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Doctoral student demonstrates natural leadership, dedication to service

Adrienne McDay

There are not many people who can say they have bested Jim Belushi routinely in speech debate. But for Adrienne McDay, a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations (EAF), it was a regular occurrence for her while she earned her degree in speech from Southern Illinois University.

Relatively speaking, friends and colleagues of McDay probably find this accomplishment of hers rather commonplace.

Since her days palling around with that famous son of Chicago, McDay has carved out a successful 32-year career serving in multiple roles within academic and enrollment services in higher education. Her experience and exemplary leadership helped her to rise to the position of the President of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (AACRAO). She will begin that role with the organization in April, after previously serving as the state chapter president and as a board member.

AACRAO is one of the oldest academic professional organizations in the world and represents more than 2,600 institutions and agencies, as well as 11,000-plus admission and registration professionals from 40 countries.

“I had no idea that I would have been catapulted to this type of position,” McDay said.

Based on her résumé, however, it is clear to see why she gained the respect and confidence of her colleagues.

McDay began her career as a registration clerk at National Louis University (formerly the National College of Education). McDay tips her hat to the culture of encouragement present in the registrar’s office, as it motivated her to seize just about every relevant professional development opportunity that came her way. By the time she left the institution to become the coordinator of enrollment services for William Rainey Harper College, she had served in just about every position within the registrar’s office, including as registrar.

Beyond her professional career, McDay has continuously remained involved in community action groups and church groups, and she has served in several capacities for organizations at the regional, state, and national levels.

“In leadership, I think that you kind of just have to take the reins,” said McDay. “I believe that I can help with mentoring and nurturing and assisting somebody else that is coming behind me. And then maybe in 10 or 15 years, there will be somebody else that will want to step into a leadership position.”

Moving forward with AACRAO, she hopes to use this philosophy to make a long-term impact on the workforce.

“Two of the things that I’m going to really focus on are the recruitment of younger people and admissions professionals,” said McDay. “It is very important that the people that recruit for our institutions have a place where they can come in and lead, organize, and research.”

McDay credits her excellent education at Illinois State for developing her competencies in her roles with AACRAO and Harper.

“I think that (the College of Education) has the best faculty in the world, and I don’t say that lightly,” said McDay. “They are very committed to their students.

“I think what this education has done is allowed me to gain a new perspective and to apply the practical at the institutional level.”

Her positive experience with Illinois State faculty has been mutual. Those who come into contact with McDay, including EAF department chair Wendy Troxel, M.S. ’85, laud the value she has brought to the program.

“McDay is an amazing professional, an impressive scholar, and an even more wonderful human being,” Troxel said.

Southern Illinois University also recognized their distinguished alumnae and former sorority leader in February when they asked McDay to be the keynote speaker for their Greek Summit. Weaved within the inspiring stories she told students was the importance of their commitment to service.

“You never know where you’re going to end up, or who is going to assist you,” said McDay. “You just know that within yourself, your job is to serve. And if you serve, you will be able to do whatever it is that you need to do through your service.”