Meet Our College Counselors

Ms. Allen joined Stevenson as the Director of College Counseling five years ago after having worked in both college admissions and college counseling offices in two other high schools for the past 35 years. Most recently she was the Director of International Recruitment for Swarthmore College (PA), visiting over 50 countries to represent the college but, more importantly, to help students around the world gain a better understanding of the college process in the U.S. She had a similar role at Bryn Mawr College (PA). Throughout her admissions career Ms. Allen gained experience with applicants preparing portfolios for assessment, plan auditions for music and dance programs, and with athletes hoping to be recruited for university athletics. While working as Director of College Counseling (at Stevenson and other schools) she has visited over 300 colleges/universities in the US and abroad to learn more about what is available in the world of higher education. No matter where she has worked, Ms. Allen sees the importance of helping students manage the process while keeping their individual goals and needs central, working to find the best fit for the next step for life after high school. She loves all things Pittsburgh, her hometown (the Steelers and Penguins especially), and currently lives in Seaside with her cats and dogs (two of each).

Jon Burke is the Associate Director of College Counseling and joined Stevenson School in July 2019 after serving as Director of College Counseling and Senior Class Dean at York School in Monterey, CA. Prior to his time at York School, Mr. Burke spent 12 years at Sacred Heart Prep (SHP) in Atherton, CA, where he served as the Associate Director of College Counseling, Senior Academic Adviser, and the Head Coach of the girls water polo program, a team which captured 10 consecutive CIF Central Coast Section championships while Mr. Burke was the head coach. Additionally, Mr. Burke oversaw student-athlete advising and in that role helped guide over 100 student-athletes towards their goal of playing NCAA sports. Mr. Burke arrived at SHP after spending four years as the Assistant Coach of Men’s and Women’s Water Polo at UC Davis, where he was a student-athlete and captain of the men’s water polo team. Mr. Burke received his undergraduate degree from UC Davis and completed his Certificate in College Counseling at UCLA. In 14 years of college counseling, Mr. Burke has supported hundreds of students through the college process and he finds great joy in celebrating each of his students’ many successes and the diverse paths they choose to follow. Mr. Burke lives in Monterey with his wife Debra and their two sons, Kai (6) and Michael (5).

Ms. Bell began working in Stevenson’s College Center in 2019, following her family’s move to the Monterey peninsula. Before coming to Stevenson, Ms. Bell worked at Yale University for 12 years, in the Center for International and Professional Experience (CIPE), which oversees experiences for all undergraduates in relation to Study Abroad, Yale Summer Session, the Office of Career Strategy, and Fellowships and other funding opportunities. At Yale’s CIPE, Ms. Bell had an extensive portfolio in her dual roles as both Director of the Yale Visiting International Student Program, and as Deputy Director of the CIPE. She was also an academic advisor to countless international undergraduate students and, as a fellow of Trumbull College, to numerous first and second year undergraduates as well. Upon moving to the west coast, Ms. Bell continued to work remotely in her position for Yale, and also served as a reader in the Yale College Undergraduate Admissions office. Ms. Bell received her B.A. from the University at Buffalo, where she studied art and French, and her M.A. in higher education administration and international education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. In her role as a College Counselor at Stevenson, Ms. Bell is thrilled to bring her intimate knowledge of undergraduate life at an Ivy League institution to bear on her conversations with students and families about the college application and admissions process.

Mr. Higgins ’92 is excited to join the College Counseling team this year. A Stevenson alum, Mr. Higgins brings decades of test preparation experience to the counseling team. Mr. Higgins founded CROSSWALK Test Prep & Tutoring in 2003 and continues to teach and consult on SAT, ACT and other standardized test preparation. Mr. Higgins joined Stevenson at the Carmel Campus in 2010 and served as the Athletic Director, World Language Department Chair and Spanish Teacher. In 2019, Mr. Higgins shifted to the Pebble Beach Campus to teach Spanish and is presently completing his Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA. Mr. Higgins is also the Head JV Boys Water Polo Coach at Stevenson. Mr. Higgins holds a B.A. in both Spanish and Communications from Boston College and also an M.B.A. from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. He lives in Marina with his wife and two children, Daniela ’23 and Matías ’26.

This year is Dr. Hiles’s ninth teaching English at Stevenson, and her seventh as a college counselor. An alumna who grew up in Monterey, she was the 1994 Ricklefs Scholar and graduated from Stevenson in 1995. She holds a B.A. in English and music from Swarthmore College and a Ph.D. in historical musicology from Columbia University, where she wrote a dissertation about the music of Joseph Haydn. At Columbia, she also taught undergraduates in the Core Curriculum and was editor-in-chief of the academic journal Current Musicology before being awarded her degree with “Distinction” in 2009. She spent four years at Muhlenberg College as an assistant professor of music and also rotated through their admissions office reading applications for a selective honors program. It was during a year away from Muhlenberg as a research fellow at the UC Davis Humanities Institute that Dr. Hiles realized how much she missed California and decided to find a way to come home. She is delighted to be back at Stevenson and part of the college counseling program. Dr. Hiles lives on campus in Atwood with her husband (Dr. Oster), their two children (Kai and Viola), and their golden retriever (Elsie).

Dr. Jacobs has been a Stevenson faculty member since 2013. She teaches in the History department with experience teaching all grade levels, currently serves as the History department chair, and 2022-2023 will be her fifth year as a college counselor. In addition to serving in these roles, Dr. Jacobs is also resident faculty (she lives in Silverado with her French bulldog, Moose) and served four year coaching cross country and track and field. Prior to arriving at Stevenson, Dr. Jacobs earned her master’s degree and Ph.D in American women’s history from the University of Virginia. She earned bachelor’s degrees from the University of Washington in art, art history, history, and anthropology.

David Schmittgens joined the staff at Stevenson School in 2007 as English Department Head, which he served from 2007 to 2018. Prior to his arrival at Stevenson, Mr. Schmittgens taught English at St. Ignatius College Prep (Chicago, Illinois) and New Trier High School (Winnetka, Illinois). He currently teaches two sections of senior AP Literature and Composition, three sections of English 1, and is the director of the school’s writing center. This year marks his 31st year as a teacher and his sixth year as a college counselor, a role that he finds both enjoyable and rewarding. Mr. Schmittgens received his undergraduate degree at Eastern Illinois University and did his graduate work at DePaul University and The University of Chicago. Mr. Schmittgens is a member of the resident faculty, living on campus with his wife (Stevenson teacher Kim Ataide Schmittgens ’81) and three children (Lucy ’20, Owen ’22, and Henry ’22).

Mr. Stephenson came to Stevenson in 1998 as Director of Alumni Relations and the Annual Fund. He lives on campus in an apartment over the left-field fence of the baseball field. With his background in college admission, early on he became part of Stevenson’s college counseling team. Following his retirement as a full-time employee he remained at the School on a part-time basis and took a larger role in college counseling. He has always been a member of the Resident Faculty program.

Mr. Stephenson earned a BA degree in Philosophy from Colby College, in Maine, where he was an All-American hockey player, President of the Powder and Wig Theatrical Society, and one of nine members of the Men’s Judiciary Committee. Following service in the U.S. Military he worked at Colby as Associate Director of Admission and Financial Aid, coached the college’s first Squash team, and was Advisor to the newly created Women’s Ice Hockey team.

At Stevenson he enjoys and supports all student activities, including sports, theatre, music, dance, fine arts, and Model UN.

Questions?

Feel free to contact the team by email at collegecenter@stevensonschool.org with any questions about our process or selecting your counselor.

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