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Introducing the Director

Shawn FeltonGreetings from Cornell University! My name is Shawn Felton and I am the Director of Undergraduate Admissions.

I’m a 40-something living in Ithaca, New York who has called a number of places home–Chesapeake & Charlottesville, Virginia; Granbury, Texas; Providence, Rhode Island (these are the places I lived the longest); and a few more places in between. My family moved a lot when I was growing up and this gave me a great appreciation for people and developing relationships. After this moving spree, as I called it, I returned to Virginia for college and graduate school. I studied music composition, computer music, and African American music, and my intellectual interests in ethnographic writing, technology, communication, and discourse around performance and culture were cultivated.

Fast forward a decade or two and I’ve now had the great pleasure of working in admissions at Cornell University for just over 10 years. I read somewhere that most of us will have many jobs during our lifetimes–as many as five to ten. I seem to be well on my way! Prior to coming to Cornell and Upstate New York, I was an admissions officer at a highly selective state university. I have also worked in university communications. And I taught college music. I’ll share that I started with my various jobs very early. In college, I trained to be a university bus driver! Yes, you read that right. I drove the bus to help pay for my undergraduate education. (Let’s just assume that my musical abilities were directly related to the mechanical orientation needed to operate those massive buses!) Some of my friends probably thought, at first, that I was out of my mind. They may have been right because, honestly, I didn’t have the time to spare. But, like many students, I needed the money. I romanticized what it would be like to be a driver, and I was fortunate that it turned out very close to what I had imagined. I wore a really “cool” blue jacket. I played and listened (with my passengers) to my favorite music on my boom box—everything from French Classical Music to Janet Jackson to music from Western Africa. I met and interacted with a lot of people. And I developed a confident in-traffic ego (along with great forearm strength from the crank steering wheel) that still comes in handy today. But I also realized that being a bus driver is much harder, stressful, and dangerous than it looks. The responsibility was really beyond my own comprehension at the time. But all my experiences, from moving so many times to driving the bus make me who I am, and I am grateful for all those challenges and opportunities.

Thankfully, college admissions is where I have landed (and not completely by accident) and it’s an exciting place to be. I am so grateful for my own growth in both college and graduate school, and my current work in admissions keeps me connected to a powerful experience that has helped to shape me. I really can’t imagine doing anything else – but I’m not up to 10 jobs yet!

Thanks for reading about me. I hope to write often to share more about my perspective on Cornell University admissions, the college search and the application processes.

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