Alumni take on admissions

Carolina Echenique ’15 never thought she’d end up in Williamstown after she graduated from the College.

“I always used to say, never in my life. I would never want to stay in Williamstown after graduating because – what would I being doing? What would there be for me here?” Echenique said.

But then a job in the College’s admission office opened up. At first, Echenique applied mostly just to see what might happen. When she received a job offer to spend the next two years as one of the College’s admissions counselors, she realized she had a choice to make.

“The job was a no-brainer,” Echenique said. She had always been interested in education, and this seemed like a great opportunity to get involved in the field being a teacher or a professor. But an additional two years in Williamstown sounded like a long time. In the end, she decided to accept.

“If it had been anywhere else, I would have went for it right away,” she said. “I didn’t want to let whatever biases I had about being in Williamstown prevent me from doing that. So I went for it. And it’s been awesome. I’m really happy I’m here.”

Echenique isn’t the only recent graduate to have made the decision to stick around Williamstown after commencement. In fact, all five of the College’s admissions counselors are recent graduates of the College. The group includes two of Echenique’s classmates – Laye Samoura ’15 and Eddy Ciobanu ’15, as well as two members of the class that preceded them, Abigail Conyers ’14 and Adrian Castro ’14.

Samoura and Ciobanu took jobs in the admission office for reasons similar to Echenique’s. Ciobanu had always “been interested in the college process” and was excited by the chance to see this process from a new perspective.

Samoura described his reasons for taking the admissions job succinctly: “[The College] was so good to me as a student,” he said. “I just figured it would probably be just as good to me as an employee. And I wasn’t wrong.”

But if the experience of being an employee here is just as good, it is undeniably different. “We’re townies now,” Echenique said, laughing.

Being a College employee has meant having to find a new relationship to the College and its student body. For her part, Echenique said that she has attempted to create a kind of balance between campus life and her own.

“I’ve tried to find some distance between myself and students,” she said.

At the same time, one of the perks of working at the College is that she has been able to keep up with friends who are still on campus and reconnect with other recent alumni whenever they come back to visit. A former member of the women’s soccer team, she also enjoyed getting to go to games last fall.

Ciobanu agreed. “It’s been helpful to still have a community of students that I’m familiar with on campus,” he said. Both Ciobanu and Echenique are former Junior Advisors and have enjoyed being able to keep up their former first-years more than might be possible otherwise.

As Ciobanu said, “I can still get meals with students. I can still interact with my former first-years.”

Working in admissions has always given Ciobanu a new appreciation and admiration for the student body here. “I have come to understand that everyone that is admitted to Williams is really, really special,” he said. “We don’t always recognize [that] when we’re students.”

As an admissions counselor, he said, he is given the privilege of getting a greater glimpse into the class of admitted student and seeing the incredible potential that each has.

The vantage point of admissions has also allowed the new counselors a greater understanding for how the College works on an institutional level.

“I thought I had seen a fair amount of what goes on [here],” Echenique said. “But it’s been fascinating to see a broader scope of all the moving parts and all the thinking and caring that goes into the College.”

It’s been an affirming experience for her. “We’re striving for some really great things,” she said. “Whether we always achieve them … is probably a different story, but it’s been awesome to see how much people here really care.”

Samoura, too, spoke of the College community on such terms. “The people that are here, whether students or staff, are really just approachable and warm,” he said. “It’s a good environment.”

It’s an environment that they have been able to more fully appreciate as employees and alumni, to experience the area in ways that they didn’t necessarily get to as students. Ciobanu, for instance, has joined the College’s Gospel Choir since he graduated last June – something he always wanted to do but simply didn’t have the time. Echenique, too, has enjoyed the chance to explore the area more widely.

“I like to think that I saw a lot as a student and that I really got out there and experienced stuff,” she said. “But it’s kind of nice to know that the Berkshires aren’t so limited that I’ve seen it all. There’s still tons to see.”

Williamstown is bigger than we tend to think, as students. Or, anyway, that’s what Echenique tells me when I express surprise that Ciobanu – while still technically a town resident – lives a good two miles from the College.

Working on campus gives you the chance to expand your horizons, they tell me. “Although, well,” Ciobanu admitted, “It’s a five-minute drive.”

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