Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some Holiday Cheer from Pitzer College

As I sit at home, excited for my winter vacation, I felt that one last blog post was in order before the new year. Since it is that time of year, I figured some festive cheer was exactly what was needed.

Although San Diego has amazing beaches, we never get the full festive winter spirit. While we are lacking a white Christmas, what we do have, is a very passionate Christmas enthusist who has built an amazing Christmas display. A neighbor has collected over 40,000 lights and joined forces with two of San Diego's most famous radio personalities, Jeff and Jer, to create a 19 minute light show on a loop. The music for the light show is on F.M. 98.5, is broadcast over a 3 house radius and the 40,000 lights and neon lasers are synched to the music broadcast on the radio. Hopefully this can bring you a little early Christmas cheer. The first video is longer, but the 2nd has the grand finale, so if you are going to watch only one, watch the 2nd.

video

video

Impressive, isn't it?

Being Jewish, I know this can be a difficult time of the year. Chanuka just isn't as much fun as Christmas. I mean lighting the menorah isn't quite as big as Christmas lights. Good news though! My mom found an amazing invention that allows us to take back the holiday season. Just put of these glasses, and it's Chanukah everywhere.

Here take a look.

video

No matter what holiday you celebrate or don't celebrate, have a happy holiday season.

Before I get on my flight, I wanted to share an article with you that Angel wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education about the experience of fall travel. The whole purpose of this blog is to help you, the students, get a better idea of the admission process by telling you about our lives, I figured I should post it, even though it is a little late. I hope you enjoy it, I know I did.

I'm Tired, and So Are You
For people in admissions, fall means almost nonstop travel, and it's easy to forget why the work matters
By ANGEL B. PÉREZ
Dear Admissions Colleagues:
I write you today as I sit on a flight — one of the last legs of what feels like an endless fall recruitment season. I'm grateful to be sitting here. In fact, I almost wasn't.
The alumni-affairs office asked me to make a presentation to our alumni board on current issues in admissions at Pitzer College and how they compare to issues facing the nation. The presentation began at 10:45 a.m., and I had a 1:20 p.m. flight to New York out of LAX. I was able to persuade a friend of mine to accompany me to the campus and have the getaway car ready; I figured if I left by 11:15 a.m., I could make my flight.
At 11:35, I darted out of the building and jumped into the car. "I think we'll make it," I said nervously, as I changed clothes in the back seat. I got a few strange looks, but it was either that or wrinkle the suit I needed to wear a few more times that week.
I had a sandwich waiting in the car so I could have my lunch. Just as I bit into it, our car came to a halt, and I looked up to see major traffic on the freeway. So we did what every frantic traveler does: exited and took local streets to an alternative freeway, breaking every law and safety regulation in the process.
Thirty minutes before takeoff, I arrived at the largest airport in the United States hoping to get through security in a New York minute. What can I say? I'm an optimist. Just as I was taking my belt and shoes off and placing them through the metal detector, my name was called on the loudspeaker. That was not the kind of last call I'm used to hearing. I leaned toward the closest security officer I could find and whispered, "They're talking about me." She let me skip everyone in line, and I darted off through the terminal and made it to the gate seconds before the door closed.
Sitting in my seat, exhausted and dazed, one thought occurs to me: Why the heck do I do this?
As the plane pushes off from the gate and I begin to write, my mind flashes through images of the last few months of my life. I remember my two-week trip through New England, where I switched hotels every day and visited high schools in almost every state of the region. I remember my speedy one-day trip to Chicago to serve as a panelist at a high-school program. There was that one-city-a-day Claremont Colleges Receptions tour that tends to leave you wondering what time zone you are in.
Let's face it: It's been a long admissions season. I'm tired, and so are you. I see those droopy eyes as you pull into the parking lot early in the morning, having just landed after a long flight. I notice the slower pace in your stroll as you greet a family visiting the campus on a Saturday morning. You smile in your usual manner, but I know you're thinking that you can't remember the last time you had a weekend without work. Being weary this time of year is common in the admissions business. I write to acknowledge that, and to let you know, it's OK to admit it. But as I stare out of the airplane window, I begin to recall the many recent experiences I've had that explain why our work is invaluable and why it does indeed matter.
I remember a recent lunch meeting I had with a new student at Pitzer. She wanted to thank our office for helping her during the application process and for, ultimately, admitting her. We had a wonderful conversation and as we strolled out of the dining hall, we bumped into another first-year student. After my lunch partner introduced us, the student said, "Angel, I already know you. You and your staff changed my life!"
Not knowing how to respond, I asked, "How do you suppose we did that?"
"During my application process," she said, "I met with you and several other members of your staff. All of you gave me the confidence to apply to this school and held my hand along the way. Then you folks admitted me and my life is significantly different. I can't thank you enough."
Then I think about the amazing students I have met during my travels this fall. I can clearly recall a conversation I had with a young man at his high school in Vermont. "I'll be honest with you," he said, "I'm from Vermont, and although I love it here, my world is so limited. I think it's time to see the world." We had the most inspiring conversation about his hopes and dreams.
That kind of conversation is why we travel. We reach out to families and jet around the country because the age of information technology hasn't obliterated the power of personal contact.
We travel because when we meet a student who is the perfect fit for our college, we can make the case to fly her to the campus to visit during our diversity program. On one of the few nights we are home this fall, we stay late in the office to talk to her dad on the phone for an hour because he is scared of letting his little girl go to school on the West Coast. His family has already made a great leap from Africa to live on the East Coast of the United States, and he can't fathom letting his daughter live five hours farther by plane.
We allow ourselves to stay late at a college fair, knowing we have a long drive back to our hotel through dark isolated roads because a mother needs to hear that although the economy is in turmoil, her son can indeed afford to go to college. We hold people's hands, calm them down, and reassure them, it's going to be OK.
As the plane finally reaches its cruising altitude, I think back to my recent meeting with a high-school counselor who came to visit the office. She's a brand new counselor and works with an underrepresented population in her hometown. She took it upon herself to start visiting colleges and learning about the admissions process. She needed resources and a mentor, and even though she didn't know it, she needed a reminder that what she was doing was valuable. A 15-minute meeting turned into a two-hour conference.
The business of college admissions is structurally complex, and it is compartmentalized into long, intense seasons. The highs are extremely high and the lows can be downright overwhelming; it's easy to feel defeated and worn down, and to forget the transformative nature of our work.
Therefore, I ask you to take this moment to stop and turn off all the distractions that cloud your vision of the bigger picture. Before we move on to the next exhausting phase of our admissions year, before we greet our final fall visitors, before we begin to alphabetize thousands of credentials, before we start entering the data on those applications, before we calculate the thousands of dollars of financial aid needed, before we are curled over our kitchen tables with hundreds of applications, before we start obsessing over the numbers, before the news organizations start calling in search of a story angle on another extremely selective admissions year, I ask you to take a moment to breathe and exhale.
Acknowledge the impact of your work. What you do matters. In fact, I've been told it changes lives.
Angel B. Pérez is director of admission at Pitzer College.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful!

Time for random trivia about Danny! [I am still hijacking this blog and I am not sure that the following is really trivia. This is more of a random fact about Danny- JV] I am a big fan of Skiing and Snowboarding and there is finally snow on Mt Baldy. Baldy is the closest mountain to Pitzer’s campus, about a 20 minute drive to the peak. It is the pretty mountain you can see in the background on many Pitzer pictures. Don’t believe me? Check that road piece you got from us at a school visit or college fair.
Check it out. This picture, although low quality and taken under poor lighting conditions, was snapped from the walkway of our new residence halls.
Where else can you have 80 degree weather most of the year and still step outside and see snow for a few months? (P.S. Fri Morning it is still brisk, but the sun is out)

You can tell some students got excited about the snow because this is a sight you don’t usually see on campus.Now if you replaced the sleds with surfboards, it is nothing new. See this is one of the many reasons that SO Cal is the best place to live. (haha take that NOR Cal) [Wow, a throwdown! –JV]
Well snow aside, let’s get back to the admission office.

Regular decision files are already piling up. We even started to read some of the complete ones. Notice the stacks and how mine is the biggest.
Go AZ, UT, NV, MI, FL, TX, Long Beach, San Fernando Valley and Inland Empire students! Way to get your files in early. [The stack two over to the left is my pile. Do we need to talk about my students here? PA, MD, DC, VA, GA, TN, OR, and Santa Barbara I am a bit disappointed. I appreciate that you are trying to keep my work load low near the holidays, but still, I need you to represent. I want the top 5 out of California states to be mine this coming year. Help me out! If I do, Danny will take me to lunch. –JV]

Besides the daunting piles of mail coming in everyday, life has been moving at a slightly slower pace. Early decision letters are in the mail, so they should be arriving soon. (And no, that does not mean you should call us to ask if you got in. I know it is exciting, but you will find out soon enough) In fact, I have a little surprise for you. We got done a little ahead of schedule, so the letters were mailed out on Wed. SURPRISE!

We have also finished conducting interviews and there are very few tours coming in, so the office is quiet and we are mainly putting your applications together and reading files. It is a little lonely because most student workers have time off to study for finals.

I just have to say. I LOVE OUR STUDENT WORKERS!! [Me too! –JV]

I though you would enjoy finding out about a new competition going on in my office. Apparently my digs have become the hot new place to study for finals and some of our student workers have been competing for its use. This is great because I came in after a long weekend of reading to find this amazing note, which cheered me up to no end.
Here is a picture of Jenna for reference. [Jenna is also one of the Overnight Coordinators. Ask her sometime about her work at a cult. She’ll have some great stories for you. –JV]

Then the next day I came in and found this note. (and cookies)

In case you haven’t met Emma, she is one of our Admission Fellows and you can find her picture online. [I should have a pithy comment about Emma here, but I can’t think of one. –JV]

The next morning, Ben was feeling slightly jealous and wrote me this.

Everyone say hi to Ben. [Nice picture Ben. Ben is one of the Overnight Coordinators that I supervise. –JV]


To top it all off this morning, Thrusday, I came across 2 notes!


[Ben gets a bonus point for a “Dark Knight” reference. –JV]
And finally

So I officially declare Emma the winner of the annual random notes in Danny’s office competition.

[Student workers, we need to talk too. What is wrong with my office? It is colorful. It has an iPod dock. There is a cool poster from a Ryan Adams concert last year here in Claremont. I’ve got a lovely view of the parking lot. Don’t forget who hired you. –JV]

While we are on the topic of competition, let’s play another game of Where in the World is Cecil the Sagehen. Where is Cecil this week? (be very specific. Very Very specific)


There may be one last post before I am off for the Holidays, so if you don't hear from me before then. Have a happy holiday season.












Tuesday, December 16, 2008

AND THE WINNER IS......

The winner of the Haiku Contest is……Justin Voss.

This means he gets to publish his back up haiku. (and will forever lord this victory over me) [That’s right Daniel! My superior haiku truly encapsulated the essence of Pitzer through the experience of the Grove House. I would like to thank all the little people that made this victory happen. Namely, myself for creating such a wonderful haiku.- JV]
(As one of Justin’s many rewards for winning the contest, I am letting him hijack my blog all week and add whatever creative comments he wants. Note creative comments, not constructive *sigh*)

Blue bird of the night
Show me all your sagehen might
Best run out of sight.

Justin won with 2 votes, followed by a tie for second place between Jasmin and Angel, who both got 1 vote, and in last place me, with 0 votes. [Wait, only 2 people voted for me? Well, a win is a win. – JV]

The order of the haikus was:

Haiku #1: Jasmin
Haiku #2: Danny
Haiku #3: Justin
Haiku #4: Angel

This means that Jacey guessed the order correctly. Very very impressive Jacey, I guess you know us too well.
I also liked the haiku you posted to the blog [me too, we may have to steal this for something- JV].

An education
of art, dance, music, and thought
breeds the culture sought
-by Jacey

What I am confused about, is how everyone single person guessed which haiku was mine, and yet no one voted for it. What’s up guys?????? [Danny, did you read yours? –JV]

All bitterness aside, we are holding our committee for Early Decision this week. Committee is a very misleading title. It sounds so soft and friendly, but after discussing files for 5 hours the title takes on a whole new sinister meaning. On the plus side we get to come to work in casual dress. YAY!

Take a look at us putting together the acceptance packets




[How come I have to do all the hard work?- JV]

So remember boys and girls, when you get those letters in the mail, it was the Admission Counselors who shed blood, sweat and tears (and suffered many paper cuts) to get you that nice acceptance packet. The letters will be in the mail by this Friday, December 19th, so don’t start checking those mailboxes quite yet.

Since we are rapidly running out of time for Where in the World is Cecil the Sagehen, I decided to go with the trickier to two photos. So where is Cecil today? [Let the record show that most of these pictures have been mine. If only Ansel Adams took pictures of Sagehens across the country, imagine how famous he could be- JV]



Stay tuned for more posts later this week.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Haiku Contest

You have waited for one whole week.

Now the eagerly anticipated Haiku Contest begins.

Today we have four haikus for you, written by Angel, Justin, Jasmin and myself. Each haiku is posted anonymously. It is your job to vote for your favorite. Anyone who votes will get a point for our Where in the World is Cecil the Sagehen competition (and the competition ends at the end of December so now is the time to get your points in and win your very own Cecil).

You can also win two extra bonus point if you can correctly match each haiku to the counselor that wrote it. And I will give you another point if you can include a haiku in your answer.

Haiku #1

Organic Garden

Grassy Mounds, Murals, Fountains

Think Pitzer, Think you

Haiku #2

The Sagehen flies free

Pitzer is the place to be

Come and you will see

Haiku #3

Pitzer’s old Grove House

Full of cookies and coffee

Meet me after class.

Haiku #4

Pitzer changes world

With an eye on the future

You too can thrive here

They are in a random order, but vote for me! Votes will be tallied next Fri, December 12th. So be sure to check back.