Director of college counseling Jane Bauman attended the Pacific Northwest Five College Tour from March 4-8. She visited University of Puget Sound, Whitman College, Reed College, Willamette University and Lewis and Clark College with a group of 30 other college counselors from across the country. This is the first part of a two-part series.
Q: Had you ever been on a trip like this before?
A: Yes, several. I try to go on a trip like this every year.
Last year I went on Decemberfest where I visited nine colleges in five days. That included the Claremont cluster colleges, (California Institute of Technology), Whittier College, Redlands University and Occidental College.
Before that I went to NYU Abu Dhabi on a special trip. And before that I went on a special tour of the Universities of California in Southern California. I got to see five of the UCs. I went to Washington University in St. Louis as well.
Q: Why do you like to go on trips like these?
A: First of all, the trips are all completely paid for. All of your expenses are covered.
But the main reason why I like to go is you get to see colleges that you normally wouldn’t be exposed to. For example, Whitman College )in Walla Walla, Washington) is a place I probably would have never visited unless I was on a tour because it is kind of out of the way. Same for Willamette. I don’t think I ever would have driven up to Salem, (Oregon) from Ashland, (Oregon) if it hadn’t been for the tour.
The other wonderful thing about these tours is you are with a group of like-minded college counselors. This time that group was terrific.
Q: What made your group so terrific this time?
A: There was just such a wide variety of different people. There were two counselors from Hawaii, two from Alaska, one from Miami, one from Chattanooga, (Tennessee), and two from Chicago. They were just from all over.
There were also both private and public school counselors. There was even one young man from New Jersey who was from a CBO, a community-based organization, like Breakthrough.
You get to learn a lot by talking to the other college counselors. And this group was just very congenial. Nobody was ever late, nobody ever got drunk, nobody had an agenda. It was a really good group to travel with.
(College counseling) is kind of a pink-collar profession, but it was nice because there was about 20 women and 10 men. It was a really nice balance.
Some people were new to the profession and fairly young, like my daughter’s age. There was this one one woman, though, who I enjoyed talking to a lot, from Homer, Alaska. She was a little older than me and was just so wise and full of experience and just a fascinating person to talk to.
Q: Who were the most interesting people that you met?
A: I had a great conversation with a woman who is not only a college counselor but also teaches a semester of Greek and is the crew coach at her high school.
There were also two people from my professional group in the Bay Area, BAISCC, Bay Area Independent School College Counselors, on the trip. I don’t ever see them very often or for very long because I go to meetings only twice a year. But because there were two college counselors from that group, I got to know those people a little bit better.
Q: How did you and the other college counselors travel from college to college?
A: We had a chartered bus that stayed with us for the whole trip. I flew to Seattle first. Then, we took a shuttle to a hotel near Tacoma, Washington, near Puget Sound. And that’s where we began our journey.
Q: What did a typical day look like?
A: We usually had both an evening program and a morning program at each college.
At some point during these programs, the administration and faculty would address us, either at a dinner or a reception of some sort. They would tell us about the initiatives the school is taking, which is coming from the faculty and administration’s point of view.
The school would make sure that there was a faculty member, administrator or admissions officer sitting at each of our tables.
Sometimes there was even a cocktail party, where we could talk to various faculty members. Coincidentally, at Whitman, I spoke to a biology professor who knew (former Country Day student) Ben Hernried. Ben had worked in her lab and she knew him very well.
And at University of Puget Sound, Anny Schmidt, (’17), came to have breakfast with me.
Q: Were students ever involved in these programs?
A: There was almost always a student-led tour around the campus. Those were always wonderful. Those students were well spoken, and they would personalize the tour by telling us what’s important to them about the college.
Almost everywhere we had a student panel as well. This was a panel of six to eight students that would answer questions from the college counselors.
Q: Were these student panels informative?
A: Absolutely. For example, at Willamette what surfaced was some underlying problems at the college. The students were free to speak as the administrators had left the room.
The same thing happened at Lewis and Clark. I guess there was a race-based crime a couple of years ago, and somebody asked about that. The student answered that question and explained how the incident really galvanized the campus and changed the campus conversation. She also explained how since that particular incident things had improved on the campus.
Students would also tell us about their personal experiences at the college. But of course these students are hand picked to represent a certain swath of diversity at the school.
Q: What was the most interesting thing that you learned from talking to a student?
A: At Willamette we had a meal ticket, so all the college counselors ate lunch in the cafeteria with the students. There, I spoke to a student who had graduated and was now working in the admissions department at Willamette. He told me that he had turned down Stanford to go to Willamette.
He had a very special reason why. When he went to Willamette, he said he had talked to a professor of physics who had previously been a professor at Stanford. The difference for him was that at Willamette, because it is one of the Colleges that Change Lives and a small liberal arts and sciences college, he was able to do immediate research.
He is going to graduate school at Harvard, so it was a win-win situation.
—By Jack Christian