My History with SACAC
Jonathan Ferrell, SACAC President, Director of College Counseling, Pace Academy (GA)
Tell us about your journey in the field of education and as an admissions/counseling professional. What are you most proud of accomplishing?
I entered the profession as an admissions counselor at Centenary College, my undergraduate alma mater. While most people are excited about being accepted to law school, for me it caused great anxiety because I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go in the first place, and not getting accepted would have made my decision easy. After a bit of soul searching I was convinced by the Director of Admissions at Centenary that I should “take a year,” work as an admission counselor, then decide what to do. That was 16 years ago! In that time I have worked on both sides of the desk, had the awesome privilege of being the team leader on both sides of the process, and have made so many lifelong friendships. I think the thing I am most proud of accomplishing is earning my MBA. Not so much because it’s another degree, but at the time I was in the program I was a full time student, a full time director of admission, and I was planning SACAC’s annual conference. While I still don’t know how I did it, I was just so proud to have navigated all of those things at once.
As a professional and individual have there been moments when you felt challenged or unsupported?
I am going to redirect this answer a bit and describe a feeling that I feel more than the two you’ve asked about. More specifically, I often feel heavy. I’m going to paraphrase something that Maya Angelou said in a poem and it was this…though I come alone, I stand as ten thousand. While everyone may understand those words, I think you’d have to be a leader who is often the “only” in a room to truly understand that, and the pressure and expectations it brings with it.
What are ways in which allies/accomplices in the field have/have not shown up for you? What do you wish you would see more of with respect to support from colleagues in this profession?
It has always frustrated and baffled me that in a profession that centers around education, many people continue to place the burden on those who are already burdened to teach those who need to learn. If accomplices educate themselves, there’s no way they can sit on the sidelines.
We realize this has been a trying year for us all, particularly those of us who are members of the BIPOC community. What continues to affirm your passion for your work and the students you serve?
While I am often exhausted, I do realize that I have a platform that comes along with an obligation to use my voice to speak truth. While I am sometimes criticized for not speaking loudly enough, I don’t believe that being the loudest equals being the most impactful. What continues to affirm my passion are the many offline conversations I have with a diverse group of students and professionals day in and day out.
What are things you hope to accomplish in the future professionally or personally?
In some ways I’ve stopped focusing so much on the future. What I really strive to do is to be fully present in the present. My hope is that learning to do that really well will continue to push me toward my more authentic self each day.
What would you like SACAC members to know about ways in which they can better serve their students and support their colleagues?
Silence isn’t always the best policy. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve walked into my office the day after an unarmed black person was shot and none of my white colleagues said a word to me about it. I know that it’s often because they didn’t know what to say, but silence isn’t always being supportive to our colleagues. I try and serve ALL of my students by always making sure they know that I see them and that I am always available to listen and hear them.