Defining Merit: The Nexus of Mission, Excellence, and Diversity





January 15-17, 2014
LA Hotel Downtown (333 South Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA)

Close to 200 participants joined us for the 2014 conference, Defining Merit: The Nexus of Mission, Excellence, and Diversity.

The gathering explored these questions:

  • How should the mission and purpose of a college or university guide the consideration of personal accomplishments and characteristics beyond the SAT and high school grades?
  • How can doing so inform decision makers which students are most likely to contribute to and benefit from its unique mission and purpose?
  • Which of these factors portend success in the classroom, in careers, and in building a strong democratic society?
  • How may K-12 education change if colleges signal greater emphasis and value on characteristics for success in a more complex and interdependent society?

Media Coverage and Related Articles


Defining Merit Conference Agenda

Presentations and Sessions

Please click on each day for the conference blog.

Day 1

  • A Map of Opportunity: Anchor Institutions and the Diverse Next Generation

Day 2

  • The Meaning of Merit
  • Mission and Merit: The Broad Institutional View
  • Translating the Mission in Student Selection
  • Merit and the Role of College Admission
  • Meet the (Education) Press
  • Dinner Keynote Address (Heller)

Day 3

  • Transforming the Dialogue on Merit: A Framework and Strategies for Defining and Defending What You Decide
  • Workshop with Deans: Developing a New Framework and Pursuing Key Strategies
  • Concluding Remarks

Speakers and Available Presentations

Keynote Speakers

  • Nancy Cantor, Chancellor, Syracuse University—A Map of Opportunity
  • Harry Brighouse, Professor of Philosophy and Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison—The Meaning of Merit
  • Marianne Begemann, Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources, Vassar College
  • Georgia Nugent, Senior Fellow, Council of Independent Colleges; Former President, Kenyon College
  • Arthur Coleman, Managing Partner, Education CounselTaking on Merit in Admissions


  • Jennifer Rickard, University of Puget Sound—Translating the Mission in Student Selection
  • Richard Shaw, Stanford University
  • Ted Spencer, University of Michigan—Translating the Mission in Student Selection
  • Frederick (Ted) Hill, Headmaster, The Chadwick School—Merit and the Role of College Admission
  • Gary Meunier, School Counselor, Weston High School
  • Dixie Ross, AP Lead Teacher, Pflugerville High School
  • Eric Hoover, Senior Writer, Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Scott Jaschik, Editor, Inside Higher Ed
  • Philip Ballinger, University of Washington
  • Arlene Wesley Cash, University of the Pacific
  • Janet Rapelye, Princeton University
  • Michael Barron, University of Iowa
  • Timothy Brunold, USC
  • Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, UCLA
  • Kedra Ishop, Vice Provost & Director of Admissions, UT Austin
  • Stuart Schmill, MIT

Reading Materials

Syracuse University and Rankings

Creating a Framework for Diversity

ETS A Culture of Evidence Accountability Reports

ETS White Papers

Sponsor Acknowledgement

We wish to thank our generous partners who sponsored the Defining Merit conference:
CollegeBoard LogoETS-Logo-4C

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