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What’s New?

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Hello, Internet!

It’s been a while since you and I have seen each other or, at least, truly interacted. Over a year, as it seems. To fall into a clichés or standard reflection, the truth that time moves as you get older faster definitely seems to be true.

So, what’s happened?

  • I’ve now been living in San Francisco for a little over a year and a half now. It took a little while for this place to feel like home. While I still feel like I will always be a Washingtonian and Marylander deep down, I love the variety and culture that SF offers. SF has all the best parts of a great city, but also access to California nature. I’m definitely spoiled by the climate here, though perhaps the grass is always greener on the other side–I somewhat miss those hot and muggy DC summers. Still, this 7×7 city offers more than I can even begin to explore. My last post with a focus on permanence is a little comical given…
  • I traveled all over the USA. When I got back from Korea in 2014, I reflected on how I was able to see so much of that country and how I would love to be able to do the same in the States. My job made this possible–as an admission officer, for the 2015-16 recruitment cycle I travelled over 25,000 miles by plane and drove over 4,000 miles around the country, all over the East Coast and California. In the end, I spent 50+ nights on the road. Can anyone say rent money going to waste? But, I digress. Visiting so many different communities exposed me to the lives of many Americans and gives me a further appreciation for this nation’s diversity of experience. On a different note, after reading this Rolling Stone article, I’ve also become a little obsessive over hotel points and miles–gotta get those perks.
  • I saw the variety of American secondary education on the ground. In the past year, I’ve visited over 100 high schools across the USA for admission. From expensive boarding schools to religious schools to public schools of all sorts, I’ve seen a partial breadth of the types of schools in this country. Beyond the obvious inequalities in our educational system, perhaps the most stunning thing is the lack of standardization. Seeing how every state, county, and town handles high school education is a poignant reminder of how far our educational system has to improve and, most importantly, how the system entrenches social stratification even while promising social mobility.
  • I’m starting graduate school! Earlier this spring, I was thrilled to find out that I had been accepted to the University of San Francisco’s MA in Professional Communication program. I’ll be concentrating in Strategic Communications, examining how organizations can strengthen their narrative and compel others to action.  I’m particularly looking forward to finding ways to connect with my prospective students interested in social justice education. It’s going to be a very intense two years, as I’ll still be working as an admission counselor at the same time as graduate school. Goodbye Wednesday and Thursday nights, hello knowledge. I’m also pumped about the program because it’s located at the University’s Downtown campus at 101 Howard St, so I’ll actually get to interact with the city-esque part of SF more frequently.
  • #adulting. Yeah, I’m still figuring this part out. Navigating the ins and outs of life and the constant little fires that seem to always need to be put out (no, not literally, though yes, my smoke alarm is going off again from cooking in my apartment with no ventilation…). At least there is finally some decoration on the walls of my
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    Bun Cha, Hanoi’s most famous dish and dinner of choice for Anthony Bourdain and President Obama. Good enough for me!

    apartment?

  • I took my first real vacation. If there’s one thing full-time regular employment has taught me, it’s the importance of reflecting and recharging. So, after a very intense year and a half, I packed my backpack and headed to Thailand, Vietnam, and Japan for two weeks. What I had planned to be a somewhat solitary and reflective solo trip turned into just about the opposite–I met more interesting people from around the world than I eve could have planned (not to mention drank lots of cheap beer and delicious noodles). However, during my trip some pretty troubling world events occurred, from the shooting in Orlando to the Brexit vote. In the aftermath of these events, the travelers I met gave me more hope that in fact our world is becoming better, safer, and more connected. Even in the face of such pain, the reality is that people are good. It’s also a reminder that even when you’re alone 12,000 miles away from home, good people are never far.

So, there’s what’s new. Now, what’s next?

 

2015 and beyond? A bit of permanence

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Not a bad spot for a quick photo

It is a little bit strange for me to realize that the last time I’d written anything for public consumption was in 2014. My time in South Korea now feels ever more like a distant memory or dream, even while so many parts of that year remain vivid and influential on my current experience (the occasional Facebook chats from former Korean students are a helpful and welcome reminder)! As I’ve been told tends to happen while in your 20s, a lot can change in a few months.

As of mid-December, I find myself residing in the Inner Richmond neighborhood of the self-proclaimed #bestcityever of San Francisco. For those that don’t know it, the Richmond district is also home to some of the best Asian fare in the city—endless options for dim sum, bahn mi, pho, and, yes, kimchi. Needless to say, I feel right at home here. Transitioning back to the lifestyle of the west coast and NorCal has been a bit of a challenge. Prior to moving, I was working on an election project on K St. in Washington, DC, and going from a campaign-style level of work-life balance to a position where everyone is out the door at 5 pm on the dot is unsettling. The bottom line is this: I love my work and my new city. My new position, as an undergraduate college admission officer, gives me the opportunity to travel around the country, meet and learn about talented students, champion education, and think creatively about how to differentiate and communicate about our institution within a sea of great colleges and universities.

San Francisco itself is a treat. I had only been to the city twice before moving here. The first time I visited was as a child with my family, and I remember being thrilled to see the standard touristy things like the cable cars going up and down the extremely steep streets of Nob Hill, but didn’t have a sense for a spirit of SF. My second visit was while in college during spring break, a particularly rainy excursion of finding cheap dumplings and exquisite coffee from a then-less well-known Blue Bottle. While I think Washington, DC will always remain my favorite American city and I hope to move back there someday, SF’s unique neighborhoods and inherent progressive spirit make it a wonderful place to live, even if the rent is too damn high. My apartment itself is just a 20-minute walk from Baker Beach and a 30-minute walk to work, so I’m enjoying not having to deal with Metrorail, even if MUNI sometimes has its own challenges.

This past week, my good friend Jordan visited from NYC and I got the chance to really explore the city anew, walking almost every major neighborhood and visiting such sights as the makers of Anchor Steam beer, the Anchor Brewing Co, and La Taqueria, the home of FiveThirtyEight’s Burrito Bracket Challenge “Best Burrito in America.” Having a friend visit is a great excuse to be a tourist in your own city.

Now, I also have a strange sense of permanence. For the first time in many years, I’m not constantly wondering and asking what’s next. There’s not an inevitable graduation or move-out date the way there was with high school, college, or even my Fulbright grant. While I still relish thinking about what’s next to come, it’s also encouraging to settle in a little bit and get to know the people and the place. And, being in admission, I still get to leave pretty often (hello San Diego and OC this weekend, NYC next month!). Instead of “what’s next” being about a new job or position or city, it’s about finding strong community—now that’s a long-term project.

All about the image?

A fearless (and fiercely independent) tour guide

Since my freshman year, I’ve been a tour guide for the Office of Admission. Each week, and usually multiple times, I lead guests across the Pitzer campus for an hour while highlighting what I find to be what makes our institution strong and unique among small liberal arts colleges. Although it is a paid position, and I’m expected to follow a certain route and know the facts, the Office does not dictate what I say. In fact, I would venture that in many ways my tour is quite different from any other tour guide at Pitzer, just as their tour will have its own unique spin. I like that we have some “editorial freedom” for our tours. There is, however, one question that inevitably arises, and its the one I least like to answer:

How would you compare Pitzer to the rest of the Claremont Colleges?

And even though I know it’s a perfectly logical and normal question to ask, I always feel bad answering because, well, I don’t see them as completely separate institutions; while they may each have their own professors, student bodies, cultures, and the like, I see myself as a Claremont Colleges student. While I am proudest to be from Pitzer, I take a little ownership in all of the Claremont Colleges. I would guess that others feel a similar sentiment.

Another aspect always comes up during my tours:

Surprise. Visitors simply can’t believe how close the colleges are to each other.

While part of that may come from the uniqueness of the Claremont consortium model, I think that it comes from the distinct efforts of each college to individualize itself from the Consortium. So while we each benefit from the entire consortium, the schools, for the most part, downplay that relationship in the admissions process.

To see how close the image fit with the reality, I worked with Richard Ahne CMC ’15 to go inside the tours and find out what students were saying. In the end, we learned a lot more about the Consortium in regards to the admission process — and came up with some good advice for the Colleges.

I’m proud to say that the story, entitled “The United Colleges of Claremont,” is the cover story for the May 2012 edition of the Claremont Port Side.

You can read it on p. 12-13 of the PDF version of the magazine here or, for the  HTML version, here.

The role of the SAT for small liberal arts colleges

The CMC Admission Office in the Kravis Center

I think the SAT is a pretty horrible metric. With the rise of the test prep industry and income inequality, more and more the SAT has become a laughable way to decide if students are intelligent or prepared enough to attend various institutions.

Recently, Claremont McKenna College’s lawyers released their independent investigation of the admission, or SAT, scandal. As a Pitzer College student, I have taken a number of courses at CMC and work with a number of their students, so one of my editors at the Claremont Port Side asked me to give my take, a Pitzer perspective, on the issue.

Something I touch on in the piece is that especially for small liberal arts colleges the SAT is a terrible criteria to use for admission. In small community driven institutions, a holistic admission process is key to ensure a diversity of students –not simply in the racial sense, but also making sure there are enough athletes, artists, activists, and researchers on campus. Assuming that institutions use the Common Application and a supplement, the amount of information that admission officers have access to should be more than enough to decide whether or not to admit an applicant. SATs should be irrelvent.

At this point, SATs are just one more bragging right for prestigious colleges, not a measure of the quality of the student body.

You can read my entire piece, “The Scandal from Across the Street,” on the Claremont Port Side website.

I also rather like the research done by FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, if you’re interested in more about SAT/ACT use.

Welcome to the 20th Most Selective College in the USA!

Back at the start of April I wrote that Pitzer College’s selectivity had gone dropped to 15.7% from 24% the year previously.  Now, Yahoo! has put out a list saying that Pitzer is the 20th most selective college in the United States. That’s crazy.

So, you may ask, how do we at Pitzer welcome our selective admits to the campus?

The answer, you will find, is this:

That’s right: A flash mob.

With only a week’s notice, student workers in the Office of Admission choreographed and put together a flash mob of approximately 40 students to “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO. Dancing with the students were yours truly, Dean of Students Moya Carter, Vice President for Admission/Financial Aid Angel Perez, and, in an amazing performance, President Laura Skandera Trombley. To everyone’s credit with the high energy in the soon-to-be-viral video, this all happened at 9:25 am on a Friday morning.

How cool is that?

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