Q & A with Kristy Blue with Neelam Savla interviewing on behalf of WACAC

Over the next several months, we wanted to help you meet WACAC. How, you ask? We’re bringing you WACAC member spotlights to help us all learn more about the passionate individuals within our education field. This week we’d like to introduce you to Kristy Blue, Director of Admissions – West Coast at Augustana College.

WACAC: How have your professional experiences led you to your current regional position at Augustana College?

Kristy Blue: Like many admissions professionals, I stumbled upon the wonderful world of higher education while I was working through the difficulties of my own career search in college. I could never figure out why I enjoyed my kinesiology internships but couldn’t picture myself in the field.

After graduating and delaying my application to PT school, I had only one career plan in mind-my amateur rugby career and my desk job was the means to support these efforts. It didn’t take long to realize I wanted more professionally and needed to find a better balance in my life.

I landed a job recruiting for my alma mater in the College of Education and Human Development where my kinesiology major was housed. I grew a lot professionally that year and felt like I was helping people, even if it wasn’t on the sports field or in the PT clinic.

I felt challenged and fulfilled in my job but wasn’t convinced I’d be an admissions “lifer” so I decided to quit and travel around Europe with my best friend before “settling down” into my actual career. I backpacked, volunteered, and came back with a new appreciation and spirit for travel, so I moved from my home in Minnesota to California.

In my move across the country, I was fortunate Minnesota took a leap to hire me back and accepted my proposal for a regional position in California. Still unsure I was a “lifer,” I was excited to have this amazing professional opportunity and was able to keep a strong connection back home. I spent another 4 years growing Minnesota’s regional presence before embarking on my next big travel adventure, this time with my wife for 6 months of backpacking and volunteering through South America. (photo picture above, Kristy on the left)

It was this time in my life that I truly took the time to consider my future career path. Did I want to go back to admissions? Am I a lifer? Or, is this the perfect career transition into something else? What I hadn’t realized so many years ago was that it wasn’t the medical field that had attracted me to kinesiology, it was the rewarding feeling of the help I could offer others.

Higher education turned out to be the unexpected career that fits me best. So my job search upon immersion back into the US this time was less of a stumble and much more intentional where I found Augustana College as my new home.

WACAC: How did your involvement in RACC (including your position as vice chair) affect your professional career?

KB: RACC made all the difference in the world to me. Admissions easily could have just been a temporary job, but the professional and personal relationships built through my involvement in RACC created a stronger sense of admissions as a profession for me.

Fortunately, I found RACC early in my regional career. I thank my home office for being supportive and “pushy” in my RACC involvement. I started by attending events like mini fairs at high schools and evening case study events and presentations. These events gave me a better sense of my territory, what other colleges were doing (I’m not alone!), and started friendships. My membership gave me confidence in my work and the opportunities to grow professionally outside of the campus setting.

Participation grew to volunteer work that grew to leadership roles. I didn’t realize that presenting at my first WACAC conference was a big deal until one of my regional colleagues pointed it out. My presentation was conducted with 3 other regionals. I never would have guessed I had something to say at a conference full of veteran higher education professionals until I was actually there saying it.

WACAC: What advice do you have for higher education professionals about maintaining balance between your personal and professional life?

KB: It’s always easier said than done. Life balance takes intention and doesn’t magically happen to you. I’m always struggling with it (even as I write this at 9pm on a Tuesday night). Students’ lives don’t stop after the hours of 9-5pm and some days will be more balanced than others.

Try going easier on yourself and build up to bigger goals by starting with little ones. Set aside time where you’ll be able to think about your day, week, or year without distractions. With so much technology and multitasking inundating our lives, we often forget to take time to reflect.

A regional colleague just reminded me about this the other day when I was explaining my renewed sense of energy and appreciation for a slower pace of life after my travels. She told me to write down how I feel now, so I can remind myself during the crazy times why I voluntarily chose to come back to this line of work and more importantly, why I actually like it.

WACAC: What was the transition like, coming back from your travels, into the admission lifestyle?

KB: Coming back has been like a big, happy, family reunion. Nothing AND everything has changed at the same time. To be honest, I’ve been too busy visiting friends and family and immersed in a new job during travel season to feel too sad about my trip being over. There are moments when my mind floats back to an overnight bus through the Andes or one of the many Spanish language mistakes I made and it makes me smile.

It’s hard to believe how quickly 6 months can fly by when it seems like such a long span of time. I’m not sad it’s over because I know there will be more adventures. Maybe they won’t all be job-quitting, overseas, months-long epic adventures, but I’ll continue to travel, immerse myself in other cultures, and value the life perspective each experience brings.

WACAC: What do you enjoy most about being a regional admission counselor?

KB: It’s a tie between autonomy and camaraderie.

Autonomy: I have no one to blame for the schedule snafu that forced me to drive clear across Los Angeles in rush hour on a Friday, except myself. As nice as it’d be to have a student intern book all my visits, rental cars, and flights, the fact that I’m in control of my own territory and hours is priceless. I can attend staff meetings in my pjs, finish laundry between student calls, and sleep in hotel air conditioning during the hottest time of the year. Whether it’s seamless perfection or completed through a caffeine haze, it’s mine to craft.

Camaraderie: I’ve talked plenty about the relationships and friendships I’ve built through regional life, so I won’t ramble on, but the camaraderie of having regional colleagues in the absence of coworkers has been one of the best parts of it all.

WACAC: What was your favorite part about South America?

KB: Singling out a favorite part of the trip feels similar to responding, “Great!” to the question “How is your psychology program?” at a college fair. The answer fails to cover the depth and breadth of the program just as it doesn’t adequately detail the full scope of this trip’s effect on me.

But to give it a try…I’d have to say a favorite part was the freedom of time. Living in a culture where everyone seems to lead a “tranquilo” life, makes you rethink your concept of time. Want to go to your next destination tomorrow? It may turn out that you’ve missed the only ferry there for the next week. Think your 8 hour bus seems long? What about that 19 hour bus you took that broke down on your anniversary and turned into 26 hours?

What if I told you, these mishaps turned out to be some of our best moments? When we relinquished control, new opportunities arose and we learned to appreciate life in real-time instead of always looking to what’s next.

WACAC: What is next on your list of future travels?

KB: Fall travel season seems to be satisfying my travel itch for the moment and nothing is on the books for now. I do, however, have dreams of continuing my local and international exploration throughout the rest of my life. May the journey continue…

Feel free to visit Kristy’s travel blog at http://thetravelingblues.com/