Guest post written by: Nicole Lentine

As I scanned the program options for NACAC’s first session block, the title of this session immediately caught my eye. As I am a few months into my sixth year in this profession, I’ve started to think more deeply about how to develop myself as a leader in the admissions world, and what future managers and leaders may look for within my skill set to develop myself further in their departments. This session was led by Vern Granger from The Ohio State University, Robert Patterson from Zinch, Angel Perez from Pitzer College, David Burge from Arizona State University, and Amy Jarich from the University of California at Berkeley. Each brought their own experiences and advice to the table for a panel discussion in this topic. This panel was also livestreamed on the NACAC website.

The session covered quite a few main points. The largest focus was put on both sides of the leadership spectrum – how to become a leader in the admissions field, and how to encourage those within your team to become leaders. There was also some discussion about the changing roles of enrollment managers, the growing world of international admissions, and the importance of understanding your market.

Much discussion was devoted to understanding how our role as admissions professionals and enrollment managers has changed in recent times. This involved quite a list of changes, including, but not limited to:

  • The increased visibility of our roles on our campus, and the need to satisfy multiple constituents: students, parents, administration, faculty, trustees, and the community
  • Helping students find the right fit, and also finding the right-fit students for our institution. Vern Granger shared the statement that we are no longer the gatekeepers, but now are the class shapers.
  • The increased need for support from many of our students throughout the admissions process, as well as when they come to campus
  • Understanding rankings and how they may or may not be important
  • Managing a diverse skill set within a team, and the increased need for technical literacy within the team at large
  • Understanding your market and knowing how to use your communication channels effectively
  • Measurement of data and using that data in achieving your goals

While some of these ideas and goals may not necessarily be new, the way that we now approach these goals within a team and within a campus community has changed.

After considering the context with which we now need to look at our profession, the panel took some time to talk about how to be a manager who supports his or her team and helps the team to grow. A considerable topic that Amy Jarich brought up was to consider how you evaluate your team. She praised offices that are evaluating on semester or quarterly basis; within this frequency of evaluating, she shared, you’ll have much more time to have conversations to talk about goals and ask questions. This was especially important for those on the team who speak up less frequently. By discussing goals more frequently throughout the year, a manager could be more successful to help each team member grow. Other important factors that the panel brought up included understanding outside relationships and stressors for team members, encouraging networking, seeing both sides of arguments and discussions, and providing tasks with which those team members can grow their skills.

As an attendee of this session who has had relatively minimal experience working with international students, I was pleased that there was some time devoted to this particularly important topic in admissions during the panel. Angel Perez shared some of the reasons why he felt it was important for enrollment managers to consider the role of international students on their campuses. International students help to educate all members of the community and bring a stronger sense of what the real working world is like – we are undeniably in a more globalized society now, so the importance of understanding others of different cultures has grown tremendously. Angel also noted that talented students from other countries have more difficulties getting into the top schools in their home countries, and so we can provide tremendously for these students by helping them to become members of our campuses. He did make time to point out that before venturing into the world of international recruitment, individuals should take time to develop their cultural competency. He pointed out the importance of doing research about a cultural population before speaking with students and families there. After all, he noted, we are the cultural ambassadors for higher education and the United States! We must highly value this role when recruiting abroad. Angel also discussed the importance of ethical competency, and ensuring that we don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal – to help students – when facing the pressures and goals that an enrollment manager can face.

David Burge devoted some great time to discuss the importance of using your communication channels efficiently and using data to back up your decisions in this realm. He discussed how, more than ever before, this generation of students (and their parents) are looking for immediacy. David’s suggestion to know and learn to love Excel got a bit of a chuckle out of the crowd and the panel, but every member of the panel agreed that they used the program multiple times a week, if not daily, to check in on how the department was meeting their goals.

One of the biggest takeaways I had from this session was Robert Patterson’s coverage of how to develop yourself as a leader. He pointed out the importance of your reputation and making  yourself indispensable. Leader isn’t just a title, he shared – it’s an action. He encouraged budding leaders in the audience to become involved, learn all roles in the office, and assist others. He told the attendees to not feel entitled, but instead value the important role we have in changing lives. He encouraged us to always be gracious, humble, kind, and passionate. Without these traits, it could be far more difficult to become a role model and a leader for a team.

The session ended with a Q & A from a few audience members. Angel Perez responded to a question about picking your battles by examining your morals and your “line” that you will not cross, and sticking to that. He also encouraged open and honest communication within a leadership team at an institution. Amy also encouraged those facing that issue to find their allies within their institution. When asked about the challenges the panelists have faced as being a leader, the most frequent responses were being an advocate for a staff and having enough time to devote to them, along with knowing all areas within the admissions world, even those where ones skills were weakest. Finally, when asked about burnout within a team, Amy encouraged leaders to learn how to recognize burnout and be reasonable about it – she coined the frequently hashtagged #zombiecounselors and pointed out that zombies are not as useful to an office! David also encouraged leaders to reward their team members for hardwork.

Overall, the session was valuable for current leaders and budding leaders alike. They invited all attendees to reach out to them for any further guidance.


Article Author

Ashley Budd

Broadcast Producer, Host of Higher Ed Special Edition
Director of Digital Marketing, Cornell University

Ashley Budd is a digital strategist and designer based in upstate New York. She specializes in bringing offline experiences online. Ashley is director of digital marketing at Cornell University serving Alumni Affairs and Development. Prior to joining the team at Cornell, Ashley spent more than five years in Enrollment Management and Career Services at Rochester Institute of Technology. Ashley speaks about college admissions, digital fundraising, communication and media technologies.


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