by Jessica Evangelista Balduzzi ’05
Comprising 607 individuals, the Classes of 2016 represent one of the most talented first-year classes in the Colleges’ history. The Pulteney Street Survey recently caught up with Rafe Mattingly ’08 and Sue Willard ’99, associate directors of admissions, as they work to recruit even more impressive Classes of 2017.
Why did you choose HWS as a prospective student?
Mattingly: I wanted to play Division I lacrosse and study to be a high school chemistry teacher. I did all of those things, spent a semester abroad in New Zealand and participated in Koshare Dance. Those experiences placed me well outside of my comfort zone but were two of the best memories of my time as a student.
Willard: I attended basketball camp as a sophomore in high school and fell in love with the food. A year later I was being recruited to play soccer. William Smith Head Coach Aliceann Wilber P’13 was the first coach who truly cared about what I wanted to accomplish as a student. To Aliceann, and the rest of the people I interacted with at HWS, I was a person first and an athlete second. Not being defined by soccer at William Smith was very important to me.
How did you end up working for the Office of Admissions?
Willard: I student-taught at Geneva Middle School through the Teacher Education program, but realized classroom teaching wasn’t for me. After graduation I took a position as an assistant soccer coach at Washington College, followed by coaching positions at William Smith, Bucknell University and Carnegie Mellon. After coaching for 11 years, I had the urge to do something different. I was actually back on campus coaching in the Heron Cup when I took a long walk on South Main and passed the Office of Admissions. I realized it was a profession that would challenge me in exciting new ways, and fortunately there was a position available.
Mattingly: As a chemistry major, I’d pondered medical school, but my adviser talked about my options outside of my discipline, which is the foundation of our liberal arts education. Following graduation, I played semiprofessional lacrosse in England. When I returned to the States, I connected with Associate Director of Admissions William Warder ’96 who told me about an opening in the office. That’s the power of our alumni and alumnae network.
What’s it like being back on campus as a staff member?
Mattingly: I am very fortunate. Now more than ever in this role, I understand the support we have on campus. Our community is truly connected and it’s a beautiful place to live and work.
Willard: HWS has always been home. It’s an honor to work for my alma mater.
You’re on the road recruiting students 12+ weeks out of the year; what’s a typical day on the road?
Mattingly: I’m usually up at 5:30 a.m. to pack because I rarely stay in one place for more than a night, making for lots of lost toothbrushes. Coffee is an absolute must. I am at my first school visit by 7:30 a.m.—unless I get a flat tire or get lost. I visit at least four schools a day and in between, I set up shop at a Starbucks to catch up on e-mail. Lunch is usually with a high school guidance counselor and dinner is a pizza party for prospective students followed by onsite interviews. I’m back at the hotel by 10 p.m. and ready to do it all over again.
Willard: A typical day involves visiting a bunch of schools, meeting with guidance counselors, prospective students, parents and alums while doing my best not to get lost. I’ve learned that the GPS is correct most of the time, except when it is taking me into the Long Island Sound. Every day is an adventure.
What’s your most memorable road story?
Willard: Bed bugs on my first trip ever for admissions. The school I visited the following morning actually took me to their nurse’s office to help stop my itching!
Mattingly: I was in Detroit, Mich., and woke up in the middle of the night to loud banging on my door. Cautiously, I got up and opened the door, thinking the worst. It turns out the hotel had lost power and the staff was bringing me a flashlight. It made for an interesting shower.
What’s your favorite rental car to drive?
Willard: Mini Cooper
Mattingly: Jeep Grand Cherokee
Do you have a favorite road stop?
Willard: Stanz Café in Larchmont has the best salads in Westchester, N.Y., and Poppy’s Café in Rye, N.Y., a cash only diner, has the best banana pancakes. I always ask the students where I should eat.
Mattingly: Flaggstead Smokehouse in Farmington, Conn. The best beef brisket this side of the Mississippi.
What’s a typical day when you’re not on the road?
Willard: No two days are the same here. When you work for Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions Robert Murphy, there’s never any down time. Our office plays an important role in shaping how the Colleges are going to look in the future. The goal is to get a better class than we did last year.
Mattingly: Before I get out of bed in the morning, I am running through the list of things I have to accomplish. I usually give three information sessions a day to prospective families, interview prospective students, respond to e-mails and answer phone calls.
What’s your favorite student essay?
Willard: A student wrote about her personality through her freckles. It told me so much about her character and creativity. So many times students think they need to write about profound accomplishments or even tragedies, when sometimes it’s as simple as making me laugh and telling me something I can’t learn from a transcript.
Mattingly: A very simple essay about how the student’s family gets together for dinner one night a week and what that means to him. It was a window into how the student would fit at HWS.
How many interviews and college fairs do you average in a recruitment cycle?
Mattingly: 190 interviews and 15-25 college fairs.
Willard: I’m competitive; I’ll go on the road an extra day to have the highest numbers.
What motivates your work?
Mattingly: HWS is a personal place and that informs how I do my job. There’s nothing better than seeing a student I met in the fall of their junior year walk through the matriculation tent at Orientation. There are so many great colleges out there and the fact that they’re choosing us gives me a sense of pride as an alum.
Willard: I love working with students, whether they’re a prospective student or current student. I joke that if I applied to HWS now I wouldn’t get in. We’re bringing in incredible students and becoming more selective. As an alum, that’s all I can hope for.
Do you have a work philosophy?
Willard: Enjoy what you do, take pride in your work and don’t ask anyone to do what you wouldn’t do yourself.
Mattingly: Work hard, support each other, be a good teammate. It’s rarely 9-5, it goes beyond that.