By Jerry Duggan
After many years in the field of college admissions, Jeff Fuller was ready for a new opportunity: one that allowed him to have more direct contact with students and encouraged him to grow in faith. Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston provided both.
“I have felt at home for the entirety of my five years here at Strake Jesuit,” Fuller said.
After growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, Fuller attended the University of Houston, where he earned dual degrees in journalism and broadcast communications. After about five years, he discerned out of that career path and began working as an admissions officer at his alma mater.
“I had a great experience at the University of Houston as an undergrad, so I was excited to ‘come home’ and work for my alma mater,” he said.
Fuller was promoted time and time again, eventually becoming director of admissions, a position he held for some 15 years.
This was a demanding and time-consuming role; the University of Houston is a large, public, research university. As a result, Fuller saw his level of contact with students dwindle over the years.
“I loved my job at the U. of H. but felt a desire to interact with students on a more regular basis,” he said. “That is what gave my career as an admissions officer so much life.”
A lifelong Catholic, Fuller also had for some time wanted to pursue employment at a Catholic institution.
“Growing up, my mother always told me that if I ever had the opportunity to work for the Jesuits, they were the best Catholic educators,” Fuller recalled. “She has since passed, but I know that she would be quite happy with where I am today.”
In 2017, Strake Jesuit had an opening to lead its college counseling department. Fuller, with his wealth of experience on the ‘other side’ of the college admissions process, was a natural fit for the role. He attributes his experience in college admissions and serving as a past president of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) as to what made him an attractive candidate to Strake Jesuit.
“Helping students discern where they would like to go to college, what they would like to study, and where their passions lie is tremendously rewarding for me,” he said.
While Fuller’s work is not explicitly faith focused, many students at Strake Jesuit express an interest in having their faith be a factor in their college decision-making process. Fuller is happy to provide further direction in such cases.
“My work has a great deal of nuance involved, because there are many factors that go into a college decision,” he said. “It’s rarely as simple as just going to the ‘best’ school.”
There are instances where students have discerned away from attending Catholic schools in favor of other opportunities, yet Fuller has helped them feel at peace with that decision.
“There was recently a student who applied to a selective, Catholic institution where he was a legacy and he was not accepted, but he was accepted at another selective, secular, private institution,” he explained. “This student struggled a lot with his decision – he really wanted to go to a Catholic school – but was invited to play on the water polo team at the secular school.”
Fuller, in line with Jesuit teaching, encouraged the student to find God in this perplexing situation.
“I explained to him that, if that invitation to play on the team wasn’t a sign from God, I don’t know what was.”
He also finds meaning in witnessing students mature and grow in real time.
“Starting to work with these students early on, watching them mature during their time here, and often come back to visit after, I can see these young men transform into leaders and men of great faith,” he said. “That kind of relationship-building and personal contact with students is why I’m here.”