The Author: Perspective on the Process

A good number of those reading this blog might have met me, but chances are the majority of you have not.  I thought I would take an entry to introduce myself and provide a bit of my perspective on the admissions process.

My name is Matt Clemons and I am the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.  My Mom is really the only one who calls me Matthew but I respond to either name.  I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and in college I majored in history and minored in political science.  In addition to living in New York City I have lived in Pusan, South Korea and Santa Clara, California.  What would I be doing if I was not typing this?  I would likely be riding my bike.  I am an avid cyclist and ride my bike to and from work every day (except in mammoth snow storms).  I absolutely love my job and higher education in general.

Why should you heed the advice I put on the blog other than the fact that I work at SIPA?  Well, I have been working in higher education since George H.W. Bush was in office, but perhaps of more relevance to you is the fact that I obtained a professional graduate degree and borrowed money and received free money to do so.   So the advice I give is based not only on my work experience, but on my personal experience as a student.  Also of note is that I enrolled in my graduate program at age 28, very close to the average age of a new SIPA student.

I will not bore you with other details about me, but I will share a few quick personal stories that are always on my mind this time of year.  This is a tough time of year for me because not all admission decisions can be favorable.  It is tough to deny applicants that really have their heart set on something.  That is where my stories come in . . .

Many, many years ago when I was a senior in college (and the walk to classes was uphill both ways) I knew that I wanted to get out of the U.S. for a while after graduating.  I had my heart set on the Peace Corps and enthusiastically submitted my application.  A few months later I got a letter in the mail telling me a story many people hear this time of year: it was a very qualified and deep pool and I did not make the cut.  It was very hard news for me to hear at the time, but looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I still wanted to go overseas so I applied for English teaching jobs in several countries and ended up taking a job in Pusan, South Korea.  I not only had a wonderful time in Korea, I met my wife while teaching.  Looking back, I could not be more thankful that the Peace Corps letter was not the one I had hope for; even though at the time I received it I was dismayed.

When I think about it a bit more, some of my greatest “failures” have turned into success stories.  I played soccer most of my young life but did not make the team in high school.  I was devastated but a friend recruited me to run cross country and I ended up getting a distance running scholarship in college.  Shortly before moving to New York I had applied for what I thought was the perfect job for me on the west coast.  The school took a pass on me and a short time later the door opened for me to move to New York which was the best thing that has happened for me professionally.

I share these stories because it is not easy for me to sign off on deny letters and I always hope that people realize that life is full twists and turns.  We often grapple to understand why things do not always turn out the way we want them to, only later to realize that difficult news opened doors we were later happy to walk through.  Many of you will receive offers of admission and you will come to SIPA and do wonderful things.  I have no doubt that those who do not come to SIPA will also go on to do wonderful things to help make the world a better place.

We have yet to start sending decisions but stay tuned for updates.