College starts search for top admissions administrator

by Amanda Zhou | 11/3/15 8:17pm

4.1.14.news_.admissions_Allison-Chou
The new position, formerly the dean of admissions and financial aid, will be titled vice provost for enrollment management.
Source: Allison Chou

The search for the new head of admissions is under way as administrators and professors across campus gather to form a search committee. The post was left vacant after former dean of admissions and financial aid Maria Laskaris left to be the special assistant to the provost for arts and innovation.

Dean of the College Rebecca Biron, who will chair the committee, said the position will be renamed vice provost for enrollment management to elevate its importance for campus life, although the change in title will not affect the organizational structure or responsibilities of the dean.

“[We want to] reflect the importance of those operations as the front door of our institution,” Biron said.

Cornell University is the only one of the College’s Ivy League peers with a vice provost for enrollment management. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Brown Universities and the University of Pennsylvania have deans of admissions. Williams, Amherst, Colby, Bowdoin and Bates Colleges also continue to list deans rather than vice provosts for admissions.

Schools such as Boston College and Washington University in St. Louis — as well as many larger public institutions, including the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Indiana University at Bloomington — have vice provosts for enrollment management or some variation of this title.

Biron said enrollment management, a term that originated in the 1970s, denotes a strategic, data-driven approach to admissions, with the aim of best fulfilling the institution’s mission and priorities in the student body. She noted that enrollment management also aims to measure and quantify students’ experiences throughout their time at the College — as a result, admissions officers can better determine the types of students who succeed during their time in Hanover.

Provost Carolyn Dever wrote in an email to the faculties of Arts and Sciences and the Thayer School of Engineering, as well as College staff, that this change “will open pathways within every aspect of Dartmouth’s admissions operation,” according to a College press release.

Dever also wrote that this new title represents “a sea change in the higher-ed admissions profession” that would enable the College to use new data and recruit students.

The name shift from admissions head to head of enrollment management is also meant to suggest that the person in the post should be engaged across campus, Biron said.

The vice provost of enrollment management should encourage all parts of Dartmouth to consider “institutional messaging,” or how they make their case to prospective students, Biron said. In particular, the future vice provost of enrollment management will collaborate with units across campus such as student affairs, faculty, institutional research, athletics and the registrar, she said.

This plan is reflected in the background of search committee members — three professors, a Trustee, the vice provost of student affairs, associate provost of institutional research, the registrar, the College’s chief operating officer for advancement, the director of financial aid, the athletic director and the vice president for finance will sit on the committee.

Biron also stressed the importance of responding to a shift in the composition of the applicant pools.

“We’re trying to be able to think much more proactively in a context of changing demographics of potential student pools,” Biron said. “We want to be able to better predict what kinds of students can be most successful at Dartmouth.”

The search committee envisions the ideal candidate as a “bold thinker” in higher education, a good communicator and someone with technological and data literacy, she said.

The new head of admissions will serve as a steward of the College’s resources with respect to admissions.

“There’s all this newly-available data on how students perceive messaging on Dartmouth’s distinctiveness and how we can market directly to students most interested in coming to Dartmouth,” Biron said.

She also hopes to use this information to decide which student support groups are most important so that future students can succeed at Dartmouth.

The execute search firm Witt/Kieffer is assisting in forming the candidate pool. The search committee hopes the new vice-provost will be ready to start in July 2016.

A representative from Witt/Kieffer declined to comment.

“We know this is an attractive position. We have a lot of enthusiasm and expectation that the search will be very successful,” Biron said. “This is a bold move for Dartmouth to take a significant stride forward to think about the future of enrollment and planning.”

Eight students interviewed about the admissions office’s priorities noted the importance of financial aid to encourage socioeconomic diversity in the student body. They also noted the importance of attracting international students.

“Dartmouth doesn’t have much of a reputation internationally,” Shivang Sethi ’17 said.

He said the office should prioritize international diversity, especially following the College’s decision to end need-blind admissions for international students.

Following the decision, the International Students Association circulated a petition around campus that has received more than 1,600 signatures as of press time.

Amanda Durfee ’19, Ellie Ng ’19 and Sarah Caughey ’15 also emphasized the importance of financial aid, while Emily Charland ’19 and Margaret Cross ’19 stressed building a strong community of interesting people with a diverse group of talents.

Two members of the search committee redirected The Dartmouth to Biron, while two members did not respond to request for comment. One committee member was not available for comment, because of travel.