TFA recruits, relentlessly some say

by Brook Jackling | 10/4/07 2:13am

Recent, personalized e-mails sent to members of the Class of 2008 by Teach for America recruitment associates are a surprising change for seniors who have grown accustomed to mailing resumes and making phone calls to catch the attention of potential employers.

The e-mails from Teach for America, which employs college graduates for a two-year period to teach in 26 low-income locations, inform students that they have been identified by a peer as a "strong candidate" for the program and encourage them to meet with a recruitment director at The Dartmouth Bookstore. Students who decide against scheduling a meeting receive a second e-mail that asks them to reconsider their decision.

"It's nice to get something personalized as opposed to random letters in Hinman Boxes, but after saying I wasn't interested, I don't know how I feel about meeting with this guy," a senior at the College, who wishes to remain anonymous as she considers job options, said. The student only agreed to a meeting after receiving a third Teach for America e-mail.

David Stanley, the Teach for America recruitment director for the College, is responsible for meeting with students to discuss the program. The purpose of sending multiple e-mails, he said, is not to force uninterested students to apply, but instead to familiarize students with problems in education and to acquaint recruiters with the College.

"Obviously there are some folks who come in over the summer who have job offers and don't necessarily need or want to sit down and talk about their career path for the next year or so, but one thing we like to do is to provide a local understanding of the program," Stanley said.

"Not a whole lot of people have thought necessarily of teaching," Stanley said. "That's why I think having the opportunity to sit down with somebody to discuss that is helpful."

Teach for America receives its recommendations for candidates from both Dartmouth alumni now working for the organization and current students that meet with Stanley, who called the meetings "opportunities to share knowledge" and said that they help him to identify campus leaders.

Teach for America, which accepted 2,900 out of 18,000 applicants in 2007, is one of the largest employers of college graduates in the United States. Despite the program's competitive nature, recruiters use techniques such as persistent e-mails and requests for recommendations to ensure a strong applicant pool, Caroline Gifford, the recruitment associate for the College, said.

Gifford said that Teach for America's low acceptance rate is due to the program's strict criteria for applicants, not to a fixed number of spots.

"There's no cap of people that we can accept." she said. "The more people we get in front of, the better chances we have of convincing people to apply."

Gifford, who sends recruitment e-mails to students at Yale University, Bard College, Skidmore College and the City University of New York Honors College, said that she was "really pleased" with the number of Dartmouth students willing to schedule a meeting. As of Oct. 1, 60 percent of the e-mailed students had responded, and 40 percent had decided to schedule a meeting.

Follow-up e-mails have been a successful technique in convincing students to reconsider scheduling a meeting, Gifford added.

"We can really see this problem of educational inequality and the disparity that exists." Stanley said. "To think that we have that kind of third world poverty in our country, if that means reaching out to more college seniors who might be interested in learning about the program, that's something worth doing."