Tag Archives: Bruce

The Turning of the Tides

The last few weeks have been busy ones for us in the office. As you saw in my last post, our decision letters have already gone out–so we’re currently experiencing a very different kind of energy. High school students from across the country have enjoyed their “spring break” over the last two weeks, making it an excellent time to go look at schools. Now, however, it’s not only the seniors who are looking, visiting many of the wonderful institutions they’ve been admitted to, but also the juniors who are out in full force (and occasionally a sophomore or two!).

I’ve been reflecting recently on why these last few weeks have been so enjoyable. As much as I enjoy a smaller, more intimate information session held in the conference room here in Penrose, there’s also something invigorating about speaking to a group of 30 or 40 visitors. (Perhaps this is just my more theatrical side talking.) But there’s something else that’s special about this time of year, I think, and it has to do with applying all that our work with the newly admitted class has taught us–or perhaps reminded us of–to this next cycle. We are sure to be reminded of things as specific as the importance of sending in your financial aid forms in on time, to more abstract philosophies about why we do the work we do. I’ve asked a few of my fellow admission officers to chime in on how our work with this class of high school seniors has prepared us for this next year.

Bruce Jones, New England Regional Officer: Spring is transitional, in the normal snow-melting/crocuses-sprouting sort of way, but also as I shift from this year’s class to next year’s. It’s 7 a.m. and I’m catching up in my Hampton Inn in White River Junction, VT after a night college fair before heading to Connecticut for more fairs. I’m writing notes to (and answering emails from) admitted students while wondering if I will be writing congrats a year from now to newbies I’m meeting on the road. Spring is slow in coming to this neck of the woods but by May 1, the national reply date for admitted students, spirits will be lifted.

Katherine Buckley, Greater Oregon, WY, and ID representative: While out on the road, I met wonderful prospective Whitman students from religious schools in Seattle, tiny schools in Boston, farming schools in northern California, and outdoor-focused schools in Idaho. It is amazing to see how Whitman is accessible, welcoming, and the right fit for students from so many walks of life.

Tillie Gottlieb, Canada, CO, and the Mid-Atlantic: I think this cycle has made me so much more aware of the resiliency of our young applicants. This year in particular their struggles seemed more numerous and difficult, but I was so impressed by the maturity and clarity of their perspectives regarding hardship. I thank them for inspiring me and reminding me that there is always hope and always the possibility of positive change.

Tony Cabasco, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid: It’s a privilege, truly it is!
In finishing my 20th admission cycle, I reflected on the thousands of applications that have come through the admission office (over 50,000) and the hundreds of thousands of essays that have been read collectively by admission staffs during that period. Each cycle and group of applicants amazes me with the variety of backgrounds, experiences, and stories that they share with the admission staff. These stories of childhood memories, hardships overcome, personal battles won or lost, hopes and dreams for the future, study abroad experiences, epiphanies of many varieties, etc., all delight and move the admission staff. It’s inspiring to see such wonderful energy, creativity, spunk, and sparkle. Whitman is blessed with a wonderful group of applicants every year. It’s truly been a privilege getting to know these young people who are on the verge of coming into their own.

I would be remiss if I did not end on a note to our newly admitted seniors, however. As you move through these next few weeks–likely the last few weeks in your college search process–we hope that you’ve had an opportunity to visit our campus, speak with current Whitties, and visit with professors (or perhaps you’ll be joining us for Admitted Students’ Day on April 20, which will provide an opportunity to do all this and more!). We’ve welcomed each one of you into this community because we know you will have a lasting impact. These next few weeks are certainly full of decision-making and discussions about financial aid packages, program offerings, and locations. Just as we, as admission officers, are poised to begin seeking out a new class of Whitties, you all–the members of Whitman College Class of 2017–are poised to begin to contribute vastly to this community and education. We sincerely hope you choose to do so.

Travel Tunes

We have a special tool that we use in the Office of Admission when the drives get long and the layovers are frequent. It comes in the form of a CD, and it includes selections from all 10 admission officers. Who among us rocks out to Gangnam Style in a hotel room and who prefers to listen to Eric Clapton as they drive through the fall foliage? See if you can guess! Check out what we’ve been listening to over the last few months:

1) Make the Road by Walking–Menahan Street Band
2) Free–Ben Kweller
3) Brick House–The Commodores
4) Bright Side of the Road–Van Morrison
5) Chelsea Dagger–The Fratellis
6) Who Loves You–Four Seasons
7) Goodbye Porkpie Hat–Charlie Mingus
8) Into the Mystic–Van Morrison
9) Some Nights–Fun.
10) Autumn Leaves–Eric Clapton
11) Ain’t No Sunshine–Betty Wright
12) Mad Season–Matchbox 20
13) Madness–Muse
14) The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down–The Band
15) Gangnam Style–PSY
16) I Want You Back–Jackson 5
17) Wagon Wheel–Old Crow Medicine Show
18) What a Wonderful World–Louis Armstrong
19) Coming Home–The 88

Mark Twain & the Essay

For admission officers fall is travel season and winter is reading season. At Whitman two officers read each application, scrolling through 30-pages on laptops and writing comments on the electronic “vote sheet”. We review apps “holistically”, meaning that we take into account a student’s transcript (curriculum and grades), writings, passions and activities, letters of recommendation and—lastly—test scores.

My favorite part of the application is the Common Application Personal Essay, which gives a student multiple subject options.  An excellent essay makes my day and distinguishes the student from other applicants. I have a file of “essay keepers”, writings that knocked my socks off and that I keep to re-read when times slow down.

Memorable essays are always well-written and can be on any topic. The best ones tell me who the student is, what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about, how they interact with peers, parents and pariahs. Some are humorous (but it takes a talented writer to nail humor), some take a surprising turn, some are heart-felt, some make me shed a tear (but don’t try to make me cry!). Don’t try to impress, just be honest. Don’t tell me what you do unless it explains who you are. Don’t use big words when little words better convey what you have to say. Conciseness trumps verbosity. When in doubt follow Mark Twain’s advice:

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English….don’t let fluff and flowers creep in. [Adjectives] weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective, a diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.” (Letter to D.W. Bowser, March 20, 1880)


If you’re an accounting major what you study can be defined. Liberal arts is a different animal (and as I type this Word indicates I should be typing liberal arts are). I’ve read a lot of good statements about liberal arts, usually by college presidents who apparently have some need to describe and defend, but for me it’s not about what it is but what it does.

My wife and I have a standing joke: When she asks me something (What’s hirsute mean?) and I provide the answer she says, “How do you know that?” I always reply, as she rolls her eyes, “I went to a liberal arts college.”

I was a good student at a good public high school. At Whitman I became a history major because I fell in love with the study of history. It was about discovery, new ways of looking at old news, considering cultures rather than distilled facts. I became an engaged intellectual, someone interested in ideas.

The residential context of the small, liberal arts college demands interaction with diverse peers who find their own intellectual and activist passions. Late night conversations are the norm. And it’s no surprise that Whitman turns out a disproportionate number of Teach for America and Peace Corps volunteers. The liberal arts is about involvement and engagement, about joyful living and having an impact.

I think of my Whittie friends: Tom, a philosophy major who’s a psychiatrist; Terry, the first of his family to graduate high school, now a PhD physicist; Wendy, a sociology major with a PhD in Italian Lit; Wes, an English major who works as a criminal defense attorney; Evan, my fellow history major, now a journalist.

An admission: I’m the old guy in Whitman’s Admission Office. The above mentioned friends and I graduated from Whitman 43 years ago. We all continue to be passionately involved in our careers, relationships and avocations. Whitman’s liberal arts environment nurtured that.

Hirsute: covered with hair

Making a Difference

Often students wonder what to do during the summer to improve their chances of getting admitted to a selective college. I understand but am mildly aggravated by this preoccupation. Sure, you can find a cure for cancer or save the world from war and famine but you can also spend time with friends, read some books you didn’t have time for during the school year, mow the lawn, paint the trim, get a job, or find a worthwhile volunteer opportunity near your home: One does not need a passport to do community service. Remember the bumper sticker: Think Globally, Act Locally. And if these ideas sound a bit too pedestrian think of the essay you can write: How I Saved the World by Reducing My Carbon Footprint by Riding My Bike to Work/Library/Food Pantry.

Gems in Walla Walla

Unfortunately, as a regional officer, I’m only on campus about five weeks a year. I have my favorite restaurants (Brassiere Four, Clarette’s, the Marcus Whitman Lounge) and scenic drives (Frog Hollow, Lower Waitsburg and Five Mile roads), but a Walla Walla visit isn’t complete without a stop at Klicker’s.

Klicker’s is a family-owned business out Issacs Avenue, about three miles east of campus. Depending on the season it stocks antiques, ice cream, Christmas trees, culinary specialties, and fresh produce (there’s a Klicker Mountain in the Blues where they grow their amazing strawberries). In my most recent visit I picked up a couple bottles of Creamy WallaWalla Onion Dressing and stuffed them in a pair of shoes in my suitcase for the trip back to my Cape Cod home. If I’m lucky enough to be in town in spring the freshly harvested asparagus, at about a dollar a pound, is to die for. And later, cherries, melons, garden vegetables then the July orange mesh bags of Walla Walla Sweet Onions. After Walla Walla produce New England produce produces mild depression.

Reading Season, Regional Variety

I fire up the computer sometime between 6 and 7 each morning—read my overnight email, go upstairs and brew Starbuck’s Sumatra (my older daughter works for Starbuck’s so no whining about corporate coffee, yadda yadda), walk the dog, pick up the two newspapers in front of my house.      Drink the coffee, read my newspapers and then am in front of my two screens about 8 a.m. for a day of reading—vote sheet on the screen to my left, scrolling app directly in front of me.

I do the easy lifting first as warm up: 2nd reads take 10-15 minutes each and I’m looking to see if the 1st reader has missed something or if I disagree with the read: sometimes yes, usually no.

The heavy lifting begins. 1st reads can take over a half-hour. I come at them with a blank slate and scroll through the app with great care, taking notes on scratch paper as I go. I want to know what the student has to say and what the recs say about the student. Most everyone is a good student so what distinguishes this individual? Do they have special talents, intense passions? Will they fit in Whitman’s participatory, collaborative environment? What will they bring to the table and what will they take from the table?

An admission from an admission officer: I sometimes email a student whose app I’ve just read if their writing knocks my socks off. Sometimes they email back, surprised that there’s a human being on the other end of cyberspace. There is.

Meet Bruce!

Name: Bruce J. Jones

College, year, major: Whitman, ’67, History

Grad School, year, degree/concentration: Wesleyan U, ’69, MAT, Urban Education; Cal Berkeley, ’77, Counseling Certificate

Recruitment Territories: New England, South, Southeast

Other Office Duties: Alumni/parent initiatives, fall counselor visits, “yield” events, office edits, college info database updates

Favorite –

Color: Don’t have one

Ice Cream Flavor: Coffee

Book: All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

Movie: Breaking Away; Open Range

Taco Truck Order: Walla Walla Sweet Onions

Favorite thing about Whitman: Location, location, location

Favorite place to eat in Walla Walla: Creektown Café

Stuff I like to do: Cycle, road and mountain; walk in the woods; drink Walla Walla wines; hold babies; cook; write; putz around the house.