What drew you to Woodberry Forest and its
I am attracted to schools with purpose, schoolsthat have decided they do not need to be all thingsto all people and know their strength comes fromleaning into their mission and values. Over theyears, I have learned that schools are more thanjust a series of classes and collectives of teachersand students. At their best, they are incubatorsin which young men and women can learn thenecessary skills to be honorable and effectivefriends, family members, colleagues, and citizens.
Many schools have given up on the idea that it istheir responsibility to guide young people towardthe hard right over the easy wrong. At this pointin my career, I only want to work for and withinstitutions that have not given up on this idea andsee that education extends beyond the curriculum.I have always seen Woodberry as a leader in values-based education. We need more good people inthe world, and the admission office affords me theopportunity to expose more families to this typeof education. It’s also important to note that theWoodberry admission team is exceptional. Theyare skilled, enthusiastic, and genuinely love theschool and the boys and their families. It is hardnot to be attracted to a place like that.
You are coming to Woodberry from anothersingle-sex school, Foxcroft School, which is all-girls and has long enjoyed friendly relationshipswith Woodberry. How would you assess thestate of single-sex education these days?
We know, through the good work of International
Boys’ Schools Coalition and the National Coalition
of Girls’ Schools, that students who attend single-
sex schools develop a stronger sense of themselves
and that this social-emotional strength positively
impacts their academic experiences into college.
I think single-sex schools are more relevant now
than ever before. It is a tough time to be a kid,
and the pandemic has only increased the sense of
isolation that students feel. Boys and girls need the
space and time to simply be what they are — boys
and girls. Single-sex environments afford them
the environment to learn to lean into who they are
without undue pressure.
You’re starting this role in a very unusual year,when admission travel will be very limited andit will be harder for families to visit the school.How are you and your colleagues connectingwith prospective students and their parents?
We’ve had to pivot quickly and depend more ondigital resources. We have added virtual openhouses, on-demand virtual visits, and platformsfor connecting with current students, parents, andalumni. But we have not forgotten the importanceof the in-person relationship. We are open forvisits and are still picking up the phone to talkwith people and learn what prospective boys andparents want and need from us.
When you talk about Woodberry to someone
who knows nothing about the school, what are
the one or two things you tell that person first?
There are so many good things to talk about, butif I could only pick two it would be the welcomingcommunity and the focus on teaching the whole boy.
Karla Vargas-Kennedy joinedWoodberry Forest this summer asassistant headmaster and directorof enrollment management.She comes to Woodberry withdeep experience in boardingschools and single-sex education.She has served as director ofenrollment management atFoxcroft School since 2017.During her time at Foxcroft, theschool grew enrollment by 10percent, reversing a multiyeardecline. Karla began her careeras a Spanish teacher and dormhead at Mercersburg Academy.She also has extensive experiencein the college admission andfinancial aid world, serving atCornell University, the Universityof Chicago Law School, Our Ladyof the Lake University, and GreenMountain College.
Karla holds a bachelor’s degreein comparative literature andLatin American and CaribbeanStudies from the State Universityof New York at Binghamton, anda master’s degree in educationalleadership from WesternNew Mexico University. Sheis pursuing a doctoral degreein education leadership andinnovation.
Finding Future Tigers