Staff Highlight: Abby M.

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Category: Back-to-School, College Admissions, Duke University, Inspirational Q & A, Leadership, Wellness

Abby M.
At Green Ivy, we are fortunate to have a wonderful staff, each of whom bring a wealth of experience to our office. In some upcoming posts, we will be featuring our staff so you can get to know a bit more about them, and understand how their approach creates growth.
Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, go to college, and what brought you to Green Ivy?

I was born in Montana, but we moved to Oregon when I was eight. I lived there until I was 18, when I graduated early from high school and moved to Southern California in order to get residency for college. I ended up graduating from UC Berkley and lived in Seattle and LA afterwards, working in marketing and promotions before getting my MFA at UC Irvine. Since graduate school, I’ve taught a variety of subjects, including creative and academic writing, language arts skills and SAT/ACT test prep. For the last several years, I’ve worked with students on college admissions, something I find both challenging and rewarding. I came to Green Ivy given its philosophy of student empowerment and goal of nurturing students as complex individuals with a range of learning styles and needs.

You spend a great deal of time at Green Ivy helping students with their college applications. What is your favorite part of the college application process, and why?

I have two favorite aspects of the process, but they are closely related: helping a student find his or her stories and in turn, unique voice. It makes the application process about unearthing passions, joys, successes and failures in a way that can be a source of growth and reflection, as opposed to a stress-filled competition that leaves students exhausted and drained.

How do you think students (and parents) stress out unnecessarily over the college application process? What are some important ways to maintain sanity?

I think a lot of unnecessary stress from both students and parents comes in the form of pursing perfection in everything from academics, extracurricular activities and test scores, to the applications themselves. There’s a preoccupation with achieving the “perfect” way of presenting a student that will be globally appealing to all colleges, when the truth is, the process should be about finding the best fit between school and student. (Also, the perfect application doesn’t exist; it’s an urban legend.) I think the best way to maintain sanity is by treating the application process as just that—a process of uncovering and then illustrating a student’s genuine strengths and interests, and matching that to the best environments where he or she will thrive and grow. College is supposed to about exploration, not already knowing exactly who you want to be or what you want to do with your life before you’ve even graduated high school! Another great way to prevent stress is to start early on everything from filling out the application to drafting essays, preferably the summer before senior year. From there, we like to set a goal of having all apps submitted by Thanksgiving so that everyone can relax and enjoy winter break. (And so that pulling all-nighters on New Year’s Eve to finish college applications will also become the stuff of urban legend.)

You’ve had several different jobs since graduating from UC Berkeley. How do you think your prior experiences contribute to your success at Green Ivy?
Trying several different jobs (and careers) before coming to Green Ivy allowed me to uncover my passion for teaching. I was also fairly miserable in the corporate world, so this was a huge impetus to find a different path. With that, I bring a clear sense of what my strengths are and how best to use them to help students succeed. In terms of happiness and fulfillment, there is no comparison for me in terms of having searched out a career I love, as opposed to settling for a job that pays the bills.

What is a study tip or trick you encourage students to use to manage their time well?

Flashcards! They are old school, but they work. I also encourage students to make physical ones as opposed to digital versions, as I believe the act of writing down terms and definitions helps solidify memorization. If students make and review a few a day in the weeks before a test, they will save themselves hours of cramming at the last minute.

Any fun vacation plans or hobbies this summer?

My son just turned one and has yet to see the ocean, so we are hoping to get to Santa Cruz, Monterey and Big Sur this summer.

What is your own latest writing project?

I’m sketching out some essays about becoming a mom later in life, and all the joys, challenges, surprises and hilarious moments that come with it.


Favorite breakfast: Sunday scramble, complete with avocados, bacon, goat cheese and caramelized onions.
Favorite workout: A long run at Shoreline.
Last book you read for fun: The Nakeds, by Lisa Glatt—my first writing teacher and mentor.
Hobby that helps you relax: Reading, but as a new mom, there’s not much time for it! In its place, I would say my current Zen-ish hobby is watching my son play. There’s nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of a toddler.
Healthy ways you manage stress: Exercise and writing.

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