Working in the mailroom to learn a business may be old-school advice. But that spot worked well for Cheryl Jester-George, Georgia State Law’s senior director of admissions, who retires June 30.
“It’s been awesome,” Jester-George said of her 36-year career.
Her graduate student work-study assignment was in the admissions mailroom.
“Almost all of the university’s mail came through the admissions office,” Jester-George said. “Opening mail, deciding who gets what and learning how the university works were an eye opener for me.”
She soon became a receptionist in admissions, processing applications for all departments, including the College of Law. As the law school developed its administrative departments, she transferred there.
As senior director of admissions, she has been responsible for policy setting, implementation and evaluation of admissions, scholarship and retention processes.
“Throughout Georgia State Law’s history it always has had the great fortune of recruiting outstanding classes of well-rounded and well-grounded students, who go on to make important contributions to the profession. It is no accident that Cheryl Jester-George has led the college’s admissions and recruitment over these many years. I have had the good fortune to witness up close Cheryl’s growth and magic during my time as both Associate Dean and Dean,” said Steven J. Kaminshine, professor of law and former dean.
When law schools across the country faced plummeting applications in 2010, Jester-George rose to the challenge, Kaminshine said. “While student recruitment became much, much harder and more competitive, Cheryl became tougher and more creative—and more successful. While the College of Law has not gone through these times unnicked, it was because of her leadership that we have navigated these rough waters a good bit better than the vast majority of law schools.”
The students are the “center of our lives,” Jester-George says. The admissions staff created a student-centered, approachable environment. “We can’t take their exams and notes or go to class for them. We can let them know there is always someone they can talk to.”
And Jester-George has been there to listen and encourage not only students, but also potential students who have yet to decide if they will enroll.
“Most people who are sincerely interested in being a lawyer come with the same values and goals, wanting to help people,” she said. “One of my most fulfilling experiences is to get people to trust themselves and their abilities. A lot of people really want to go to law school but they’ve been swayed by other people, creating a self-doubt, not believing in themselves. I try to encourage them if this is what they truly want.”
Jester-George has been involved in and recognized for numerous programs, but it is her pipeline development of underrepresented groups she hopes will continue. For example, she’s worked with the Gate City Bar Association to provide summer camps at the law school and has played host to two law days for Latinos admitted to any law school in Georgia. She’s developed mentoring programs with Morehouse College and with DeKalb and Rockdale county schools.
An adjunct professor at Clark Atlanta University’s College of Business, from which she earned a master’s and a doctorate of education, Jester-George will teach leadership courses there this fall.
Over her 30 years at the College of Law, Jester-George was success and leadership served as a model to others, Kaminshine said. “Cheryl never stopped seeking new ways to grow and raise her game. She will be sorely missed and the college is grateful and proud of the legacy she leaves behind.”
While considering “retirement” options, she’s certain about one. “I’d like to continue encouraging individuals to pursue their goals and help them eliminate fear, apprehension and self-doubt.”
And there’s also a bit of relaxing and listening to the sound of nature in her “resort-like” back yard.