Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
As a Haverford graduate, 15-year veteran of the college counseling field, and former Associate Admissions Director at MIT, Brandeis, and Haverford, Joseph “J.T.” Duck fits the bill of admissions director perfectly.
“[College counseling] has become my career…it’s something I genuinely get very excited about,” he laughed. “The biggest reason why I decided to pursue this job was because I felt there was a strong match between Swarthmore’s mission and what I want to do in admissions. It’s a place for social responsibility, where every student matters.”
After graduating from Haverford in the class of 1999, Duck remained in the Philadelphia area until moving to Boston eight years ago. There, Duck went on to receive his Masters in Education from Harvard University in 2007 and worked for Brandeis University, Boston University Academy and MIT. “[At Boston University Academy] I was working with really bright kids, many of whom are Swatties by nature—they’re very intellectual, very smart, they like to push the envelope in really interesting ways.”
Advising Boston University Academy students gave Duck insight into how prospective students approach their college search. He looks to apply his knowledge of high schoolers’ perspectives in focusing the way Swarthmore markets itself to potential applicants.
“Working with [students] and their families as they worked through the college process gave me fantastic insight into how smart kids approach the college search process—what resonates with them in terms of marketing when they go out and do these campus tours, how they fill out an application.” Duck said, “I’m hoping to use some of that perspective here in this position.”
Duck’s experience advising high school students has given him a genuine concern for the welfare of students. In an encouraging New York Times article written last year for high school seniors applying to college, Duck encourages students to make time for friends, be proud of their accomplishments, and pay it forward. “Play the role you wish knowledgeable seniors ahead of you had played when you were first starting out. In doing so, you will realize just how far you have come […]”
After working MIT and Brandeis’ admissions offices as an Associate Director for Admissions, Duck welcomed his return to Philadelphia after eight years. “One of the remarkable things about this place is how true to itself it is—how true to the college each freshman class has been. Swarthmore has an identity, so I think that the freshman classes kind of replicate that, year after year, which I think is awesome,” he said.
Regarding long term goals, Duck hopes to utilize Swarthmore’s abundance of resources to broadcast Swarthmore to the national stage and help the office leverage technology to facilitate both internal and external workings of admissions.
“I want people to know about Swarthmore, that we are getting our name out there as much as possible. Part of that is how we communicate with the media, part of that’s serving on panels, part of that’s our visits all over the country and all over the world.”
Technologically, Duck wants to rethink and explore the admissions website, email systems, and databases, and evaluate how the admissions office uses its data effectively.
Lastly, Duck places a strong emphasis on a positive work environment: “I want people to be happy, I want this to be a happy staff and a happy office, I want people to love coming to work, I want it to be a fun place to work—that’s less something that the wider community would know about, but is certainly something that is a goal of mine as Director of this office.”