May 28, 2023

Katherine Lister: Apply Yourself

More than a million prospective college students complete the Common App each year. At Mary Washington, that means going through Katherine Lister.

Director of Admissions Katherine Lister handles operations and the data that flows through the Student Information System. Photo by Matthew Sanders.

Director of Admissions Katherine Lister handles operations and the data that flows through UMW’s Student Information System. Photo by Matthew Sanders.

As an associate director of admissions, Lister works in operations, maintaining and managing the many application systems available to future UMW students. It’s a behind-the-scenes job that deals with data, and plenty of it – all the facts and figures that flow through Mary Washington’s Student Information System. And Lister likes it that way.

She earned a master’s degree in higher education administration from George Mason University, where she worked before heading to Fredericksburg. Fate, she said, brought her to Double Drive and an open position in the Office of Financial Aid, where she managed scholarships and student loans. That and her pre-UMW experience provided a perfect segue to her current role, where she juggles deadlines and works closely with IT.

As part of the admissions team, Lister also attends open houses and Destination Days, where she sometimes sees the young people whose data she’s most likely processed along the way. Like the force that brought her to campus, those meetings can seem like their own type of fate.

“As a first-generation student myself, my interest in financial aid stemmed from my own journey through college,” said Lister, who also serves as the admissions liaison for athletics. “I enjoy helping students make their way through the admission and enrollment process.”

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Making the application process faster and easier for our students – and for the admissions team to review those applications. I love to streamline things and am always looking for ways to improve. I also find it very rewarding when a project works as it was designed, especially if it makes it easier for students.

Q: What’s the most challenging?
A: Changes. Admissions operations often has to pivot to keep up with the environment. It could mean redesigning a letter, updating a report or reprogramming how we receive data.

Q: What do your duties as the athletics liaison for admissions entail?
A: I work with our coaches to help them build their teams. They often need quick responses about applicants and their processing, and my position gives me the availability and presence to do so.

Q: What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: They might find it funny that I was in the marching band in school. I played the euphonium or baritone. Even more startling is how much I enjoyed it. One of my greatest moments was playing the theme song to M*A*S*H with the U.S. Army Band.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: I don’t really have a motto but firmly believe we all lead by example.