2017 Conference Blog- Tuesday, January 24

Panel Discussion: Practitioners Speak: Learning From Each Other

  • Yvonne Romero da Silva, Vice Dean, Director of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania
  • Courtney McAnuff, Vice President, Enrollment Management, Rutgers University
  • Arlene Wesley Cash, Vice Dean for Enrollment Management, Guilford College
  • James Goecker, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Strategic Communication, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Dr. Lucido began the discussion with a simple question to the panel:

What would you add to what we have learned thus far in the conference?

Romero da Silva shared the Strategy Project, that was grounded in an analysis of who was applying to Penn. They were doing holistic evaluation and realized that they were behind pace in terms of the number of applications that they were receiving from specific subgroups. However, they also determined that if they had received more applications they would not have capacity to evaluate them. They realized that they needed to create a new model in admissions and the idea came from “lifting their heads up” from their daily work.

Goecker shared that Rose-Hulman noticed a small but steady decline in retention and they asked themselves, what does an engineer need to be successful?  They came to the conclusion that an engineer must be curious and have some sense of control (locus of control) related to the world around them. This was the beginning of an attempt to investigate the use of noncognitives at Rose-Hulman. They identified locus of control and curiosity indexes and began to investigate these noncognitive factors with incoming students as a means for understanding if institutionally they could use these elements as part of admissions. Another question for them is that if we cannot change the student body, can we do something at a curricular level? Can you teach curiosity? Can you change one’s view of the world and control related to it? These are other areas they are examining.

Next, Wesley Cash shared a transformation at Guilford in terms of how they look at applicants. They realized that they were not evaluating students in a way that aligned with or reflected the values of the institution. They also wanted the application to be a teaching moment. They had gone test-optional several years prior and did not see a change other than more applications and while they did see an increase in applications of students of color, enrollment by students of color didn’t really change significantly. Guilford truly examined their core values–who they are and what they want? They incorporated these values into the process. They created a scale to give value to the items they collected from students–including how the students reflect the values of the institution in their applications. What students are engaged in–extracurriculars, responsibilities, contributions–related to the values of the institution. Having made changes in the application process, they are seeing a change, particularly a significant increase in students of color. Faculty asked: “Will they be qualified? Will they have the academic strength? Are they ready? Will we be able to support them?” Ultimately these students of color performed at and above the level of other students academically. It turns out that the new way of looking at students that reflected their values brought in a diverse class that was academically prepared.

McAnuff continued the discussion with a look at Rutgers University. He emphasized that a strategic plan was critical for accountability in terms of striving for diversity. At Rutgers, ten percent of the slots are held for low-income students and part of their issue was how to develop the pipeline of qualified students. One element to support this is a program through which Rutgers offers scholarships to 200 low-income families (on welfare) of 7th grade students each year. These students receive support with the end goal of being prepared for a scholarship and entrance into Rutgers. As for applicants, they received so many that they needed to create a method for handling these. They devised a self-reported record that converts all grade points to the same scale, assigns a “grit” factor- or serve as an indication of their work ethic. Since they started including grit/work ethic in their applications, their retention rate has increased from 78%-84%.

What transitioning into a self-reported grades approach mean for staffing? How can we use the staff we have rather than eliminate positions?

Courtney shared that they re-channeled 7 clerical positions as there is virtually no paper at all. They put more into digital communication. They did not eliminate positions but rather retooled them.

Romero da Silva also responded by sharing that during the Strategy Project that people were very concerned that jobs would go away. They did not anticipate having to create a goal around culture and value, but ended up doing so and including convening a group that meets once a month to be able to handle such issues. They have repurposed roles and have also given staff new responsibilities as the organization has changed their approaches.

What dialogues have you had on campus to support new approaches or initiatives?

McAnuff shared that at Rutgers, power is really in the schools and with the deans. They bring together these stakeholders and build strong relationships between deans and faculty. He notes that he also needs to answer to the president. And he feels an obligation to serve the students / citizens of the state. As they admit more out-of-state and international students, that focus is reduced, but as state support has decreased from 80%-16%, they have had to do these things.

Wesley Cash shared that Guilford is a Quaker School founded by the Friends Society. Consensus is highly valued and thus transparency is a very important part of their values and process. They have an engaged faculty committee that participates in all aspects.

Rose-Hulman staff, according to Goecker, also participated in the process. They ask what kind of person do we want to graduate and thus, how do we recruit and educate them. He suggests that we miss an opportunity if we don’t go beyond the four years that we have the students. We must look beyond. Thus, Goecker’s “dream” is to go out after graduation and find out what the students believe were important about their experience–what characteristics were important to be successful. Then, they can bring those factors into the admission process. It is a long process, but one that Goecker does hope to include. So, in addition to faculty, engaging with graduates and capturing their perspectives is an important part of the process.

Romero da Silva shared another unanticipated outcome: the need to engage with constituents on campus in a more purposeful, rather than reactionary way.

Audience Question For Courtney McAnuff: How did the Summer Bridge Program Begin?

McAnuff shared that the Chairman of the Board of Rutgers asked why they did not have more students from their local areas attending. These schools had graduates of 50%, few have access to a rigorous curriculum, and those who do have strong academic credentials have other choices. After a discussion with his president, they began to raise money, as it is expensive. It is 90% run on private money, including private donors (AT&T and Merck) and 5 key philanthropists. It is expensive and is a constant ask, but 1,800 kids have gone through this pipeline and it is a great investment. Also, Rutgers created two new honors colleges. One is based on test scores and the other is based solely on the students’ work as young leaders ascertained through interviews. McAnuff notes that it will be interesting to see down the road where the students from each honors colleges end up.

Other thoughts that we should take away from the conference?

Wesley Cash made the comment that there seems to be an interest in change but we tend to fall back on where we are comfortable. These conversations may move us to a place that we are not comfortable. She discusses the language that we use–the idea of a student being “undermatched”. What does that mean for the school that received this student? Is this to suggest that it is not a good school? Despite our discussions of fit, we continue to slip into celebrating students who fit our norms (perfect scores on the SAT, admission into an Ivy League school). Our language does not always match our values, and our values don’t always shift easily.

McAnuff asked, “How do we open opportunities for students who don’t get served?” Rutgers initiated a program that allows students starting in 9th grade the opportunity to enter their own grades and get feedback on their likelihood to be admitted. This was implemented as part of the Future Scholars program so that students would not get to their senior year and be disappointed if they were not admitted.

The session continued with a Q&A and sharing from the conference participants.


Breakout Sessions and Reporting Out on the Research Agenda

After one-hour breakout sessions in which three small groups convened, answers to these three questions were presented:

1. Of the ideas presented in the conference, which are the most immediately relevant to your work?

  • Collaborate with existing organizations doing relevant work like USC CERRP, College Board, ETS, etc.
  • Evaluate your admission website in terms of your values (Swarthmore U. was an example)
  • Role of contextual information in admission as presented by Bastedo
  • Role of nonacademic factors and validity and reliability of instruments
  • ETS and the Personal Potential Index (PPI)
  • Better way to provide feedback to students and families about the admission process

2. Of these ideas, which hold the most promise for the future? What would it take for you to adopt them?

  • Finding the bandwidth to retool admission process. Training materials around bias for admission practice would be very helpful!
  • Need more information on Committe Based Review and how to change admission review (UPenn, Swarthmore, etc.)
  • Individual leadership–need to think about value in region vs. strategy in division of responsibilities
  • Need to take caution in overestimating value of noncognitive factors in admission. Perhaps see potential more in terms of advising and placement.
  • Need better way to understand and explain process of using noncognitive factors in admissions with perhaps strategies like data visualization or narrative storytelling
  • Hard to engage with senior leaders on campus and boards on perspective of societal needs and public good
  • Rethinking institutional use of test scores

3. Given your perspective, what areas of research would you like to see pursued?

  • Better understanding across field about what comprises “holistic review.” Need standard definition before changing the practice.
  • Are noncognitive factors value-added to academic aspect or evaluated separately?
  • How should interviews be mined for data on noncognitive factors?
  • How are other sectors using nonacademic assessments? K-12, international (e.g. Cambridge in UK admission), private (P&G)
  • What are alumni doing and how do noncognitive factors predict these outcomes? (Rose-Hulman is about to implement: 1. How were we unhelpful to attainment; 2. How were we helpful to attainment)
  • How do nonselective institutions use noncognitive factors well in terms of admission and student success? CUNY City College and Baruch and CSU LA are some examples. With most recent studies, doesn’t seem that elite institutions are actually serving a diverse population!
  • What is leadership in enrollment management and what qualities of leadership are related to positive outcomes