08/12/2016 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Welcome to CS&A: A Q&A with Jennifer Christensen

Jennifer Christensen Headshot

We are proud to announce that Jennifer Christensen, who spent 25 years working in college admission and college guidance, has joined Carney, Sandoe & Associates’ Search Group as a Search Consultant. Her extensive background in both independent schools and colleges brings an exciting new element to our consultant ranks. You can read more about Jennifer’s professional background on our website, and continue reading below to learn a bit more about her—including some fun facts!

What spurred your interest in schools, and namely in admissions and college counseling?
The transition from high school to college—from childhood to young adulthood—is a huge turning point in students’ (and their parents’!) lives. As a college admission officer and college counselor, I worked in the crux of that transition. Witnessing and facilitating students’ growth, discovery, and maturity was humbling, moving, and a privilege.

I’m also a connector at heart, and at the root of college admission and college counseling is connecting people and educational institutions. I loved helping students figure out what opportunities, challenges, and resources they wanted in their next educational step. And, I also enjoyed working for and with educational institutions to find students who would enrich and enhance their communities.

What has been your favorite part of working in schools?
I loved the times when school communities came together for shared experiences. Whether it was Conference on Democracy at Marin Academy, or the One Book week at Archer, or Easter Mass at Mayfield, or hiking Taylor Mountain at Sonoma Academy, I cherished the times of connection between students, faculty, staff, and administration.

There is never a dull moment in schools! I am hugely entertained by teenagers, so working with high school students was always interesting, fun, and engaging. I also loved learning from and collaborating with fellow teachers and administrators.

Discuss your beliefs and work in diversity, and how you plan to weave that into your search work.
I grew up in Berkeley, CA, where I had friends of different ethnicities and nationalities, friends whose parents taught at Cal and friends whose parents barely graduated from high school, friends who were on welfare as well as friends whose families were well-off. This was my version of normal. And, if I thought about diversity, it was a passing idea that I lived and was comfortable in a diverse world.

Then, I went to college. Claremont McKenna College (CMC) in the mid-1980s was transitioning from Claremont Men’s College to a coeducational institution, the majority of the faculty and students were politically conservative, and 80% of the students were white—mind blown. I did not know what politically conservative meant, and I had no identity as a “person of color.” To be different, and to understand and lean into difference was tough, but it was also enriching and, sometimes, fun. My college experience was crucial in my development as a critical and analytical thinker, which is part of the point of a liberal arts education.

I share this as a way of saying that I understand and respect that everyone comes to learning and thinking about multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion in his/her/their own way. Because this work sits at the core of identity, it is deeply personal and can be very challenging and uncomfortable. But because it’s critically important in working with, understanding, and supporting others, I lean into it and encourage others to do so too.

I look forward to folding these beliefs into my work with the Search Group, and also as a future contributor to this blog. I have a lot to share in terms of past work I have done on Marin Academy’s Diversity Council and the coaching I've received from Visions.

What is one unique fact about you?
I’ll give you three:

  • I am a huge college nerd! I’ve visited over 250 college and university campuses…including the University of British Columbia while on my honeymoon. (I have a very understanding husband!)
  • I co-own a comic book store with aforementioned husband, Brian's Comics: For All Fankind.
  • I fancy myself a matchmaker outside of my professional life—the last couple I set up got married this past June!

What are you most looking forward to as a new search consultant?
When I became the Director of Admission at Saint Mary’s College of California, one of my mentors told me that hiring would be the most important thing that I would do—that advice held true whether I sought an entry-level college admission counselor or later on when I served on a search committee for an Academic Dean. Great hires elevate the organization whereas not-so-great hires can set it back. I am excited by the process of learning and thinking about the needs, aspirations, and culture of organizations and then finding people who are a great match.

I am also looking forward to helping educators find fulfilling professional opportunities just like Ben Bolté did for me. Twelve years ago, he placed me at The Archer School for Girls, and this past year, he connected me to the CS&A Search team—I am so grateful!

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