Candidates discuss diversity, recruiting
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 02:05
Two candidates for the university’s admissions director visited campus as part of the final interview process for the position last week.
Each candidate gave an hour-long presentation, which consisted of a speech and question-and-answer session, then attended a dinner with other faculty members, according to Associate Provost Peggy Bottorff.
“We are putting every finalist through two and a half days, really, of interviews where they’re meeting people from all over campus,” Bottorff said.
The position will be filled shortly after another candidate, director of undergraduate admissions and orientation at the University of Maryland Baltimore County Dale Bittinger, visits from May 8 through May 10, Bottorff said.
Candidate Leon Braswell, director of admissions and financial aid at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, spoke Thursday about the importance of reaching out to prospective students.
Braswell explained that the college-bound population is becoming more racially diverse, and a large portion of this group consists of first-generation college students. Making higher education affordable, especially for these students, is key, he said.
“Campus is predominantly white,” he said. “What does that mean for the other students?”
Braswell said he hopes to utilize outreach programs to connect with middle and high school students that would be a good long-term investment for the university. Braswell said these programs, such as the Commitment to Delawareans, a university initiative that prioritizes admitting in-state applicants, already exist.
“Delaware already has a strong infrastructure for these programs,” Braswell said about the Commitment to Delawareans and other outreach efforts.
Lauren Gibson, a university alumna who attended the presentation, said she was pleased with his speech.
“I really liked that he [wanted] to do those traditional outreach programs,” Gibson said.
Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, presented on April 17, and stated his goal to increase diversity, which he called a “challenging proposition.”
“I think it’s also important that again, as a community, we begin to work across the community to develop a campus culture that supports an increase in diversity,” Aviles said. “One of the first things that students of color, and first generation and low-income students, really, at least from my experience, ask, as soon as they begin to engage with your community, they are asking, ‘Do I belong?’”
Aviles said he will use tools through the CollegeBoard such as the Enrollment Planning Service, a geographic analysis service, and Descriptor Plus, which analyzes geodemographics, to better predict what types of students tend to apply to the university. He said the admissions office could assign point values based on students’ desirability and predictability.
“We are able to develop a model that’s predictive and is focused and very efficient,” Aviles said. “And then we are also able to take a step sideways and say, ‘OK, these are the students that are most likely to come, who are the ones we want to come?’ and that’s desirability.”
He said that, because the admissions office might be able to better determine where recruitment would be most successful, the university could save money that otherwise would be spent on inefficient travel.
When asked how he would balance this model with gaining a more diverse student body, Aviles said he would apply the data to out-of-state students to determine their likelihood to come to Delaware, and then target them with marketing efforts.
He said he plans to challenge policy makers to reduce budget cuts.
“My job has always been, and my passion’s always been serving students and working […] in admissions to help students have access,” Aviles said. “But now, there’s a whole other layer to what I do—and that’s really in some ways interacting with policy makers to try to help them understand the implications of the decisions that they’re making.”
Professor and chairman of the music department Paul Head said he thought Aviles seemed well-prepared for the presentation.
“I thought he was very articulate and very well-researched,” Head said. “He really knows the statistical parts of the game and he was very intelligent.”
Sophomore Lillian Newton, who is interested in admissions and plans to attend every presentation to compare the candidates, said she found Aviles’ plans to increase diversity interesting.