Key to a Career in Educational Admin.: ‘Ask questions, and more importantly… listen’
My path into education didn’t exactly begin during my time at Hamilton. I studied government with every intention of going into a field of law or public policy. A semester in Washington quickly helped me realize that, while I loved the buzz and excitement surrounding politics in D.C., I couldn’t see myself doing this as a career. I graduated from Hamilton in 2000 and landed my first job in sales in New York City through a Hamilton alum. I realized quickly the importance of connections and networking; forging relationships with people often helped open a door in areas I desired but also with unexpected opportunity.
I lived in Hoboken, N.J. during my time in sales, and after months of questioning my fit within the profession, my lacrosse coach at Hamilton mentioned that Stevens Institute of Technology was starting a D-III lacrosse program. I jumped at the opportunity to reengage in the sport that I loved. After two years of coaching lacrosse and soccer at Stevens, I needed a location change (growing up in Oswego, N.Y. – I preferred the small town life over the city!). Another Hamilton connection, now husband, who worked at a boarding school in Indiana mentioned he thought I would enjoy the boarding school world; that’s where my education career began- at Canterbury School in Conn. I became an assistant director of admissions while also coaching, serving as a dorm parent and traveling for my job in admissions. I quickly loved the work of connecting with families and kids, and introducing the opportunity of a different educational experience.
For those interested in independent school education, I highly recommend spending time with those currently working in the field. Education in independent schools is ever evolving, to the point where those who attended a school 15 or 20 years ago may not have the same familiarity with what’s happening in independent schools today. Spend a day at an independent school talking to administrators, teachers and students about why they chose to be part of that community. I would also recommend reading up on independent education – a couple excellent authors to explore: Tony Wagner, Ted Dintersmith, Grant Lichtman and Sir Ken Robinson. These experts provide insight to the exciting and progressive ideas that make independent education both forward thinking and always student centered.
The uniqueness of enrollment management is the combination of strategizing from 30,000 ft while also needing to be in the trenches everyday to insure each family gets the care that they deserve. My work on a daily basis consists of meeting with students and families as they explore a school change. We oversee a $3M financial aid budget which helps allow accessibility to many of our families who might have never considered independent school.
I also work closely with our faculty to stay updated with what’s happening inside and outside our classes. We run programs for our community to inform them on why considering an independent school could be beneficial for their child. I also work with our CFO to make projections about enrollment numbers and setting budgets for the school year. Our office is responsible for roughly 80% of the school’s operating budget so it’s vital to have a seat at the table with the Head and CFO to determine realistic targets for the year ahead.
A background in marketing, economics and statistics are all helpful, but what’s most important are strong communication skills. There are many constituencies that I communicate with on a regular basis. With our prospective families, it’s clearly articulating our school’s message and vision to help them understand the value-added of an independent school education. With our Board of Trustees, it’s sharing our current enrollment data and educational trends we see within our region and across the country. With our internal audience, our faculty and our current parents, it’s reinforcing the positive things happening in our community so that our school messaging extends beyond our school walls.
My advice to those seeking a career in educational administration is to seek out others in the field. Ask questions, and more importantly… listen. My focus at Hamilton was far from economics (and those who took Econ class with me know this!), but I was able to find incredible mentors who taught me along the way. And once you know you’ve found a career you’re passionate about and want to take the next step, be sure to articulate your professional goals with your mentors. Had I not approached my Head of School about wanting to become a Director of Admission, she may not have known that I wanted the job.
My work with families is truly the most rewarding part of what I do. Independent schools often get a bad reputation of only serving a very exclusive part of the population. We serve many students who live below the poverty line and have a real focus on being a school that is representative of all families living in Rochester, NY. Our work is focused on helping students. We recognize the need to prepare our students for a future – to create, innovate and make connections both within our community and internationally.
If Hamilton alumni are interested in a field where they’ll be challenged and fulfilled, I’d love the opportunity to speak with anyone directly about my work in enrollment management.
Shannon Baudo ’00, a government at Hamilton, currently serves as the Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid at Allendale Columbia School.