LA Director of Admissions Lu-Shien Tan with a prospective student in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Lincoln Academy’s Director of Admissions Lu-Shien Tan just returned from a whirlwind tour of Europe and Asia, meeting potential LA residential students in Finland, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China over the course of six weeks. We caught up with him last week to find out more about his travels, the next generation of LA residential students, and how he captures the essence of LA while he’s on the road.

What were the highlights of your trip?

My overall highlight was meeting prospective students in every country. I have never met more eloquent and earnest kids than I did on this trip. The agents and educational consultants that I work with did a fabulous job of showcasing LA, then selecting and introducing kids for me to meet. I think we will have a number of excellent candidates who will fit in well at LA.

I had a great time in Cambodia thanks to LA graduate Michael Berg ‘03, who lives in Phnom Penh and works in the luxury import business. He introduced me to many Cambodian families who are considering boarding school in the US. Michael was generous with his time, and his personal introduction made a huge difference. As a graduate who has a successful career in Cambodia, Michael was a truly effective local advocate for the school.

With a prospective student in Beijing, China

With a prospective student in Beijing, China

This was actually my first recruiting trip to China, and I have never heard so many Chinese officials talking about a potential Chinese cultural renaissance. They see their newly found wealth to re-acquaint themselves with their ancient culture and other cultures around the world. If they do that, there is lots of potential for us to continue working with China.

Also, the sky in Beijing is blue again! They managed to clean up the air in Beijing through concerted public effort over the last several years, and even though the air in Hefei and other regions is still very polluted, I felt optimistic: if China can change the air quality in such a major city in a matter of years, that gives me hope for China and the whole world.

What excites people most about Lincoln Academy?

A slideshow of the Maine Coast is part of Lu-Shien's overseas presentation about Lincoln Academy.

A slideshow of the Maine Coast is part of Lu-Shien’s overseas presentation about Lincoln Academy.

The location first and foremost. No other schools can replicate what we have in midcoast Maine: the scenery, the clean air, our proximity to the Twin Villages. Students also gravitate towards our mix of programming, our tight-knit community, and our socioeconomic diversity. Each of those features is not unique, but the combination, the full package, is different than what other schools offer.

The educational culture in both Europe and Asia tends to be formal and hierarchical. When families see our casual dress code, no uniform, the friendly and informal interaction between teachers and students that happens every day at LA, they find it refreshing and appealing.

What kind of student do you meet and think, “This kid will excel at LA?”

I am always on the lookout for someone who seeks to be authentic, who has not yet found their own voice or had the opportunity or platform to excel, but yearns to do so. Someone who cares less about credentials for the sake of credentials, but who is eager to develop their own interests.

Which specific programs at LA appeal to international students?

The prerequisite is academic excellence. Our 18 AP courses show our backbone of academic strength: we are the real deal. After that, students look at our art programs: the beautiful studios in Hall House and the ceramics room, our excellent performing arts. They also respond to the video clips of our ESOL teacher Lauren Crosby, who makes her classes fun and interactive. I saw many students light up when they saw Ms. Crosby’s teaching style.

I often share student-made videos with potential applicants. These highlight reels show all of the activities we do with kids that make them feel like residents of the Twin Villages rather than visitors, and seeing the videos made an impact on prospective students. The videos completed the picture of what this life in midcoast Maine is about. Potential applicants quickly observed that students must feel safe and welcome at LA, or this silly, quirky side would not come out so visibly.

How do you describe LA to potential applicants?

Lu-Shien with his parents, TK and Juliet Tan, and LA graduate Martin Kucera ’17 at the National University of Singapore Society’s alumni Guild House.

When I talk about LA on the road, I speak about a place that is not just my employer, but my home. Even though I have only been here a short time, LA is more than a school for me. My wife is a dorm mother, my kids go to Lincoln, and and we often feel that we have adopted 20 rambunctious boys who live in the Hall House dorm. This is a family endeavor, and we are thrilled to be here.

That makes it really important to me that students choose LA for the right reasons. I don’t want anyone to feel baited and switched or coerced to come here; I want them to come eyes wide open ready to embrace who and what we are, because I am going to have to face the kids who come here day in and day out.

What are your hopes for the LA Residential program going forward?

My outreach this year is focused on creating a community that we will truly want at LA. Whoever we attract this year will ultimately attract more, similar students, since word of mouth is our very best advertising. We hope to get kids who pick our school because they know it, trust it, and love it. While I use fairs and agents to make initial contacts, I think that working through alumni and families of currently enrolled students is the way to go.

What is it like to look back at LA from a distance?

As I talked about LA on the road, I was moved by watching strangers learn about our community and respond to it. I definitely had a sense of newfound pride when I saw the excitement about LA reflected in the faces of people I had just met, and this was very moving for me. To have parents say they wish they were teens again so they could attend our school, or that they could enroll their kids so they, the parents, can come and visit, made me feel proud of this place, and genuinely happy to call it my home.