Get to Know - Gail McMahon

Ever seen an email come through on the listserv from Gail McMahon? Or ever wonder who keeps the Iowa ACAC website up to date? For those of you who don’t know, Gail McMahon is the woman behind the curtain. She keeps everything running smoothly behind the scenes, so I thought it was time to pull back the curtain a little with a short interview.

Let’s Get to Know Gail McMahon!

  • What is your job title with Iowa ACAC?

Executive Assistant

  • What does your job entail?

That's a short question with a very long answer, so I will try to capsulize. I provide continuity of operations for the organization. I am the "constant" across the years, amid the changes in leadership and committee chairs. I manage/coordinate the daily, behind the scenes operations of the Association. I provide administrative support to leadership and committees, manage membership records, website/social media/listserv, maintain historical documents…and am the first person that many come into contact with via email. After that it's the infamous "other duties as assigned."

  • Do you have another job outside of Iowa ACAC?

I work full-time at Bass Pro Shops in Altoona. I am one of the original Outfitters remaining and have worn a few hats since opening the store in 2009. Currently, I coordinate the online fulfillment/in-store pickup at our location. As you can imagine, that hasn't been very busy the past year or so. (wink). I also handle our store's social media and assist with employee and community engagement.

  • How long have you been with Iowa ACAC?

Wow, I always have to stop and calculate. As an employee…17 years. I have also been a member…so 32 years. Yikes. Right up there with Mark Ash, a dubious distinction, no doubt.

  • What is your favorite memory from your time with Iowa ACAC?

SO-O-O many memories, but at the top of the list are the many outstanding students, parents, school counselors, teachers and colleagues I've met, and then the spring conferences. The conferences always give me a chance to put faces to names that I see on a computer screen through forms, emails, etc. The conferences in Okoboji were legendary and where I met people who became lifetime friends and colleagues. A specific conference memory? Des Moines -  early to mid-90s - running through the streets of Court Avenue with a very pregnant Connie Hanson, John Davis, and a couple of other people on a photo scavenger hunt, which was part of the social. A motley crew chasing down VW Beetles and bail bondsmen for photos. Laughter had no limit.

Conference in Dubuque - no it's not really him. 

  • What is the best part of your job?

Keeping my connection to the world of college admissions and the great people I get to meet and work with on the Board and throughout the Association. Also, having the opportunity to attend national conferences and bond with the Executive Assistants from the other state and regional associations…brainstorming, comparing notes, sharing ideas and friendship.

  • Anything else we should know about you?

Personally: I love the outdoors (hiking/exploring) and photography, so you can often find me doing one or the other (or both if it's warm!).
I actually worked in college admissions, was on the Iowa ACAC Conference Planning Committee as the Site Coordinator for two conferences, and was the Membership Chair. I spent five years in admissions on the East Coast and 15 years at AIB in Des Moines. I was a travelling counselor and was a Director of Admissions. Being a travelling admissions rep was, and always will be, my favorite career position I've had - talking with students, seeing the different schools, and visiting the communities of Connecticut, Southeast Iowa, Western Illinois, and Northeast Missouri. I still run into former students I worked with at AIB - they usually recognize me first, of course. The fact that I impacted their lives enough for them to remember me is often overwhelming and warms my heart. Thirty-two years have passed, logistics and school names have changed, challenges are still there, but I truly believe one thing remains the same - it's still about connecting with students. Finding the right fit for them, not just getting a stat. 
Making an impact on their lives.


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