Positive influences guide ’Berg’s new Director of Admission

Heidelberg’s new Director of Admission is someone who has performed almost all of the positions in the office, dating back to her days as a ’Berg undergrad. Sara (Gebhardt) Rowlinson was promoted from assistant director in December. 

Sara’s path to Heidelberg more than eight years ago will resonate with many of our current students as well as prospective students. She comes from a small town and initially told her mom she wouldn’t consider Heidelberg because it was too close to home.

But there were some outside influences at play – including that first time on campus after she agreed to visit and a couple of alumni mentors who helped persuade her. And she’s glad they did!

Landing at Heidelberg

Sara grew up in the agriculture community of Bucyrus, Ohio, about 30 miles from Heidelberg. “I told my mom I wasn’t visiting Heidelberg because it was too close,” she recalls. “But I tried on every single college and I didn’t like any of them.”

In stepped ’Berg alumna Mary Lee (Russell) Minor, ’64. Sara and Mary Lee had gotten to know each other through the local garden club. Turns out a little encouragement was all it took. “Mary Lee told my mom I should come here,” Sara recalls. “She has continued to be a part of my life ever since.”

“And now my mom can say ‘I told you so.’”

When she did concede and made that first visit to Heidelberg, she had such a positive first impression that she ended up enrolling. 

“I loved how friendly everyone was and also how beautiful the campus is,” she says. Many prospective students who visit today will have a shared experience with Sara.

The value of 4-H

From third grade all the way through high school, Sara was highly engaged in 4-H. It’s an organization where she began to hone the leadership, mentoring and decision-making skills she utilizes today in her position in the Admission Office.

Showing rabbits and chickens, serving on the Senior Fair Board and as a counselor for 4-H camp, and ultimately as Fair Queen also allowed her to get comfortable with public speaking. 

She was able to roll all of those experiences over to Heidelberg, where she was a member of a Greek society, cheerleading one year and an admission tour guide, beginning her sophomore year.

“You don’t realize in the moment that all those little experiences add up and help you down the road,” Sara says. 

Positive influence of mentors

Undecided on a major her freshman year, Sara declared accounting with a business administration management concentration. A biology course her first semester confirmed that decision. But “I only made it through syllabus day,” she chuckles. Her academic advisor, Dr. Courtney DeMayo Pugno (then a history professor, now the executive director of the Owen Center for Teaching and Learning and assistant provost), steered her toward accounting and that stuck.

Sara’s early specialization was management, but then she took a marketing class from another mentor: “the amazing Mary Lou Kohne.” 

“I fell in love with marketing and ended up adding marketing as a double concentration after taking Mary Lou’s class,” she recalls.

Sara took advantage of numerous opportunities to get involved with the School of Business, participating in case competitions, Ethics Bowl and the Tau Pi Phi Honorary state competition.

Another “huge influence” for Sara was Tom Alexander, the former director of Admission who was her boss during her student days. In fact, it was Tom who eventually brought her back to Heidelberg as an employee.

A job, then a career shift

Following her graduation in 2017, Sara took a job in the banking industry, where she had planned to make it a career. One day, she got a text from Tom: “How’s the bank going?” Turns out Heidelberg had an opening for a senior admission counselor, and she jumped at the opportunity to return to her alma mater. Not long after, she was promoted to assistant director and in December, she became director.

She’s prepared for her new role by wearing just about every hat in the Admission Office.  In August, she’ll graduate with her MBA from Heidelberg.

Sara can relate to prospective and current students. It’s just in a different role these days.

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