Thursday, January 22, 2015

50 for 50: Kathleen Martin

Kathleen Martin
Director of College Guidance
Wilmington Friends School (DE)

How long have you been in your current position at Wilmington Friends School? How long have you been in college counseling? 

I’m beginning my ninth year as the Director of College Guidance at Wilmington Friends.  Before switching sides of the desk, I was in college admission for eighteen years.

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?

After college graduation, I attended a wedding of a friend.  At the time, I was working at the mall so when someone at the dinner table mentioned that Moravian College had an admissions opening, it sounded very appealing!  Originally, I thought that higher education would be a great “first” job, but here I am, 28 years later, still loving it!

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?

The amazing friends and colleagues that I have encountered shape all of my best memories.  One of my favorite cringe-worthy memories, however, comes from my rookie year.  Determined to impress, I showed up bright and early to a college fair in New Hampshire at my VP’s alma mater.  I worked the entire room, meeting everyone there, mentioning our mutual acquaintance, sharing stories about the VP’s high school days, schmoozing and networking my heart out.  As the start time of the college fair neared, I asked to be directed to the college fair tables.  One person wasn’t sure where they were, so she directed me to another woman, who, ever so kindly, informed me that the college fair had been the previous weekend, and that I had just spent an hour working the room at an alumni function!  Utterly humiliated, I returned to my B&B and sobbed all weekend, convinced that I would be fired first thing Monday morning.  However, when I sheepishly told my boss and my VP about my faux pas, their response was several minutes of uninterrupted laughter! 
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership in PCACAC and/or NACAC?

Get involved.  Take a risk.  If it feels a bit scary, it will probably lead to unexpected and wonderful growth! 

If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing?

If not for higher education, I probably would have pursued a career in women’s health, serving as either a health educator or a midwife!  Actually, upon reflection, I think that the college process and the birth process have more similarities than I originally thought…a long process involving some pain and tears, usually resulting in a lot of joy!  

What's one thing that most people don't know about you?

That in my next life, I plan to return as a blues singer.

What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?

Access and equity in higher education.  With the escalating costs of education, the shift from need-based to merit-based admissions, and the lack of access to resources, information, and guidance, the college access gap continues to widen.  College tuition is rising faster than health care costs while family resources remain stagnant.  Increasingly, it seems that private higher education is a case of the haves and have nots; those who can afford the sticker price can attend.  Access to quality education is the fundamental core of being a democratic citizen, yet, so many of our underserved students have limited knowledge, little to no guidance through the college process, while financial support is being cut and interest rates soar. Every student should be able to achieve the American dream! 

*** To Celebrate Potomac Chesapeake's 50th Conference Anniversary, we're highlighting some of our current members. Each week until the conference at The Homestead in Spring 2015, a new member will be posted. Interested in participating? Email Aundra Weissert at to get started.***

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