(Click above to hear from our students)
Our name was created in jest towards the label that society (and higher education in general) puts on kids who have their own take on life.
High school is a tall order for any student. Within a very short time period, students must find out who they are as humans, what they like, and what they’re good at, while, at the same time, meeting the demands of class assignments, friends, family, and extracurriculars.
Supporting a student who is going through this time of life is a chore. As tough as it is, school counselors, mentors, teachers, and coaches do incredibly well with the resources they’re given (as do we parents).
But let’s face it. There are a lot of gaps that need to be filled. Our mission is to fill those gaps.
There’s a few guideposts we have for the work we do. We feel we’re doing our job when your student…
- Enjoys the process
- Increases their self-awareness so they can foster their true strengths
- Grows enthusiastic about high school and their life after graduation – not more intimidated by it.
- Finds an experience/college after high school that fits them (not the other way around).
This is why we work in a lighthearted (albeit just serious enough) fashion. We’ve found this is what keeps them engaged. We rate ourselves, not through the approval of famous colleges, but through the beaming students who graduate from our program and go on to live authentic lives.
We have offices in Reno and Carson City, Nevada, but also work virtually with students around the world.
We hope you enjoy what you see here. If you need a quick-start guide to get around, here’s a couple places you might want to check out:
Meet the Team
Alex Ellison – Founder and Chief Dunce
It was kind of a crap shoot when I was applying for college. I made some mistakes, learned a lot of lessons, and told myself that I would make this whole thing easier for other young people one day. I wanted to do things differently when I was a teenager.
I created Dunce to be a space for young people to relax, be their quirky selves and soar into the stratosphere toward their version of success. I’ve seen various sides of education and I discovered my passion working with high school students and new college students as they begin a new and exciting phase. I’m always honored when I can be a part of the journey.
- Masters in Public Administration and Policy, Higher Education Emphasis, UNR
- Certificate in College Counseling, UCLA
- BA, Northwestern University
- Received the 2015 ThinkSwiss scholarship to research the Swiss Higher Education System.
- Taught English in Austria through the Fulbright Commission
- Worked as a Service Learning Coordinator in the Honors College at UNR
- Worked as an Educational Consultant for Buckley Education Group
- Member of NACAC (National Association of College Admissions Counselors)
- Member of WACAC (Western Association of College Admissions Counselors)
- Member of the Northwestern University Alumni Admissions Council
- Speaker at TEDx University of Nevada
Jess Weems Thibault – Essay & Portfolio Guide
Jess Weems Thibault is an educator, painter, and entrepreneur. She has a master’s degree in Secondary Science Education and a Bachelor of Science in Resource Economics and Plant & Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Jess has spent the last decade working with middle and high school aged youth in various capacities, including international community service trips, after school programs, youth ministry, and classroom education.
Her main gig is teaching middle school science, first in Massachusetts public schools and now at Sage Ridge School. As an artist she mostly paints in encaustic, which is hot beeswax, and oil. She loves living in Reno and enjoys hiking and cooking.
Haylee Garlock – Customer Happiness Specialist and Admin Assistant
If you work with Dunce, Haylee’s job is to help you with any administrative miscellany and make sure everything is taken care of so that you can enjoy your experience. She’s a student at UNR and is looking forward to continuing her career at Dunce. If there’s any general questions or anything else you need, please don’t hesitate to email her.
Bryan Walker – Dunce Counselor
Bryan Walker comes to Dunce with 18 years of experience as an educator, NCAA athlete, coach, dean of students, director of admissions, and head of school.
Most recently, Bryan is the assistant director at the Brookfield School, a private school in Reno, Nevada. Bryan has successfully implemented a wide variety of educational programs and grant initiatives and has worked directly with faculty to evaluate and redesign curricula based on learner needs and departmental goals.
He received his Master of Education in educational leadership from the University of Nevada and his Bachelor of Art from Fort Lewis College. Currently, Brian is currently completing the UCLA Extension’s college counseling certificate program. He’s an outdoor guy and enjoys pursuits in mountain biking, tennis, and skiing.
Sue Ting – Dunce Test Prep Counselor
Check out what these people are saying about us
My daughter is shy and soft-spoken, but Alex was able to give her the skills she needed that enabled her to walk into each interview feeling confident and relaxed.
Alex immediately puts people at ease, she is extremely knowledgeable, and goes out of her way to help make the process more positive than stressful.
And, after being invited to interview with a Harvard alum, my daughter was accepted early action!
– Parent of High School Senior
So thankful that Alex is helping us through the college prep process!
– Michelle Larson, Parent
I committed to UT Austin!! It’s gonna be a big change, but I’m excited. Thank you so much for your help along the way. I don’t think I would have even considered Texas otherwise 🙂
– Lian, Class of 2014
We greatly appreciate the time you invested in preparing for and presenting the financial aid workshop. The details on the types of loans was especially informative.
– Lorene and Todd DeVito, Parents
Our daughter started out thinking she wanted to go to UNR or community college…. That has all changed. She’s now on the path of success to some really strong and unique universities we knew nothing about before we came to Dunce.
We strongly recommend Dunce college planning!
-Dane and Sundee Hillyard, Parents
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