October 2, 2023

Melissa Yakabouski: ‘Open House’ Party

As a Mary Washington student in the early ’90s, Melissa Yakabouski was leading campus tours and events for the Admissions office. She couldn’t have known then that more than two decades later, she’d be doing the same thing at Saturday’s UMW Open House. From counselor to director of undergraduate admissions, she’s held an array of responsibilities, even coordinating UMW’s first open houses, called “Super Saturdays.” The one-day events take a year to plan, draw hundreds of guests, and call for plenty of “planning and tweaking,” but Yakabouski’s got it down pat.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski talks with a student staff member

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski talks with a student staff member

Q: What’s a fun alternate name for your position?
A: Chief Plate Spinner

Q: How long have you worked in UMW Admissions?
A: I’m a Mary Washington grad who never left.  But I’m not one to say, “that’s how we’ve always done it.” We have to be innovative and forward-looking in this competitive landscape.

Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: When students have that a-ha moment and you can see they feel at home here.

Q: You play a major role in deciding who gets accepted to UMW. What are the three top adjectives to describe the type of student you’re looking for?
A: Self-motivated, Academic, Engaged

Q: What do you love most about Open House?
A: Honestly, my favorite part is the end of the day when we know we’ve put on a great event, when families walk away with a high-quality introduction to UMW. I’m very proud of Mary Washington and what we offer. I want to do that justice in how we present ourselves to prospective students and guests.

Q: What’s the most tedious task that goes into planning an Open House?
A: Academic Showcase sign set-up is my least favorite part of the day. My secret talent is setting up and breaking down tables, chairs and signs, all while wearing heels and a suit. Seriously, I have a highly skilled, professional team. Planning and running the day successfully is way more about them than me.

Q: What’s one memorable event from a past Open House?
A: At one event, where I help manage bathroom traffic, I engaged a dad in conversation and indicated I was with Admissions. Later that morning after I was onstage introducing the president and other speakers, he found me and said, “you didn’t tell me you were in charge of Admissions.” Nope, I’m just another Admissions team member on bathroom duty.