A little over a week ago I celebrated my 9th anniversary in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Johns Hopkins University. Sadly, that will be the last milestone I reach in my professional career here at Hopkins. At the end of this week I will enter Mason Hall on the Homewood campus for the final time as an employee. In one of the most difficult decisions I have made in my life, I have resigned my position as Associate Director of Admissions and accepted a new position as Director of Communications for the Office of Admission at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
I never really expected to be writing a farewell Hopkins Insider blog entry, but this summer I received a couldn’t miss professional opportunity that will enable me to take my admissions career in a new direction. Though I have immensely enjoyed being an admissions counselor, at this point in my career I want to focus more on my interests in communications and marketing. This new position allows me to remain in the field of higher education and still involved in issues of undergraduate admissions. My new primary focus will be on the development and delivery of a distinct and cohesive admission message for Emory via a multitude of communications platforms. In so many ways, I am able to take my career in this new direction because of the work I have done at Hopkins—and specifically this blog—and for that I am eternally grateful.
Saying farewell to my second home is not going to be easy. Since making my decision to move south there has been a lot of time to reflect. Such a big move professionally leads someone to look back at when it all started. Growing up I never dreamed of being a college admissions professional and even after graduating college it did not seem to be in the cards. But after disliking my first career choice I looked back on my college years and realized the most fun I had was being a campus tour guide. Then I began to look at my strengths and talk to people who knew me well and two themes became apparent. First, I was a good talker, and second I knew a lot about searching for the right college. So what started as an experiment back in January 1999 when I got my first admissions job has turned into a career, and one I truly love.
I was drawn to the cyclical tasks of a college admissions recruiter and evaluator: recruitment travel, on-campus programming, and application review. I got to use my talent as a strong speaker and I got to engage with the counseling aspect of the profession. As I transitioned to Hopkins I still had passion for these admissions roles but I also began to expand my connection to the areas of communications and marketing. While each year passed and an experiment in a new profession became a career, my reasons for enjoying this career evolved. Finally, in a reflective moment this past spring I realized the parts of my job that I initially was drawn too were not the same tasks that motivated me and therefore a change was needed.
The leadership at Hopkins has allowed me over the past nine years to experiment and explore greatly in the field of communications, especially as it relates to incorporating new media (a.k.a social media) platforms into the traditional recruitment and retention plan. This exploration began with the launch of this Hopkins Insider blog in December 2005, then blossomed with the expansion of Hopkins Interactive, and now represents one of the most comprehensive social media programs for a university in the nation. Nearly seven years ago I wrote in the first of my over 300 blog posts – Who and What is the Hopkins Insider? –
The Hopkins Insider blog is one part of this new endeavor – consider it a behind-the-scenes look at how Admissions works at such a highly selective institution. Over the coming weeks and months, this blog will give you access into the often confusing and hidden operations of an Undergraduate Admissions office as well as provide you with a resource for asking questions. This will become your personal window into the application review process and you will become connected to the personalities that make up the Admissions selection committee.
I didn’t realize back then what I was starting would become a major component of the everyday work of a college admissions office. Admissions blogs that provide a transparent and accessible connection to the inner working of the selection process as well as other forms of social media outreach by formerly reclusive admissions staff is not only commonplace, but now expected. I am proud that we were ahead of the curve at Hopkins, and that as I depart for a new challenge I leave the Admissions Office with a true legacy and a game plan for remaining at the top of the heap.
The other component of reflection is what I will miss after my departure. This is much harder for me to write about as I will miss so much and thinking about that yields a ton of emotions. (Yes, tears will be shed as I write this.) I will miss the university and the community that exists at Homewood. Hopkins has a great advantage over so many other urban institutions in its physical location and design. The majesty of the Homewood campus breeds an engaged populace and caring community, and even as the campus has expanded during my tenure it is constantly reflecting on how to continue to connect community. (Just check out the new Brody Learning Commons.) I will miss the friendly nature of Homewood: from the people in Levering who always say hello when I go to get a sandwich or drink; to sitting in the Nest rooting on the Men’s Lacrosse team to victory; to the staff at PJ’s during Taco Tuesday; and to the Hop Cops who are always fun to chat with. I will also miss greatly the professional staff I have gotten to work so closely with outside of Mason Hall. There are so many passionate and intelligent members of the staff and faculty at Hopkins who aided me in my growth, stimulated me with their creativity, and taught me about the inner workings of a prestigious institution of higher education.
I will also greatly miss my colleagues in the Admissions Office. You all have become much more than colleagues. You are my friends. You are my mentors. You are the people who inspire and challenge me, and you are the people who have most enabled me to grow professionally. I will cherish so much from the experience we have shared, the lessons we have learned together, and all of our collective successes and failures. As I fear I will miss out on certain people, I do not want to single out any one individual in this blog but rather thank all of my colleagues past and present, as each and every one of you has left a mark on me personally and professionally.
It is also sad to leave behind the prospective community, the students and families I work with in on a daily basis educating them about Hopkins and assisting in navigating the sometimes confusing admissions selection process. Though this community changes year to year and I never really get to know these people in an in-depth way, I feel much of my enjoyment over the past nine years stems from the connections I have with prospective students and applicants. In my new job I will be working closely with a prospective community again, one that is quite similar, but my engagement will be different. I will miss visiting a high school and chatting with a small group of students about the humanities at Hopkins or how residence life works. I will miss standing in front of a thousand people at an Open House acting as a “cruise director,” providing advice on how to best navigate their day. I will miss using a bullhorn on Decker Quad during SOHOP, or driving a golf cart along St. Paul’s Street after midnight making sure everyone is safe. And I will greatly miss writing entries for this blog.
Now I come to the part of this farewell blog that I have been dreading; how do I say goodbye to “my kids”? I often use that phrase to describe the Student Admissions Advisory Board (SAAB), the group of Hopkins students I have advised and who have been instrumental in all things Hopkins Interactive related. When I started at Hopkins I never imagined that a group of current students making up an admissions volunteer group would be the most significant part of my job. But when I reflect the most significant memories tend to always involved SAABers past and present.
About a year and a half ago I posted a blog called the “SAAB Legacy” where I discussed the impact that a group of past SAABers had on me. I concluded that blog by writing:
These 13 special students have meant the world to me and I consider them in many ways my children. I will look after them for as long as I can, and will provide them with any assistance they ever need. They have inspired me, they have challenged me, they have made me laugh, they have made me cry, they have displayed true creativity, and they have in the end created something memorable and unique. They have kept me in the loop and allowed me to be a small part of their successes. They have left a true legacy.
By overseeing SAAB I have learned leadership skills, I have been challenged to make difficult decisions, I have managed diverse personalities, and I have developed cardinal organizational rules that assist in project management. I will be bringing all these skills with me to Emory and I know my experiences with SAAB will lead to success in my new endeavors. But I will also be bringing with me a collection of memories that I will reflect on when I need inspiration. (I really wish someone would create an actual Dumbledore pensieve as that would make this so much easier.) I hope “my kids” realize what they have meant to me and I hope the followers of Hopkins Interactive realize how uniquely special Hopkins students can be.
Some may read my emotions and not understand them because they see this just as a job and the natural progression of moving from one job to the next. However, this has never been just a job to me and the people I am leaving are my second family. I am eagerly anticipating this next professional challenge, but it is hard to close the book on my time at Hopkins. Though Hopkins is not my alma mater, I have spent nine years here and feel more of a connection to the Blue Jay community then I do to my actual alma mater. Despite moving on, I plan to continue to sing the praises of Johns Hopkins University and look forward to future events such as a hopeful lacrosse championship next Memorial Day.
One Hopkins-related item I surely will continue to follow while in Atlanta and encourage you all to do so as well is the Hopkins Insider blog. I am leaving the blog in truly capable hands and expect great entries in the future. There will now be four full-time Admissions bloggers who will continue to provide a personal window into the admissions process at Johns Hopkins University. But more so these four different personalities will cover a wide-range of issues and provide a more comprehensive array of topics than I was ever able to do back in the day. From Shannon you will learn from a seasoned admissions professional as she enters her eighth year at Hopkins. From Laurin and Ardi you will shadow the experiences of admissions counselors in their first professional year, who also both happen to be recent JHU graduates. And from Shelly you will hear from the main contributor to the Admissions Office’s current communications and marketing efforts. Truly capable hands!
When thinking of how to conclude this final blog entry, unfortunately, words fail me. I will just say thank you to everyone and you all will be sorely missed. I hope over the years I have assisted you, I have advised you, I have motivated you, and on occasion made you laugh.