A Non-Traditional Career Trajectory

By Tricia Xavier posted 01-29-2020 10:40

  

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A Non-Traditional Career Trajectory

Tricia Xavier, Director of Admissions and Enrollment at The Gooden School

If you were to tell me years ago, a new actor fresh out of art school with a coveted Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, that I would end up in independent schools and become an admissions professional, I would have laughed ... and then cried ... and then laughed again (because I was a trained actor, and I could)!

My journey to the independent school world was anything but traditional. I slogged through years of production work, management, agencies, casting - anything within my (then) chosen field that I could get my hands-on to survive. I loved performing, connecting with people, and telling a story - I did NOT love the instability. 

A serendipitous temp position landed me at a relatively new independent elementary school in west LA and I felt instantly connected. My boss at the time, who eventually became a close mentor and friend, introduced me to the world of admissions and financial aid. Similar to my experience in production, I spent a lot of time setting up for events, making people feel welcomed, and helping to share our story. I was pretty savvy on the computer, and was the sole staff member who could make sense of the database system they had implemented (old-school Blackbaud). Within a short time I was assigned the role of school Registrar as well. 

As the school grew, so did my position. When a new website was needed, I was instrumental in helping to update and maintain ours. The umbrella organization connected to the school had a wonderful communications team, but since the school did not have its own, I added this task to my plate as well. When it was decided the school would create an endowment, I became the school’s first development associate. 

As anyone who works in small schools knows, everyone wears many hats - and with my head full of admissions, registrar, website, communications, and development duties I realized my path had changed. I still loved performing, but my connection to the necessity of quality education rose to the forefront. I branched out and took on a Director of Admissions and Marketing position, which helped refine my skills as a marketer. I undertook USC’s Leadership in Enrollment Management program which reinforced my commitment to the importance of this work.

In a profession that has been mostly dominated by former teachers, my background may not seem quite as aligned to this field. However, I believe my understanding of the many facets of enrollment management, combined with my deep desire to genuinely connect with people on an emotional level, does. 

With the disappointing numbers coming out about education, and independent schools in general, we need more out-of-the-box perspectives to revitalize and invigorate our field. We need more thought leaders with diverse backgrounds; those who might have amazing social media skills because they happened to be influencers in high school; fundraisers from the non-profit sectors because they understand how to synthesize data and engage families; and more former actors. 

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02-14-2020 08:12

Tricia, I love that you're sharing this background and I imagine that, if we conducted a survey, we would find that many admission professionals have theatre arts experience of some kind. I do, as have my last three associate directors. Human connection, improvisation, and a nimble mindset are valuable assets in our profession! Plus we can, indeed, cry on cue...