Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Why I Always Smile in Autumn

I always smile when I approach September and October each year because it is time for the NACAC National Conference. I smile because this meeting has always meant so much to me. While packing for this year’s Seattle meeting, I realized that this one just might be my last. Finding myself in the autumn of my years, and just having announced my retirement, this 42nd straight meeting could be my swan song. Next autumn just won’t be the same.

I really think that I started my professional life at my first NACAC national conference. It was 1966, exactly 42 years ago in Washington, DC at that famous convention hotel the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue. As a brand new upstart admissions counselor, I was privileged to have rubbed elbows with and listened to such giants in my field as Bill Wilson from Amherst, Jack Hoy from Wesleyan, Ferne Horne from Mount Lebanon High School, and Jim Cavalier from Sewickley Academy. I was also blessed that my own boss and mentor, Jack Scott, Director of Admissions at Marietta College chose to take me along. I have been attending ever since, first in college admissions for 10 years and then as an exhibitor for another 32 years. Indeed, I always smiled because at each meeting, the people got younger, and thus the ideas always seemed to get fresher. NACAC has provided me with both professional growth over this long career, and also a darn good time – and, folks, there is nothing wrong with that.

As someone who visited high schools in my first 10 years of professional life, I used to comment that the best way to get to know an urban area or a city is through traveling to its schools. I traveled extensively early on throughout New England and the Middle Atlanta states and later throughout the Southeast. NACAC, through its national meetings gave me the opportunity to visit other places. After my first meeting in Washington, the next was in Minneapolis. In the twin cities I found a whole new world. I looked forward to returning again and again in 1982 and 1996.

If you go to the NACAC meeting continually, you find yourself crisscrossing the United States, east coast, west coast, with an occasional visit to the south. From Minneapolis we went to New York where I can remember seeing a smiling Johnny Carson passing through the lobby. We then went to Chicago. Chicago was memorable because of “the revolutionary times.” The 1968 Democratic Convention was fresh in our minds, and an association dealing with access to higher education was not immune from protest from the outside. I can remember watching Colonel Day, the burley but very gentlemanly Director of Admission at West Point, physically removing a profane “outside participant” from the lectern.

The Chicago of 1994 was so different. Jogging near the lake in the art museum area in the breeze and sunshine was so calm and pure pleasure.

San Antonio in 1972 is so memorable, because I had no concept of the Riverwalk before I went – what a great convention in a great city. It was highlighted by Russ Gossage, Director of Admissions at Trinity University, hosting the whole convention to a barbecue in his backyard. San Antonio in 1983 was no surprise – we knew what to expect, but San Antonio in 2001 was held in the wake of September 11th, which was on all of our minds. I had just moved to Atlanta in 1975 when that city hosted the convention and I felt that my new hometown did a marvelous job. Each meeting for me has its own set of personal memories.

It was in New York in 1989 where Stein’s Rob Glass and I did our famous Siskel and Ebert-like presentation of college recruitment publications in front of a packed house at 8:30 a.m. My oldest son, Scott who later became the subject of an NACAC Journal article, Travels With Scott, joined me to see The Phantom of the Opera – a father-son event that I have always fondly remembered. San Francisco is San Francisco. I have been blessed twice in 1971 and 1997.

Now it is rather humorous, but in the San Francisco meeting of 1997, our exhibit/display box was shipped from Atlanta with the wrong display – it contained a display from another division of the company. We had fun with a table, some samples, a white tablecloth, and loads of competitor on lookers with grins. I always attempted to see something in areas in NACAC cities that I normally don’t travel to. During the first San Francisco convention, a group of us rented a car and traveled down by Monterey to see Stanford. It was a wonderful drive.

The first Seattle meeting was a good one to see the beauty of the northwest and eat loads of salmon. Bal Harbor has memories on which I better not expound. I took the MTA in Boston to go to the Kennedy Library. Boston makes me think of baseball. During all NACAC national conferences, we fans are always either caught up in the World Series or the Divisional Playoffs. Often times this has been tough for a Braves season ticket holder like me, but, then again, it has always been tough to be a Braves fan at World Series time. I saw the Cardinals in St. Louis. As a southerner, Louisville did me proud.

Salt Lake City gave me the opportunity to examine my ancestry. In Tampa I lost weight by walking from the hotel to the convention center in the humidity. Orlando was pure Disney and fun. Long Beach was living on the Queen Mary. We were all impressed by the cleanliness and friendliness of Indianapolis. Los Angeles was Los Angeles. To this day, having started my career in Ohio, I am a loyal OACAC’er – Cincinnati was a great meeting. I was impressed both by Pittsburgh and those gracious western Pennsylvania hosts in both 1993 and 2006. In 2006 they showed off a city of change in only a 13-year span. Gold and black always stood tall.

Still the magical meeting continues to be Washington 1966. It was the start of a wonderful life and fine professional journey. I owe the folks at NACAC a vote of thanks for crisscrossing me over the country for the last 42 years, and for the hard work of all the local-arrangement volunteers who have made all of my autumns worthwhile.

But “worthwhile” is what NACAC is all about. I always remember it is only about a kid’s choice of a college - a serious life changing decision in the middle of an impressionable youthful time. And here is a professional association filled with wonderful people who have an awesome duty to protect, value, and insure that the process is kept within the best interest of that young person.

NACAC professionals and the all the nationwide volunteers who make these national meetings what they are will always have my gratitude.

This fall it was back to Seattle for my 42nd meeting and my last. This meeting was a record meeting, attended by more professionals than any other in the history of NACAC. I walked around Seattle this fall amazed just by thinking about how far this organization had come since 1966.

I have been blessed by traveling to those cities, by all those meetings, and, more importantly, by those strong human relationships developed over these many years. Now I will just sit back and reflect, and I’ll remember, and then I’ll smile. It has been a wonderful trip. Next autumn just won’t be the same.

Ross W. Lenhart
Senior Vice President
Stein Communications
Atlanta, GA

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Welcome to Seattle! We're Glad You're Here

Welcome to Seattle! We hope you are enjoying this wonderful city and all that is has to offer.

If you have arrived in Seattle and have not been to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center to check things out, remember to bring your badge. You will not get very far if you forget your badge.

Upon arrival at the Convention Center, head to the 4th floor to have your badge scanned and to pick up a badge holder and tote bag full of important information--including your Program Book.

When you get off the escalators on the 4th floor, badge scanning will take place to your right. If you forgot your badge or still need to register, head to your left to on site registration.

Once you have checked in, if you find yourself needing information about the conference, head towards the Exhibit Hall area to the NACAC Information Booth. You can also purchase Imagine Fund raffle tickets at the Information Booth when the Exhibit Hall is not open. You can save yourself some time by filling out the raffle ticket paperwork that is included in your tote bag. Your contribution will support Presidents' Council Grants, research projects and other NACAC initiatives.

Thursday is shaping up to be a big day! Registration opens at 7 am. Preconference Seminars begin at 8:30 am. The Exhibit Hall opens at 10 am. First-Timers' Orientation begins at 11:30 am. And you will not want to miss the Opening Session with our Keynote Presenter, Randy Snow at 1:00 pm.

Other afternoon notables include Exhibitor Presentations at 3 pm, "A" Educational Sessions at 3:15 pm, afternoon Exhibit Hall hours begin at 3 pm, State and Regional General Membership Meetings at 4:45 pm and don't miss out on a fabulous networking opportunity at 6:30 pm when many of your colleagues will attend the Welcome Reception.

Finally, we'll leave you with a little photo tour from downtown, Seattle. Enjoy:

The entrance to Pike Place Market.

Beautiful fruit at Pike Place Market.

A vendor at Pike Place Market peels fresh vegetables.

A sampling of crabs at the market.

Fresh fish at the Market.

The very first Starbucks to open its doors in Seattle.

A view of the mountains.

Tourists take a breather.

The Seattle Aquarium.

More mountain views.

A ferry boat arrives at port.

The catch of the day.

If you have photos to share, send them to info@nacacnet.org and we'll post them in upcoming blog postings.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Homage to the Emerald City

I had been away on a trip the past two weeks and returned to very warm and pleasant late summer days. While the sun is rising later now, as I eat breakfast and read the paper the house gradually became bathed in a soft golden sunrise. You can’t suppress broad smiles from sheer pleasure when experiencing such days. Late summer days are truly amazing in the Pacific Northwest.

Alas, the past two days have marked a return to our traditionally mercurial weather. It dropped from the mid 70s to the mid 60s, and is misty and a bit overcast. We are hoping that during the NACAC Conference the weather it will rebound to that like last week. However, it is cool, pleasant, and autumnal and, like Seattleites, you might learn you don’t need an umbrella in mist. It is brisk and refreshing, and you won’t melt.

As I envision you coming to experience Seattle I remember my first reactions. I had grown up in the majestic Hudson Valley and then lived in beautiful central New York State. My wife grew up in the picturesque Mohican State Park region of north central Ohio where everyone is nice and welcoming. We both, however, were captivated by Seattle.

Fourteen years ago our children were very young and we were contemplating whether we would remain in the East the rest of our lives or make a change. Of course, when you have children you want what is best for them as your goal is for them to be better people than you. So, while we love New York and Ohio (and many days we sorely miss New York wit and Midwestern wholesomeness) factoring our values, and what we hoped our children would become, Seattle seemed a perfect fit. We have never regretted our decision.

Seattle is a place where everyone assumes you are worth something, until you prove otherwise. It is a city that is kind and one that “works”. People wait for the traffic light to change before walking, drivers regard pedestrians as sacrosanct, and folks automatically say please and thank you. Fair play is innate, rudeness or unkindness is regarded as appalling.

People are people first in Seattle; they aren’t hyphenated based upon ethnicity. We have people who are of Asian American heritage, for example, not Asian Americans. Ethnicity and differences are things to be celebrated but are far down the list of characteristics in defining a person. It gives me great satisfaction that my sons have grown up unconsciously regarding those of Latino, African American, and Asian American heritage as role models, that novels by Sherman Alexie and Debra Magpie Earling were part of their education, and that they seek pad thai or sushi when needing comfort food. The power structure is shared in Seattle: people here wouldn’t have it any other way.

My sons have grown up far more sophisticated than my wife and me. They have mastered all the bus routes and navigate the city with ease, enjoying Bumbershoot, other concerts, museums, the Mariners, the theatre, browse bookstores, and thrift shops. Because it is a kind, secure place we more willingly let go of them. They are smart and as a rule the people of Seattle are good.

Like other natives, my boys play sports in the rain, love the music scene, join their neighbors who attend the movies more any other U.S. city per capita, reach for books for entertainment, and are engaged, informed global citizens, environmentally concerned, and are consumed by a powerful sense of social justice. They have grown up enjoying both marine and aquatic environments, and find themselves arrested by the breathtaking grandeur of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. And, the mild, marine climate assures that they can enjoy the outdoors 12 months a year.

We look forward to welcoming you to this wonderful community. It is a good place to live; it is a good place to raise children. It is about as good as it gets.

Michael K. McKeon
Dean of Admissions
Seattle University

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Treading Water in the Midst of the Slightly Chaotic Lives of My Seniors

With the NACAC conference less than a week away, I find myself in a bit of a panic. I’m treading water in the midst of the slightly chaotic lives of my seniors as they are nailing down lists and working on applications.

A group of schools here in Austin have a college fair that comes on the heels of the NACAC conference. Parents are calling daily with worries of their own. I’m trying to make sure that I greet all of our visiting college reps with a smile since I am genuinely so glad they are here! And I’m staring down Early Action and Early Decision letters of recommendation as if I can will the right words onto the computer screen if I only look at it long enough. Oh…and I’m trying to balance all of this work stuff with some sort of personal life, too. Aren’t we all?!

So why do I think I have time to leave the office (and my life) for five days next week? Because it’s the NACAC National Conference – duh! If you’ve heard that you should go but are a first-timer who is really wondering if this is a good use of your time or if you are a veteran attendee who is trying to remind yourself that this is indeed a good use of your time (I find myself in the middle, by the way!), maybe my thoughts about why we should go to the conference will help.

Here was my pep talk to myself:

1) I get to go to Seattle! I’ve never been to Seattle…I’m so excited to spend some time there. (And although Austin has had cooler weather lately – an odd thing for us in September, as some of you might know from the conference last year – I’m excited for fall weather in Seattle!) And I can’t wait to see some of the colleges in and around Seattle.

2) I’m lucky to get to travel with some of my colleagues. It will be a great time to build our relationships but also some time away from school to process all of the college questions and have those conversations that we never have time for when we’re in the normal routine of our lives at school.

3) Speaking of conversations…you get to have LOTS of them at the conference. (Plan to drink a lot of water and maybe bring a package of cough drops in case your voice begins to go hoarse!) If you’re shy like me, you might be hesitant to strike up a conversation with someone. But every time I do jump into or begin a conversation I’m incredibly glad that I did. I learn something; I find a new way of doing something; I meet a new colleague in the field or perhaps a new friend.

4) The national conference is simply irreplaceable in our lives in this profession. There are other great professional development opportunities out there – on a state or even local level – but at no other times are college professionals from both sides of the desk from around the world gathered together to talk to and listen to one another. And the cool thing about the nature of this conference is that it’s a place where people really do want to hear what others are saying. Some of my most memorable educational sessions have been the ones where it’s really a dialogue between high school counselors and college admissions officers.

5) One final thought about getting excited about going when you’re feeling like you just don’t have the time: take a look at the offerings in terms of the educational sessions…and start planning which ones you want to attend! (NOTE: Be sure to have a second or third choice in the event that the session you want to go to is full!)

So there you have it…rather than moving into full-blown panic last night and even (not very seriously) considering cancelling all plans to head west next week, I reminded myself why we go to the NACAC conference and why we give up precious time to be out of the office and away from our hometowns.

I look forward to seeing everyone there!

Elizabeth Guice
Director of College Counseling and Registrar
St. Andrew's Episcopal School (TX)

Seattle Airport Information

Greetings from the Hospitality Committee. Teri Calcagno and I hope you are excited and ready for your trip to Seattle. The Seattle airport is fairly easy to navigate and we’ve created a PowerPoint presentation to assist you.

The Hospitality Committee will have a table near baggage claim 12 to assist you on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning.

Probably the most important thing you need to know is that all taxis, airport vans and shuttle busses pickup on level 3 of the parking garage. To get there from baggage claim you go up one level, walk across the sky bridge and then go down one level in the parking garage. If you are a visual learner you can use the PowerPoint or visit the airport Web site.

See you next week!

Eric R. Pedersen
Dean of Enrollment
Saint Martin’s University

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tips From a First-Time Conference Attendee

In less than three weeks, many of us will convene in Seattle for the National Conference. Personally, I am excited that NACAC is coming to Seattle as I have grown to really love this city after making many trips to visit various area high schools, community based organizations, and college fairs.

Over time, I have met the locals - thousands of friendly and talented students, faculty, and administrators that will play host and that you too will soon get to meet. I know that Michael McKeon has already shared wisdom of his hometown and in my upcoming blog postings I hope to offer up my own Seattle favorites that might be helpful to you if you’re looking for a good scone, bookstore, or an excellent place near the conference site for a walk/run. Stay tuned…

But for my first blog posting (I know, a bit late!), I’d like to provide a few nuggets to those that will call Seattle their first national conference ever. While I begin my eighth year in admission, Seattle will only be my second conference attended. As a newbie in Austin (last year’s site), there was quite a bit going on all-around and at times I felt overwhelmed. Overall I learned quite a bit, I met and reacquainted myself with other colleagues in the field, and got to see a good part of Austin. It was a blast! From that experience, I offer five things that you should do as a neophyte to the NACAC Conference.

Attend the First-Time Attendees’ Orientation: You’re not alone! When I attended the orientation in Austin, I was surprised to see hundreds of other first-timers at the event. This will also be a great opportunity to ask questions about the schedule, locations, etc. They might give you some “flair” that reads “first-timer” – don’t worry or feel embarrassed about wearing the pin. People actually treat first-timers really nice at these conferences, so wear the piece of “flair” proudly!

Keynote speakers should not be missed: Yes, you should definitely make time for a number of educational sessions. But after a busy day, it might be in your mind to call it an early day and not attend the keynotes. Don’t – you may be missing out on one of the best things about the NACAC Conference! I was so moved and learned so much by hearing the keynote speakers last year in Austin. I anticipate that this year’s lineup of speakers will not disappoint: Randy Snow, Sherman Alexie, and Dr. Zenobia Hikes.

Take some time to explore the host city: Seattle is an awesome city, home to great sports, a vibrant arts scene, and incredible city parks. I will offer up some suggestions in upcoming blog postings but for now the advice is to take some time out and explore!

Be social: One of the most important reasons to attend the National Conference is to meet new people and catch-up with those that you already know. Attend the many social gatherings that are planned throughout the conference. Schedule coffee with a colleague at one of Seattle’s cafes.

Represent: I don’t mean to sound like a huge prude but this last to-do is an important one. Remember that while the National Conference is a time to celebrate all of the amazing things that make our profession so great, it is also a chance for you to represent your home office/organization.

One last important piece of advice: don’t do anything at the National Conference that you wouldn’t want your boss to know about the next morning. I cannot speak from personal experience, but I have heard a handful of stories of things that have happened at these conferences that have negatively impacted professional reputations. Have fun (you better!) – but remember to be responsible.

Take some (if not all) of these things into consideration as you begin your first National Conference and you should not feel as anxious as I did last year. See you there!

Solomon K. Enos
Associate Director of Admission
Stanford University

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Weeks To Go: My Memorable Moments

Just over two weeks to go and I can’t wait to get to Seattle for my eighth NACAC Conference!

I think that my most memorable NACAC moment was when I was elected to the Board of Directors, but I also vividly recall hearing Jonathan Kozol speak in Pittsburgh (PA) and meeting Hugh O’Brien. For me, the Rising Star Awards are always a highlight.
In terms of sessions, there have been too many great ones to name, but I will tell you that I have learned a lot of things at NACAC conferences that have made me better at my job. I also like the socials…

I’ll be welcoming all of the Conference First-Timers at their special conference session on Thursday, September 25 at 11:30am and I’ll encourage them to take advantage of the many things that NACAC has to offer: varied programming, networking opportunities, exhibitor information and the chance to experience the great Pacific Northwest.

I’ll also be sure to remind them to attend the meeting of their state/regional affiliates. That’s not just a good tip for first-timers, but for everyone. It's more than an excellent way to catch up on all the activities at home, it’s also an ideal way to connect with friends and colleagues from your own region.

The real trick to making the most of the conference is to do everything. If it’s on the schedule – go. If you’re invited – go. If it sounds interesting – go. That’s really the best conference advice I can offer – meet people and do things.

In my last posting I told everyone that I had started my “NACAC 2008” folder and I am happy to report that it now contains my BADGE (so that I will be sure to bring it to Seattle!).

See you in a few weeks!
Lisa Sohmer
Director of College Counseling
Garden School, NY