College Board CEO David Coleman (‘87) Speaks at Stuyvesant

Junior Caucus hosts a Guest Speaker event with Stuyvesant alumnus (‘87) and College Board CEO David Coleman

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The Junior Caucus, in collaboration with the Stuyvesant administration, hosted a guest speaker event on April 4 featuring Stuyvesant alumnus and College Board CEO David Coleman (‘87) in Lecture Hall B. All students were encouraged to attend the talk, and it had a turnout of around 70 students. The guest speaker event centered around Coleman’s experience at Stuyvesant, his path to becoming the CEO of College Board, and his thoughts on the college admissions process. At the end of the talk, Coleman focused on answering questions that were filtered by the administration and the Junior Caucus, as well as any unfiltered questions that attendees had.

Junior Caucus Co-Directors of Outreach Soham Mukherjee and Monica Lai first reached out to College Board in January. “We directly e-mailed [Mr. Coleman] and hoped for the best,” Mukherjee said in an e-mail interview. “Pretty soon, after a couple Zoom meetings and some e-mails back and forth [with the College Board executive team], the event truly started materializing.”

Despite active communication with the College Board executive team, the Junior Caucus experienced difficulties in working out an exact date for the event. “The College Board representative [had] to go over every detail [of the event], but [there was also] the issue of the event [initially] being on a parent-teacher conference day, which we didn't initially know [about],” Lai said. “So we had to move it back one week and that just skewed everything up with all the planning.”

In addition to the logistical setbacks, one of the primary concerns for the event was the open questionnaire segment at the end of the talk. “Given the fact that some students don't [look] favorably upon the College Board, the [administration] was involved in case there [were] any controversial questions,” Junior Caucus Co-President Margaret Mikhalevsky said. “[Though] there was a list of pre-approved questions toward the end, what I was worried might happen was that there would be people who attend [and target] David Coleman.”

Another issue that arose on the day of the talk was the location, which students had to switch from the theater to the lecture hall due to the smaller turnout. “A lot fewer people turned up than we thought, but that was pretty standard for events,” Lai said. “At the last minute, we switched to the lecture hall just because there was the right amount [of people] for the lecture hall.”

Despite the difficulties that came with organizing the event, Mikhalevsky felt that it was beneficial to have Stuyvesant alumni working in the educational sector speak to Stuyvesant students, as it allowed students to gain a new perspective on potential careers. “It was good to see a Stuy alum[nus] working in an academic-related field, because I know a lot of students are determined to go into STEM fields or business fields,” Mikhalevsky said. “A lot of us aren't really interested in going to the academic sector.”

Mukherjee agrees with this sentiment and also believes that the talk can help redefine the student body’s sentiment toward the College Board. “I think it was valuable for our students to hear his own experiences [throughout] high school and what motivated him to pursue this career leading up to his role at College Board,” Mukherjee said. “It also helped to dismiss some misconceptions that some of our students may have held regarding College Board or college admissions as a whole.”

Sophomore Jenny Tan also believes the event to have been successful as Coleman provided a different outlook on which areas of school students should prioritize. “Most people heavily emphasize the importance of grades and college, and you would expect the CEO of College Board to do that too, but he went against all of that,” Tan said. “I learned that grades and extracurriculars are not nearly as important to our college applications as we think and that enjoying yourself is much more important.”

Coleman also expressed that the quantity of Advanced Placement (AP) classes should be valued to a lesser extent and even proposed the idea of enforcing a limit to the number of AP classes a student can take. “He said that it is better to take fewer APs, but instead to focus on the types of APs you want to take and really to approach them thoroughly,” sophomore Aeneas Merchant said in an e-mail interview. “He said that in the future, he has been thinking about putting a cap on how many AP courses people can take for this express reason. He mentioned a possible cap of five at the time.”

Students found that the discussion with Coleman has dissolved some of their stress in regard to grades and college admissions. “Especially with Stuy being so hyper-focused about grades and APs, his perspective was liberating to some extent,” Merchant said. “I am always going to be worried about my grades, but at least that worry will be a little less from now on.”

As for future events hosted by the Junior Caucus, Lai hopes that communication with the administration can be more efficient. “The one thing that really [complicated] the event was the date. I think that could have easily been avoided had both parties been more communicative,” Lai said.

In reflecting on these logistical issues, Mikhalvesky hopes to use this event as a learning experience t o create better, more informative events in the future. “If we do get re-elected, we would like to have more guest speaker events and plan them further in advance,” Mikhalvesky said.

The Junior Caucus has already begun formulating plans regarding potential speaker events. “Outreach is thinking of potentially organizing some sort of research-related speaker panel [and] having researchers from different areas of study come and speak on a diverse range of topics,” Mukherjee said.