For many Fordies, admissions director Beth Soboleski (MPP '89) was the first person they met at Michigan. Beth is retiring this spring after 20 years of recruiting and welcoming new students at the Ford School. State & Hill sat down with her on March 13, the day she sent admissions letters to her final MPP class.
State & Hill: Today is your 19th admissions day. How does it feel to look back?
Beth Soboleski: It's surreal. I was only supposed to be at the Ford School for 3–4 months! In 2002, Dean Becky Blank didn't have anyone to do admissions, and she reached out to my former boss, Sue Eklund (at the Michigan Administrative Information Systems), for suggestions. Sue thought I'd be a great fit, so I was lent to the Ford School. In the first few months I read all of the prospective student files, I organized two spring preview events, and we admitted a great class that year. In August, Trey Williams, who was the new director of student and academic services, and Dean Blank created a new position so I could stay on with the school.
S&H: How has the school changed over the past 20 years?
BS: The school has grown! When we were at Lorch everyone shared one kitchen. We had one conference room, and when the room was packed we couldn't open the door!
Weill Hall gave us a lot more room to grow, and when we launched the BA program in 2007, the school grew a lot. Creating that BA program was different from anything we had done before, and John Chamberlin was an amazing founding director. I recall sitting on the diag at Festifall to recruit students into the program before we knew what the content of the program was going to be. But that first BA class was really a terrific bunch.
S&H: What do you love about Ford School students?
BS: I just love the fact that our students are focused on making the world a better place. I know it's cliche, but no matter who I talk to and the type of change they want to make, they are outward-looking and they are altruistic. It's a big investment for them, but our students are preparing for a career that will make a positive difference in the world.
S&H: Can you share a memory or two that will stick with you into retirement?
BS: There are a million of them. It was really incredible listening to Hilary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice at the Weiser Diplomacy Center kickoff events. I loved seeing President Ford interacting with students.
S&H: What's next for you?
BS: This summer I plan to spend more time in northern Michigan—collecting sap and making maple syrup and growing blueberries. In the fall, I'll definitely be going to the Big House. And I plan on attending some away games, which I've never had time to do. But not the Horseshoe!
I really feel so fortunate to have been part of this community for as long as I have. And I'm excited to continue to be part of it as an alum cheering everyone on.
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