From The Yield, Spring 2015
The Yield profiles SSATB member schools asking how their office tackles process and procedures, and integrates trends and data into their decision making process, marketing, recruitment, and retention strategies. In this issue, Tom Sheppard, Lawrenceville’s Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, covers the challenges and methods of success when leading and managing a large admission team.
ARE THE ROLES OF THE OFFICE CLEARLY DELINEATED AMONG STAFF, OR SHARED AT DIFFERENT INTERVALS DURING THE YEAR?
While the nature of our work is inevitably interconnected—and there is plenty of redundancy in things like interviews, travel, and file reading—we delegate areas of our work based upon skills, interests, and needs. Each member of the office also is tied into one or more parts of the Lawrenceville community with a stake in the decision-making process: academics, financial aid, co-curricular programs, alumni, and/or diversity. Since the admission office serves as the admission committee, this kind of interconnected approach is crucial to our work.
We also divide the operational work load, so that our personal connection with families remains paramount. No one member of the staff could possibly be expected to understand all aspects of the work (and technology) that serve as the backbone of our operation, but the sense of collegiality and mutual support among them helps to coordinate their work and enable a large operation that still makes families feel welcomed and valued.
DO YOU HAVE SEASONAL STAFF OR DELEGATE PIECES OF THE ADMISSION PROCESS TO OTHER SCHOOL DEPARTMENTS?
We do receive some part-time assistance with application processing, and we are grateful for it. Without that support, we would have trouble managing the volume. We also have volunteer faculty interviewers, who help us throughout the year simply because they enjoy meeting the applicants. Our communications department also plays a vital role in helping to shape our web presence and in creating our print publications.
HOW HAVE YOU ADDRESSED OPTIMAL STAFFING FOR THE OFFICE?
That’s the trickiest piece of the puzzle for us. Since we operate at capacity enrollment, adding more staff to accommodate demand will not generate more revenue. Now in my second year, I am learning that we need to be creative and efficient, deciding what aspects of our work have the most value and deciding where we can most efficiently use our funding. We have been through a significant and prolonged period of transition when it comes to technology. As we come toward the end of that transition, we are realizing increased efficiency. We are not 100% of the way there yet, but our utilization of API services to process both our Lawrenceville online applications and our SSATB SAO applications through our InResonance databases has been a very important step along the way.
DOES THE ADMISSION STAFF HAVE SCHOOL RESPONSIBILITIES OUTSIDE OF THE OFFICE?
Each of the assistant and associate deans has residential and co-curricular responsibilities, which are a significant part of their lives. I am constantly amazed at and grateful for the way they juggle these responsibilities. Many members of the office also have young children, and as a parent myself, I can appreciate how tricky that juggle can be. It’s a challenge we manage not only by planning and distributing the workload, but also by pitching in as situations arise.
WHO IS INVOLVED IN READING AND REVIEWING APPLICANTS’ FILES?
File reading is handled entirely within the admission office. As an office, we make all the decisions, which is a long and taxing process that comes to a crashing halt on March 10 just as everyone has reached their limits. This year, we divided the reading process among three committees that worked tirelessly over a five-week period to read and make final recommendations. For the last part of the process, we brought the whole office together to fine tune the decisions and to make sure our decisions struck a balance among the various voices in the community.
IS FINANCIAL AID HANDLED WITHIN YOUR OFFICE?
Sara Tucker, our director of financial aid, and Barbara Kamienski, her assistant, put in long hours and handle the entire financial aid process outside of the admission process. In the end, we strive to meet 100% of the need for anyone we admit, which often includes funding for books, travel, allowance, health insurance, and other incidentals that come up. We also work very hard to ensure our financial aid decisions support the larger goals of the office.
DOES YOUR OFFICE HAVE PERIODIC BOARD REPORTING RESPONSIBILITIES?
I handle the board reports for admission, and Sara produces a report for financial aid. Much of the data that is included in those reports is compiled by Dorothy Quinn and Barbra Kamienski; so in the end, it’s a team effort.
HOW DOES YOUR OFFICE ADDRESS TRAINING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TO MANAGE THE MYRIAD RESPONSIBILITIES IN ADMISSION?
Making sure we find time for professional development is always a challenge given the pace of our work. In April and May, we do find time to focus on larger topics. For example, last year many of us participated in a group that studied how we could best incorporate non-cognitive variables in our work. The research lasted all summer, and we are now using that work as part of our decision making. We also use the spring as a time for individuals to focus on projects that will enhance our work. Last year, several members of the office researched and developed new modules for our website with the help of our communications office. Finally, many members of the office find time for conferences such as the Ten Schools Spring Meeting, diversity conferences, and database workshops.
WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES IMPACTING THE SUCCESS OF THE ADMISSION PROCESS AT YOUR SCHOOL?
The biggest challenges for us involve balancing multiple points of view in the process, managing the volume, and working very hard to make sure a larger school comes across with a personal touch.
Meet the Admission Team:
Tom Sheppard, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid—Tom assumed his position at The Lawrenceville School in July 2013. He began his career in admission in 1991 at Perkiomen School (PA). After five years in the classroom, Sheppard became Director of Admission and Financial Aid at Trinity Pawling School (NY) in 1996. In 1999, Sheppard assumed the role of Director of Admission at Stevenson School (CA), a position he held until 2012 when he became Director of Enrollment Management. Sheppard holds a B.A. from Washington and Lee University and earned a master of education degree in educational leadership from Lehigh University.
Sally Fitzpatrick (H’85 P’99 ‘04), Senior Associate Dean of Admission—Sally has been a member of Lawrenceville’s admission team since 1992. She has also worked in the admission offices of Middlebury College (from which she graduated) and Princeton University. She came to Lawrenceville in 1979, along with her husband Allen ‘73 H ‘85 ‘89 (chair of Lawrenceville’s Visual Arts Department), and served as Crescent Level Director.
Samuel Washington (‘81 P’14 ‘17), Senior Associate Dean of Admission/Director of Multicultural Affairs—Sam has been a member of Lawrenceville’s admission team since 1999. In addition to his admission and multicultural affairs roles, he serves as a Second Form boys’ advisor, assistant boys’ varsity basketball coach, and an associate of Davidson. He earned a B.A. from Boston College.
Cindy Ehret (’95), Associate Dean of Admission, Lisa Ewanchyna, Associate Dean of Admission, Vanessa Gieske, Assistant Dean of Admission, Tracy Hazelton-Werts, Administrative Assistant to the Admission Office, Barbara Kamienski (P’02), Assistant to the Director of Financial Aid, Tran Kim-Senior, Assistant Dean of Admission & Coordinator of Intercultural Programs, Kevin Lawrence, Associate Dean of Admission, Patricia MacKinnon, Visits Coordinator, Vicky Martinez, Associate Dean of Admission/Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs, Dorothy Quinn, Assistant to the Dean/Systems Administrator, Jamal Shipman, Assistant Dean of Admission, Sara Tucker, Director of Financial Aid/Associate Dean of Admission, Doreen Weinberg, Office Manager, Veena Bhagavathi (’15), Head Tour Guide, David Paasche (’15), Head Tour Guide