARR) to help me advance my career and stay connected to the profession.

What is your favorite part of the job?
The cliché answer would be that “I love the cyclical nature of the work that we do” (which I do), but I love even more that every day, in every interaction or decision we make, no matter the cycle, we are changing the lives of the students that we serve. Whether it’s a tour guide or an overreaching parent, a junior who is new in the college search process or an admitted senior, a school counselor who never previously considered your program or a mentee, we are agents of change. We must not take for granted how important and impactful our words, decisions, and profession is in shaping the future.

How does NACAC play a role in your career?
NACAC has helped me understand the broader scope of college admission and has helped root my commitment to the profession for years ahead. I started first getting involved with the Illinois ACAC affiliate, and my experiences and connections through IACAC helped keep me in the profession during a time when I was considering a career shift. Attending the Middle Management Institute, which was modeled off of NACAC’s AMMI, helped shift my perspective and better understand the role of my ‘bosses boss’. I was then able to see the forest through the trees, and I then was able to better understand the career of “Admissions” versus the job of “Admission Counselor.” I fully realized the impact of NACAC during the 2017 NACAC Conference in Boston, as the IAS affiliate chairs had our counterparts meeting. Many respected colleagues from across the country came together to report on the work they had been doing within their affiliate related to access and inclusion, and it helped drive my passion to continue the work that I do. The need for a national conversation about access and inclusion within the field of admission is now more important than ever, and meeting with individuals who feel so passionately about areas of underrepresented students was a career changer.

Do you have any advice for professionals new to the field?
Celebrate your successes and don’t sweat your losses. Have a great interview with a student? Crush a high school visit presentation? Make your phoning goals?  Celebrate it! Don’t be afraid to do a little dance when your favorite student deposits, or a parent CCs your boss when you’ve done exceptional work. But also, don’t let the losses get you down. If you work for an institution where 4 of 5 admitted kids don’t end up enrolling with you, don’t let that drag you down! Focus on that one student, because you’ve changed theirlife. And remember, that the four others choose elsewhere not because of you, but because of factors outside of your control.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing counselors today?
Counselors need to spend time each day educating themselves on inclusion, equity, and access because the work is never done. I learn things each and every day in the ACCEPT Facebook page (Admissions Community Cultivating Equity and Peace Today) that help frame my understanding of the many ways our biases, words and actions need to be challenged and brought into the light. Students of color, trans* students, first generation students, undocumented or Dreamer students (among MANY other underrepresented student populations) are all in need of our support through our actions and language through this process, and we need to be constantly aware of how the work we do affects these underrepresented student populations. Our words matter, and our lack of words matter even more.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I’m running. I’m singing. I’m playing soccer. I’m collecting rubber ducks. I’m dancing to Katy Perry, or I’m pretending to follow the newest sports fad in Chicago.

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?
Leo Bloom from The Producers. On a typical Friday afternoon, you’ll find me belting showtunes. But I also started in this profession as a timid traveler and reader who needed to be lifted up by colleagues and told “you can do it!” in order to move forward and find my voice. And now, I find opportunities to ensure that others around me are affirmed in the same way.

Describe yourself in five words.
Big Picture Thinker, “Sportzy,” and Committed to serving students. (Five words? That’s impossible!)

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Collecting Rubber Ducks?  I have a collection of 180 rubber ducks that students, colleagues and friends have gifted me over the years. Each has their own story, from students who brought me one prior to an interview (she was then admitted), to tour guides studying abroad. Now that I am regionally based and work from home, the ducks find their home all around my apartment.  

 

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