An Age of Empowerment: Meet Mary Tipton Woolley
By Kristen Bailey | Photos and Video by Allison Carter October 29, 2018
This is the second installment of a yearlong series about women at Georgia Tech. See the full series.
Most days in late October, Mary Tipton Woolley is in file review.
As senior associate director of the Undergraduate Admission, she’s part of the team that reads every application submitted by students who want to come to Georgia Tech — and there are a lot.
This year, Georgia Tech received nearly 20,000 applications in Early Action alone — that’s double the total number received during Woolley’s first admission cycle in 2009.
“The growth is pretty astronomical,” she said. “It’s largely due to our place in the market. Georgia Tech is a relatively good value and offers degrees in things that students want right now.”
Since Woolley came to Tech, it has grown its G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise scholarship program and added both the Atlanta Public School Scholars and Georgia Tech Scholars Programs, which offer automatic admission to valedictorians and salutatorians across the state.
The challenge for Tech’s team is not getting enough applications, but reviewing them all and selecting the right applicants to create each new class. It’s a cyclical, strategic challenge that Woolley finds exciting.
“Like a lot of people, I ended up in admission because I knew I liked higher education but wasn’t sure what that meant,” she said.
Hear Woolley talk about how she got into Undergraduate Admission and what she tells prospective students about being a woman at Georgia Tech.
Woolley, a Tennessee native who holds a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University and master’s degree from Georgia State University, comes from a long line of women who valued education. Growing up, her mom made a point of visiting college campuses during their vacations, a tradition Woolley has kept up with her husband and daughter.
Woolley has kept family letters written by her grandfather when Woolley's mother was applying to college. She noted how some of the advice given by admission staff then is similar to what Woolley and her team tell prospective students and their families today.
“My grandmother was one of four sisters who all had college degrees, which is amazing for their generation,” she said. Woolley’s mother was a teacher and great-grandfather was a school principal. “The importance of education was always instilled in me. That probably subconsciously has impacted me and why I stay here.”
Beyond that, Woolley has also found a supportive workplace both in her field and her campus community. Higher education is home to many women in administrative roles, as is the broader high school counseling community with whom Woolley works closely in recruiting students to Tech. In college admission, though, heavy travel schedules for staff members at some universities can discourage some women from pursuing or staying in their career paths. Admission counselors at some universities often travel eight or more weeks through the fall. Georgia Tech tries to keep its staff traveling only two to four weeks.
“To some extent, we’re Georgia Tech, and our brand can carry us further,” she said. “We’ve been able to help people balance work and family and retain staff who have families in a way a lot of universities cannot.”