September 8, 2003

Shades of Grey

By Eric Rangus

Chris Grey was in ninth grade when he decided he wanted to come to Emory.

An acquaintance asked him one day, “Where do you want to go to college?”
Grey, whose parents had not attended college, really hadn’t given it much thought. “I don’t know,” he replied.

This acquaintance, who was a pretty serious person for a freshman in high school—he wore neckties to class—gave Grey a brochure on Emory’s School of Medicine.

While growing up in Orlando, Fla., Grey had heard about the big state schools, Florida State and Florida. He’d heard about the state’s major African-American university (Florida A&M), too, but he didn’t want to get lost among tens of thousands of students at a big state institution. And he didn’t want to go up north to an Ivy League university.

But that Emory place he read about sounded pretty good.

And throughout high school, whenever Grey would talk about Emory as the place where he wanted to go to college, people would say, “Wow.”

“I couldn't help but think, ‘I must’ve hit a gold mine,’” Grey said with a laugh.
So, in 1994, when Grey graduated high school, he entered Emory in the fall. He was, like so many freshmen, interested in pre-med, but Grey eventually graduated in 1998 with a BBA from the Goizueta Business School, majoring in finance and organization & management.

One month after his Commencement, Grey got a job as a consultant, and he was on his way. He remained in Atlanta, though, keeping close ties with the Association of Emory Alumni and staying active as an alumnus. He also was an advisor to his college fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha.

In June 2000, Grey got a job in the still-booming dotcom industry. Things were going superbly—until January of the next year when Grey, along with almost all of his co-workers, was laid off.

Unsure of his next move, just like when he was in ninth grade, Grey ended up at Emory.

One day, Grey was talking to a friend from Alpha Phi Alpha, who told him of a job that was about to open in the Office of Admission. “You’d be perfect!” the friend promised.

Approachable, outgoing, gregarious and possessing a frequent and genuine laugh, Grey has a completely trustworthy vibe. In the business of recruiting students, it’s easy to come off like a snake oil salesman. Grey, though, is someone a stranger could immediately latch onto. He was perfect for the Office of Admission.

Which is where he sits today.

“I wanted a job I was going to enjoy getting up in the morning to do,” said Grey, assistant dean of admission and director of multicultural recruitment. “The most important thing to me is job satisfaction.

“My best recruiting strategy is to always give personal stories,” he continued. “Whether it is my time at Emory or a story having to do with students I currently mentor on campus. In that way, I think people don’t necessarily see me as the ‘salesman of Emory University’; they feel it’s a bit more personal.”

Grey clearly loves his job, and that’s important because there is a lot of job to love.

From now until November is travel time. Grey will be on the road, talking up Emory and meeting with students and parents at high schools and college fairs all over his recruiting area (which encompasses Alabama, Louisiana and Maryland, as well as DeKalb County and Atlanta city schools). For instance, this week, Grey travels from Birmingham, Ala., to Montgomery, back to Birmingham, then to Huntsville, then back to Atlanta, all in six days.

Over the last two weeks of September, Grey will barnstorm metro Atlanta schools; at the end of the month, he’ll be in Baltimore and Washington. On the weekends in between, he’ll help host visiting prospective students on campus.

“The weekends are taken. Everything is taken,” Grey laughed. “The personal life gets put on hold.”

November through March is the reading season. Emory receives more than 10,000 applications each year, and they have to be sifted through sometime. Last year, Grey read between 1,100 and 1,300 of them.

The final decision about whether a student is admitted falls on Dean Dan Walls, but the admission staff, including Grey, has a lot of input.

“It’s very difficult to make those decisions,” Grey said. “I remember my first year, everyone called me ‘The Nice One.’ I was always looking for reasons to admit a student. We kid about it, but we’re the Office of Admission, not the Office of Denial.”

Decision letters are mailed in late March. April is visitation month. The campus is crawling with prospective freshman and Grey is one of the hosts. May is when the waiting list gets cleared—those applicants who didn’t quite make the first cut are slotted into suddenly available openings. By Memorial Day, “We’re hoping the class is set and we can breathe,” Grey said. “That’s when it’s time to take a vacation.”

Admission office staff members, since they are in the public eye all the time, are a crucial part of the Emory community. Yet it’s very easy for them to be detached from it. “You can come to work and go home and not have to be that active on campus because your audience for the most part is outside the University,” Grey said. “But I can’t do that. I want to see the people I’ve recruited. What are they doing? What are they getting involved in? My office has a revolving door.”

It’s a door that Grey has to close every once in a while just to get work done, as it is common for students he has recruited to visit him. But being active on campus is something that has never been a problem for Grey.

“I was overly involved,” Grey said of his years as an Emory student. In addition to doing a lot of volunteer work with Alpha Phi Alpha, he was president of the Black and Latino Business Association, chief justice of the Student Government Association’s Constitutional Council, an orientation leader, a sophomore advisor, a residence hall advisor, and member of DVS, the senior society.

His volunteer and professional activity as a staff member matches, probably exceeds, his student interests since practically all of it is done on top of his day-to-day responsibilities. Grey sits on the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities and the Latino Task Force; he is president of the Caucus of Emory Black Alumni, an appointed member of the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling (SACAC) Human Relations Committee. He volunteers at college prep workshops at the Atlanta-Fulton County Library, and he is a campus adviser for the Black Student Alliance, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Society of African American Leaders, NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha.

Keeping busy is not a problem, and as the admission office’s director of multicultural recruitment, Grey oversees two additional program: The MLK Scholars, who are Emory students of all races who graduated from the Atlanta Public School system; and Essence of Emory, a four-day, three-night program every April that Grey described as a multicultural visitation weekend. Geared toward African American and Hispanic students, Essence at Emory gives them the run of the campus, the chance to talk with faculty and students, and the opportunity to visit a class before returning home. For students who live more than six hours away from Atlanta and might have a problem paying for travel, the University often will pick up the tab.

“Once we can get the students to come to campus, we’ll have a higher yield
on those who have actually visited Emory as opposed to students who haven’t,”
Grey said.

“When I came here and I was told, ‘Here’s your job description,’ and those two programs were the things that were given to me,” Grey continued. “There are a lot of other things I’ve just taken up. Partly, I think, because I was an alum, and the other part because I just don’t know how to say no.”

There are surely many people on campus who hope Grey doesn’t learn anytime soon.