When Wendy Jo (Pond) Peterson first came to Washington State University as a freshman, she could not have imagined the impact her decision to attend WSU would have on her education, her career and her life. Now, after nearly 38 years of helping students and families prepare for, and apply to college, she is retiring this summer.
“It has been a privilege to work alongside my colleagues at WSU and our K-12 schools across the state to help students find and prepare for pathways to their futures,” Peterson said. “I’ve had the added joy of working for my alma mater, a university that changed the trajectory of my life, and does the same every day for so many students.
A 1982 WSU graduate, Peterson started her career in the WSU admissions office in 1983, and aside from a year working for Skagit Valley College, served at WSU since. While her work has mostly been in admissions, she also served as director for the Alive! new student orientation program and director of development for the College of Education.
Over her career, Peterson developed a reputation as a champion for students and those who support them, sharing her direct phone number with nearly 1,000 high school counselors across the state every fall.
In 2013, Peterson was selected as one of 10 admissions deans and directors from around the country to serve on the faculty of the College Board Summer Institute on College Admission and School Relations. The Institute’s purpose is to train and mentor newly hired admissions staff from colleges and universities across the country, focusing on ethical practices in admissions, among other topics.
“To me, admissions work has always been about connecting with students, meeting them where they are and helping them get to where they want to be,” Peterson said. “Finding their best college fit, but also building the academic foundation to achieve it. It means working closely with our K-12 partners to ensure students know what they need to do to best prepare for college and that we’re here to help.
“At the end of the day it’s not just about getting admitted, it’s about being well prepared to graduate from college. And if a student is not quite ready, we don’t just say no; we try to help them find another pathway to WSU in the future. We want their first Cougar experience to be the best it can be.”
Saichi Oba joined WSU as vice provost for enrollment management in late 2020, and even at his former university in Alaska, he was familiar with Peterson’s work.
“Wendy Jo Peterson personified excellence as the literal face of admissions at WSU for almost four decades,” Oba said. “Even in far flung Fairbanks, Alaska, I knew of ‘Wendy Peterson at WSU.’ But more importantly so did hundreds of high school counselors around Washington and the Pacific Northwest. Even more telling: the thousands of high school students she helped find their way to WSU. I am humbled to continue my career in the offices and division of enrollment management that Wendy helped shape and lead for the past 38 years.”
Colleagues will miss Peterson’s enthusiasm and dedication to students and those who work with them.
“I hope that when people think about the work we have done, they understand that we care deeply about students and their success. At the end of the day, this is about their dream, not ours…it’s our responsibility as well as our privilege to find a way to help them achieve it.” Peterson said. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve alongside such a caring and committed team in the Pullman admissions office (many of whom have also served WSU for decades), as well as with all of our incredible faculty and staff across the WSU system.”
In retirement, Peterson plans to stay plenty busy. She plays keyboard and sings in a classic rock/blues band, “Soulstice,” that performs regularly on the Palouse. She and her husband are partners in a local business (Zeppoz) where her husband works, and their son Cameron is a WSU student.
Peterson looks forward to spending more time with family and friends, hitting the local walking and biking trails, volunteering in the community, and of course cheering on the Cougs.