Q & A with Rob Lamb 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 Rob Lamb, director of college counseling at Sage Ridge School in Reno, NV.
WACAC: How long have you been working in the counseling field? How has your career path led you to your current work as Director of College Counseling at Sage Ridge School?
Rob Lamb (RL): After working for The Overlake School in Redmond, WA, for six years as a school/college counselor (2005-2011), I moved to the “other side of the desk” to work for Oregon State University’s admissions office. I’d heard great things about Oregon State through my role as PNACAC’s Membership Committee Chair and I welcomed the opportunity to serve as the Associate Director for Campus Visits and Programs. My wife and I loved Corvallis and the university, but only two years later an opportunity arose in Reno, NV, at Sage Ridge School. Since my wife’s family is from Reno/Sparks and we have twin boys who are now four years old, we decided that this move would make the most sense for us.
WACAC: Tell us more about Sage Ridge School. What makes this school unique? Describe your interaction with the students.
Sage Ridge is the only independent, co-educational, non-sectarian, college prep day school in Northern Nevada. We enroll roughly 210 students in Grades 5 through 12, so the school community is very tight and feels much like a big, extended family. The curriculum is highly rigorous, and over 90% of students in AP courses consistently earn a 3 or higher on their AP exams. Since we are such a small school, I interact with all students in the high school with some frequency and get to know juniors and seniors very well. It’s an honor and pleasure to work with them through their college searches and applications, going on spring college tours with some of them, and helping families navigate the technical terrain of college admissions. I really enjoy advising students and parents and providing the strategic guidance and support they need throughout the process.
WACAC: What is the value of WACAC in your career and in all aspects of your life?
WACAC provides invaluable professional support, a foundation for best practices in the field, and a big part of the broader context and direction for my work. Regional ACACs and NACAC help to keep me on track professionally, aware of important structural and policy changes though each admission cycle. I greatly appreciate the commitment of my colleagues to education and have come to value their expertise and knowledge through my interactions on both sides of the admission desk.
WACAC: What advice would you give to others who are just starting out in the college counseling field?
Stick with it. Go to professional ACAC conferences. Connect with regional ACAC board members. Ask lots of questions. Read “The Chronicle of Higher Education” and a range of other sources of news about education. Know what college rankings mean to you and other stakeholders. Field a range of viewpoints and perspectives on college admission practices and outcomes. Don’t disparage teenagers and parents who have a totemic view of colleges. Help them see the landscape of admissions more broadly, with more nuances and personal, long-term relevance. Be open to opportunities that may not fit your initial paradigm of work or your professional assumptions.
WACAC: What are you passionate about outside of your career?
Raising twin boys is an awesome adventure. On this exciting journey, my wife and I enjoy spending time outdoors with them around Reno and in the Sierras, especially playing at Lake Tahoe. In addition to my family and being out in nature, I’m passionate about my church connections, writing poetry, and (when time allows) reading novels, playing tennis, sailing, and skiing.
WACAC: Who has impacted you most in your career and how?
Diane Freytag, Director of Counseling & Advising at the Overlake School: We worked together in the same department for six years and went on several college tours with Overlake students. She has many years of experience in the field and helped me develop a keen interest in college advising. Michael McKeon, Assistant Vice-Provost and Dean of Admissions at Saint Mary’s College of California: When he was PNACAC president, he supported my professional development and invited me to join the PNACAC executive board as Membership Committee Chair. Noah Buckley, Director of Admissions at Oregon State University: We started there the same year and his poise, sense of humor, and smart leadership were infectious.
WACAC: What is your favorite technique to use when helping students find their best “college fit”?
Many students begin the search and application process with what I’d call a totemic view of colleges, relying mainly on reputation for a sense of fit. So, I value getting to know their perceptions of schools and specific preferences for the best match. Which criteria matter most to them (size, cost, location, academic programs, etc.) evolves through focused discussions, research, and often the applications themselves. Deciding where to apply and enroll requires both a systematic approach and a degree of intuition. As one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, has said, “Truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” I strongly encourage students to visit campuses to “ground-truth” and interact with real members of a college community in real time.
WACAC: What would you do during your ideal free weekend?
I’d spend time with my wife and kids at Lake Tahoe, swimming, sailing, and having fun in the sun and surrounding beauty. In winter, sledding or skiing at a nearby mountain resort.