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Meet the newest Admissions counselors

October 7, 2016
group portrait of Admissions counselorsThe newest University admissions counselors outside Wallis Hall, clockwise from far left: Sarah Gerin (wearing glasses), Lisa Anthony, Tarik Cristen, Robert De Leon, Kayon Ellis, and Maeve Willis, (University photo / J. Adam Fenster).

The University’s six new admissions counselors come from Rochester, Ohio, Florida, New York City—and Jamaica.

They’re between 22 and 30, with interests ranging from sports and music to traveling and cooking.

All six were hired this summer over hundreds who applied. Their task? To find the next group of exceptional University students.

“It was exciting to see this group of candidates emerge,” says Jonathan Burdick, dean of College Admission and vice provost for enrollment initiatives. “While they have important differences in perspective—something we need more than ever around the Admissions committee table—there was also a synergy of interests that these millennial employees have. Interest in reforming, rethinking, and helping the University grow and change in dimensions that match the future of the country and rigorous higher education.”

Four of the six are recent University graduates.

“That’s icing on the cake,” Burdick says.

The counselors spend several weeks in the fall visiting assigned domestic and international regions to speak with high school students in hopes of finding  members of the University’s next class. Application review season begins in earnest in November and runs into March, with a goal of completing enrollment by May 1. The spring is devoted to answering admitted students’ questions at several on-campus events.

“Then we assess, tweak, add new initiatives, or retire less effective ones, and get back to planning over the summer,” says Scott Clyde, executive director of College Enrollment.


Lisa AnthonyLisa Anthony spent a month in France when she was 13.

“After that, I sought out any opportunity that would allow me to interact with people from other countries,” she says.

After graduating from Webster Thomas High School in Rochester, she studied and worked in Belgium, France, Ecuador, Denmark, and Chile.

“The transformative experiences created a passion for facilitating similar experiences for others who want to study in a foreign setting,” she says.

Now 29, the senior admissions counselor recruits primarily in Latin America and will visit six countries this semester: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Panama.

“My goal is to expand our international student population from Latin America and help provide these students with an incredible experience at Rochester,” says Anthony, who graduated from Syracuse University in 2010 with a degree in international relations.

In her spare time, Anthony enjoys dancing salsa, snowboarding, and singing songs from Broadway musicals. Tops on her phone’s playlist? Seasons of Love from Rent.


Tarik Cristen Tarik Cristen ’16 was a cofounder of the University’s chapter of She’s the First, a nonprofit national organization that raises money for girls from low-income nations who want an education.

“But as funny as this may sound,” the Queens, New York, native says, “I never realized how passionate I was about education until I started working in Admissions.”

Cristen applied a week before graduating last May “without a clue of what I was getting myself into.” The financial economics major was hired in June.

“Admissions opened my eyes to the kind of impact I can have on the world,” says Cristen, who recruits mainly in Manhattan and Brooklyn. “On kids, counselors, and colleagues, in ways I never imagined.”

Cristen says he has reached the trifecta of success: “I love my profession, I love my office,  and I love the University of Rochester.”

And he gets to do it back in New York.

“That’s the cherry on top,” he says. “I love my city.”

He also loves indie music, “adventurous walks,” eating, sightseeing, listening to podcasts (TED Talks are his favorite) and traveling. And he loves talking about Rochester with high school students.

“The beauty of being an admissions counselor for my alma mater is that I can share the lived experience of a college student, of a UR student,” he says. “My goals are to expand accessibility to underrepresented populations and light a fire in these kids to help them realize that their dreams can come true.”


Robert De LeonRobert De Leon has always enjoyed helping others.

Before he joined the University in July, the Bronx native worked for the Housing Council, a not-for-profit organization that finds housing for homeless people and connects them to essential resources.

Now, he’s helping students find a home at the University.

“I have a passion for helping students and youth gain access to higher education and awareness of higher education,” the 2008 Syracuse University graduate says. “What intrigues me is learning from and about the many passions prospective students can bring to Rochester.”

De Leon is responsible for recruiting throughout New Jersey. His goal is simple: “To help students from all walks of life learn the value of higher education, and gain access to it.

De Leon loves to learn and educates himself by reading books. One of his favorite is The Alchemist, a 1988 novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. When he’s not working, he enjoys following his favorite football team, the New York Giants, and listening to music ranging from salsa, merengue, and bachata, to hip hop, reggae, classical and rhythm and blues.


Kayon Ellis The easiest part of the job for Kayon Ellis ’16 is selling students on Rochester.

“I was super involved as an undergraduate, and I’m crazy about the school,” she says. “I want to help students find that special place for them, and I believe that place can be Rochester.”

The Kingston, Jamaica, native graduated with a degree in environmental studies and was hired in July. She is responsible for the recruitment, application review, and counseling for students in the New England area (especially Connecticut and Vermont) and Albany.

“I became an admissions counselor because my own admissions counselor was so important in my college process,” she says. “Our curriculum and research opportunities attract the kind of student that is passionate, driven, and downright awesome at times. I love meeting them.”

Her hobbies include rugby (she played on the University’s women’s club team), reading, whitewater rafting, cliff jumping, and eating frozen yogurt. She hopes to be at her alma mater for a long time.

“I want to be involved in programming for the University, whether that means creating a new program from scratch that can help with recruitment or just being in a management role,” she says. “My goal is to head for the top.”


Sarah Gerin Many people ask Sarah Gerin ‘12 why she traded in sand for snow when she left West Palm Beach, Florida, for Rochester nine years ago.

“I still hate the snow,” she says, “but I love Rochester.”

Gerin majored in art history but spent her first three years studying brain and cognitive science. She worked on campus at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) and was a precollege advisor at Monroe Community College.

“Having that experience is really helpful now that I’m on the other side of the process,” says Gerin, who was hired in July.

The senior admissions counselor covers the state of Pennsylvania, plus the Catskills and Buffalo areas.

“Students have so many interests and passions in an infinite number of ways,” she says. “It’s great to see that moment when something clicks with a student and they realize, ‘Yes, this is what I want to explore,’ or ‘Yes, this is the school for me.’’’

Gerin loves to cook and has created many allergen-free recipes. Her favorite gadget is the Vitamix. She also enjoys drawing, painting, yoga, and hiking.

“Does coffee count as a hobby?” she says. “I am an avid coffee drinker.”

Her number one goal is to find “the best possible school” for students, and she feels the University has much to offer.

“There are a multitude of opportunities that Rochester inherently provides for students,” she says.


Maeve Willis Maeve Willis ’14 loves to meet what she calls “oxymoron” high school students while traveling to cities such as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Little Rock.

“It’s not uncommon to see someone who is on their high school varsity football team but also an accomplished flutist,” she says, “or a student who is into robotics but also is part of slam poetry.”

Willis grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, outside of Cleveland, and majored in brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester. She started working in Admissions in August and enjoys hearing students’ stories.

“My goal is to help them understand their capability to succeed here and envision themselves on the campus that changed the person I am,” she says.

Her mother was born in Ireland, her dad moved there as a child, and most of the family still lives in Ireland. Her brother, Conor Willis, is a 2011 Rochester graduate.

Willis is a competitive Irish dancer who enjoys CrossFit and collecting neon socks. She’s learning how to compete in the winter sliding sport of skeleton, and she’s a devoted fan of the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns, and Cleveland Cavaliers, who captured the city’s first major-league title since 1964 by winning the National Basketball Association championship in June.

“Until this year, I didn’t have much to celebrate until Kyrie Irving saved my life with a three-pointer in Game 7 of the finals, just before the buzzer,” Willis says.

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