As dean of admissions and financial aid, Bill Allen has supervised both offices for more than a year. He’s crunched numbers and devised strategies. He’s even staffed a college fair or two when we couldn’t clone ourselves sufficiently. But who is this friendly, thoughtful — and very, very tall — man really? You’re about to find out!
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I really enjoy seeing students go from juniors and seniors in high school to college graduates. It can be a remarkable transformation. I am lucky in that I get to know students sometimes for five or six years through the entire admissions and enrollment process.
Where did you grow up? And how did you end up here?
I grew up in Johnstown, N.Y. — a very small city on the southern end of the Adirondack Park. My wife is originally from Mississippi and grew up in Virginia. We love the region. I came to Sweet Briar because of the recent story and thought I could make a difference here. It is such a great campus with tremendous potential!
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy a good book, hiking, and my son and I are trying to restore a 1965 Chevrolet Corvair. I am also hoping we can get back to traveling a little more soon.
When you started college, what was your biggest fear?
I went to George Washington University in D.C. — in many ways, that is a long way from Johnstown. So, from what I remember, I was worried about making the transition and fitting in. As a first-generation Pell Grant recipient, I really did have to deal with many issues on my own. However, it was a wonderful experience and a great place to get an education. I made some great friends quickly and we helped each other out a lot. So all turned out well.
How and when did you figure out what to do after college?
My first job after graduation was for the executive office of the president. It was an amazing opportunity and I jumped at it. I had been a student worker there for years, so I never gave that much thought. I just needed a job and it worked out. Later, I finished my master’s degree and worked as a temp for Mary Baldwin College. I’ve stayed with higher education ever since.
Which question do you get the most at college fairs — and what’s your answer?
I actually don’t do a lot of fairs, but I try to get out for a week or so each year just to see how things are working. A frequent question is, “Do you have x major?” This just opens the door for conversation. I love to talk, so I just give students a chance to let me know what they are hoping to get into, and then I try to help them from there.
What advice do you have for high school seniors? What should they be doing right now?
They need to be thinking about getting their Sweet Briar application done! Then they should also be thinking about where else they want to apply. Hopefully they have visited schools already — if not, they need to plan some visits for the fall. Two big things: Sit down with your parents and have a conversation about your college plan ASAP if you have not done so already. Families need to be on the same page as much as possible. Also, talk with people you hope to be your references early to get that done before the rush in a month or two.
If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?
The ability to live without sleep — so much to do, so little time.
What’s the most surprising thing about you?
I love to camp. We have not been able to do very much of it in the last few years and I truly miss it. My family has been on two cross-country camping trips when our kids were younger. We live in an amazing country; there is so much to see and do, and so many really interesting people no matter where you go. When we traveled, it just seemed to always turn into some sort of adventure.
Describe yourself in three words.
Hard working, dedicated, sharp-witted
What makes Sweet Briar a great fit for young women?
I think it truly helps women find their voice and become leaders. I hear amazing story after amazing story on what Sweet Briar has meant to our alumnae.