I have the best job in the world. I state this as fact and dare you to challenge me. Sure my job is not what I dreamed of doing as a kid. I suppose my original dream of being the first five-foot-seven starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls was a little optimistic and while the multi-million dollar NBA contract would have done wonders for my college loans, I would have grown tired of fame and fortune—or maybe not. I thought I found my true calling when I landed a job as a model. Ah yes, that was the life, an afternoon spent in front of the camera while assistants ran off to fetch me bottled water. Oh wait; it was nothing like that at all. Mostly because the organization I was modeling for was Rosetta Stone (as in the language software) and instead of walking down a run way in Milan I was holding a banana in Harrisonburg, VA, fully aware that a caption would soon be appearing under my head stating the obvious: “Este hombre está sosteniendo un plátano”.
After college, I moved to the Netherlands to grow lilacs. My greenhouse had 20,000 lilac bushes which meant I slowly worked my way through each bush, selecting only the best lilacs to be sold at the world’s largest flower market. Within a month of this job I came to despise lilacs and still do to this day. I once asked my boss how he was able to show up to work every day, cut lilacs, and remain sane despite the monotonous nature of the job (he even listened to the same Tina Turner CD everyday…on repeat). He looked at me like I was Tina Turner and said “every lilac is different”. Really? That’s what kept him sane?
This brings me to the best job in the world, Director of Graduate Admissions at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, a role which provides much more self respect than being paid to hold bananas and is much more entertaining than cutting lilacs for 8 hours. I love knowing that in the fall I could easily find myself in Doha, Mumbai or Chicago where I’ll meet fascinating people, have a near death experience in a taxi accident, and pay $8 for bottled water. In the winter I will lock myself in my office to read over applications from the aforementioned fascinating people whose countrymen tried to kill me with death by taxi but not until I was charged $8 for said bottled water. In the spring, I get to meet the students I spent the past year recruiting. In the summer, I start planning how to do it all over again. Most of all, I love knowing that I have shaken the hands of future Secretaries of State, Ambassadors and NGO leaders. I look forward to the day when I can tell my son Silas that the person on C-SPAN signing the peace treaty once went to the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and I helped them get to where they are today. I realize when that day comes I will not be able to take all the credit but I would like to think that I played some role, albeit minor, in helping produce tomorrow’s global leaders—the ones who will make sure Silas is living in a just and peaceful world. Sure, this might be somewhat self absorbed and overly idealistic, but I feel a spark when reading through applicants’ personal statements. I am privy to such delicate and inspiring stories—were it not for the severe FERPA violations, I would write a book about the experiences I read about on a daily basis. It would be on Oprah’s book list in no time. In what other job do you get to peak into a strangers’ bumpy past and learn about their dreams for the future? In what other job do you get to know personal facts about a person before you ever meet them? When I finally do get to meet them, and at this point, I really want to meet them, I have to bite my lip and try not to expose my intimate knowledge of them by saying: “well done on starting the reading program in Uganda!” or “I think your plan for empowering women is just what the world needs”. I realize there is plenty of irony in the fact that I laughed off my Dutch boss’s rationale for his lilac love affair while simultaneously touting the joy of reading personal statements. Yes, in reality, lilacs are no different than applicants, just like lilacs, every applicant is different, just like lilacs every applicant has the potential to do something really great (applicants become world leaders, lilacs sell for record profits). However unlike selecting lilacs for market, selecting applicants has ramifications in the life of a real person (the applicant)—and perhaps the world. The power to select comes with a great sense of personal responsibility that keeps me humble and honest. After all, everyone in admissions dreads receiving a letter 20 years out from the future Executive Director of Human Rights Watch that simply says: “Remember me? You denied me…big mistake.”
There you have it. A solid description of why I have the best job in the world. Unfortunately for me, the only way I can continue to have the best job in the world is if you, the applicants, continue to pursue your goals. Go forth, and keep making my job enjoyable!
Director of Graduate Admissions