An open letter to the Georgia Tech community

Photo courtesy of Rob Felt

Inevitably, right after we release admission decisions, I’ll be walking around campus or in a meeting and someone will say, “I would not want your job.”

This is normally because they’ve just heard from someone in their neighborhood who is upset about not being admitted and they begin to imagine that type of vitriol and anger at ten or 100 fold. And, like all of us, there are times (usually after someone confronts me at the gym or my kids’ school) where I’ve got that momentary thought that a trade sounds pretty good.

But then I realize they do not see what I see. They see the people and hear the stories of the students and families who were not admitted; they hear the frustration and disappointment and confusion. I want you to know that I see you.

Most of you enter Tech basically knowing me as “the email guy” or perhaps vaguely from your admission letter or a talk at your high school or open house program. Maybe while on campus you’ve seen my name or picture on a Daily Digest feed.

But remember some of those agonizing days and nights in high school when you were working on your admission essays and crafting your short answer responses or figuring out if you should list French Club or Beta Club first on your application? Yeah, I read those.

Each year our staff reads every single one of the applications we receive. As an admitted student your application was read at least two or three times. And it’s not at all uncommon for four or even five people to review it. I want you to know that I know you.

In the media and on websites and in most communities, the story quickly becomes “average” GPAs or median SAT/ACT scores or some other quick metric like the number of AP/IB courses a student has taken. On powerpoint slides and graphics we create “class profiles” that categorize into major or college or geography or ethnicity or gender.

But the truth is that when we are deliberating over which students to offer admission to, our discussions surround the ways you have impacted those around you in high school — your family, your friends, your teammates, your fellow co-workers or club members or researchers.

We are not focused on comma splices or italics in your essays, but instead view your writing as a series of promises and commitments of what you will do when you arrive on campus.

Our process is not perfect. I’ll be the first to attest that each year there are literally thousands of great students we do not offer admission to that would “do well here.” But our decision to admit you was not a mistake. We did not miscode your application. You were chosen. You were invited. I want you to know that I believe in you.

And that leads me to today. After fourteen years at Tech, this is my first open letter to The Technique. It comes after the most painful and dark few weeks of my professional career. Our community is wounded. Our community is grieving. Our community. The community that you have been invited into because of who you are as an individual, but even more importantly who you are in your ability to impact, empathize, listen, heal, and encourage others. I want you to know that I trust you.     

I see the year ahead being a challenging one for all of us. Not for many of the reasons that have been written about and discussed to this point, but because by and large you all work quickly. You are by nature fast, driven, type A. You are grinders and workers. You will cram and make deadlines. You will sacrifice sleep to achieve. But I have found that Progress and Service are slow; community is longitudinal; trust is built over time.

We are not going to solve these problems over night or even over a series of nights. There is no formula to memorize or theory to apply. The year ahead will demand us slowing down. It will require a commitment to community; grace in grief; patience amidst passion; and above all else love. I want you to know I love you.