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Ally Paauwe: Welcoming new and prospective students to Emory

Ally Paauwe is a public relations assistant in the Admission Office.

As thousands of admitted and prospective students flock to Emory's Atlanta and Oxford campuses in the coming weeks, Ally Paauwe has a pretty good idea how they'll be feeling.

Excited, anxious, curious, hopeful — she remembers it all. As a 2011 graduate of Indiana State University, it wasn't that long ago that Paauwe was choosing her own college path.

These days, she sees the ritual of campus visitation from the opposite end of the spectrum, working as a public relations assistant in Emory's Undergraduate Admission Office.  

A relatively new hire — she began work in November 2012 — Paauwe benefits from seeing the campus with fresh eyes and the still-familiar perspective of what it was like to select a college. With a job that requires a unique blend of skills in problem-solving, hand-holding and hospitality, Paauwe realizes that she may help create the first impression a visiting student has of Emory.  

Surprisingly, she credits an extensive — and well-traveled — history in dance performance for giving her the confidence needed to meet the public so easily.  

As Paauwe and the Admission Office prepare to welcome a wave of visiting high school students and parents over the next month, she talked with Emory Report about what it's like to prepare for her busiest time of the year:  

Where does your Emory story begin?  

I'm from Terre Haute, Indiana, about 70 miles west of Indianapolis, so a little far from here. I graduated from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, where I majored in public relations and minored in dance. For a year I worked at a dance studio in Indiana, then in August I moved here and started working for Emory in November.  

Why Atlanta?  

My boyfriend is in graduate school at Georgia Tech, so I saw an opportunity to move somewhere new, make new connections and try new things. In the job search I came across Emory and discovered a beautiful campus. It felt like it was a good fit for me — not too big, not too small. I started researching it and could see myself being here. I just really love this area. It's in Atlanta, but set apart from the chaos of downtown.  

So is this essentially your first job out of college?  

This is my first job in the communications field, officially. I did an internship in college and was part of the Public Relations Student Society of America at Indiana State. Those were really good opportunities to do a couple of things here and there, but this is real-time PR and communications. It's been a great introduction. The longer I'm here, the more responsibility I get, so I think it's a good place for me.  

What kind of work are you doing in the Undergraduate Admission Office? 

As a public relations assistant, I'm part of the communications team. We're kind of the front line of the office, replying to emails, fielding calls, directing inquiries, greeting our visitors. I'm also on a team that helps out with publications that appear in print and on the web and with materials that need to be distributed.  

Next month, students will be all over campus deciding if Emory is right for them. What's going on in your office to prepare for that?

Right now, we are receiving a lot of phone calls and emails from people just checking on their documents, making sure everything is set. We try to calm their nerves when they call. In the next couple of weeks we'll be seeing a lot of visitors. (The) last week of March (is) completely booked (with roughly 1,000 prospective high school students), so we're prepping for that week. Then in April we have three full-day open houses (April 8, 15 and 19) for admitted students to come and experience campus once again. My role is to be alert and ready to help with whatever comes our way.  

The student experience is still pretty fresh for you. What's it like to work around?

It's really nice. The students are eager, they have a lot of questions, they go into the (orientation) session smiling, they take a tour, they come back and say they had a great time. It's nice to see them so excited about something so new, because it could be scary applying to colleges. But I see more excitement than feelings of being overwhelmed.  

How did dance enter into the picture for you?

I started dancing when I was 3, so over 20 years ago. At first, I remember being really scared — at one of my first classes I hid under a chair! After a couple of weeks I grew out of that, and was excited to be dancing. In middle school I tried out for the dance team, and I danced in high school as well. My senior year of high school, I auditioned to be part of the Universal Dance Association (UDA) staff.  

UDA is an international dance organization that falls under the Varsity (brand) umbrella. The focus is in the U.S., but we also do competitions and clinics for organizations around the world. Luckily, I was invited to join the staff and started working at summer dance camps in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky. After three years, I started serving as head instructor at the camps — kind of the camp host, making sure things ran smoothly.  

It sounds as if your dance life took an international turn recently.  

This past December I had the chance (through UDA) to go to London to participate in the New Year's Day parade, which was amazing. We had about 2,400 people in London for a week — one of the biggest groups they've ever hosted. These were kids who tried out through UDA or UCA (Universal Cheer Association). If selected as an All-American, they got to go to London. We were assigned a group of dancers or cheerleaders to work with, watched over them and did all the typical tourism things. The parade was a blast — the sun was shining, no rain at all, which was a surprise to everyone.  

On an aesthetic level, what has dance given you?  

I feel like dance gave me confidence. It really helped with choosing to pursue communications and public relations. Performing before a crowd — be it 20 or 1,000 people — made me unafraid to try things. It also taught me how to multi-task, balancing schoolwork with other organizations and obligations.  

And it taught me about teamwork, relying on people, letting other people help you, being there for others. That teamwork aspect was really important. Dancing was my outlet, my passion, and something that I still enjoy. And it's always there. You can always dance. It just makes me happy.

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