When I learned of the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) in 2011, I immediately decided to go. There, I was amazed to see various departments such as academic affairs, multicultural affairs, housing, and development represented. However, I saw very few people from college admission counseling and enrollment management.
By 2014, I decided to do something to change that. That year, I founded NCORE’s Enrollment Management Professionals Caucus (EMPC) — a convening of faculty and staff who work with students at the intersection of high school and higher education and/or help to manage enrollment at colleges and universities, including those who work in admission, financial aid, registrar, and college counseling, among other departments.
The EMPC provides a designated time and space at NCORE for our profession to network, discuss how race shapes our work, and share experiences and best practices for helping students of color and other marginalized students navigate the journey to and through higher education. Since 2014, the caucus has grown exponentially, now drawing between 15 and 20 attendees. That may not sound like a lot, but when I first started going to NCORE, I’d typically meet only two to three people in enrollment management each year — so this is a win.
One of the biggest lessons I learned earlier in my career is that it takes an entire community to recruit and enroll a class. Then I learned it takes an entire community to retain and graduate a class. This year’s EMPC emphasized both lessons. One attendee who works in risk management discussed how he used cultural competency to increase the enrollment of students from Puerto Rico at his institution. (This was helpful to another attendee who oversees multicultural recruitment at her institution.) Another attendee who works in public safety discussed how she started a self-defense class to help international students acclimate to the institution and surrounding community and feel safe. (This was helpful to me, as I am in a campus working group analyzing the first-year experience.) Other departments outside of college admission counseling and enrollment management represented at EMPC this year included information technology, academic advising, welding, and orientation.
While the majority of NCORE attendees are not a part of college admission counseling, they are members of the larger higher education community who need and want to hear from us. They need to hear about the work we do (e.g., shaping students’ college lists), the challenges we face (e.g., losing students to other institutions due to financial aid), the spaces we occupy and navigate (e.g., being the only person of color in an office), and our hopes for the future as the higher education landscape changes (e.g., creating pathways and access for underrepresented students). As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, we need to broaden our knowledge and skill set. This is why I constantly speak of NCORE and encourage my fellow members at NACAC and affiliate ACACs to attend conferences outside the NACAC umbrella, and then bring what you’ve learned back to NACAC and your respective institutions. Julie Kirk, government relations manager at NACAC, is an example of this. She attended NCORE this year and participated in EMPC. (Read more about her experiences.)
Another example of this is my introduction to Mandy Hart, associate dean of admission and coordinator of diversity outreach at Amherst College (MA). We met at NCORE in 2015 at a session called Why Do Only Some of the Pieces of Equity and Diversity Work “Take Hold” in Higher Education? It was designed for those interested and/or engaged in equity and diversity work at any level, in any division, and in any role within higher education. Following NCORE, we continued the conversation and thought about how this work is connected to admission. We then presented on this topic at the 2017 NACAC National Conference, calling our session Whose Role is it Anyway?: Taking Hold of Diversity and Equity Work in Admission. That led to our voices being featured in the Journal of College Admission and Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.
The work of college admission counseling is critically important, and I look forward to continued growth with the enrollment management professionals who attend NCORE and EMPC. I also look forward to more critical conversations at the NACAC conference, which includes sessions that address more directly the ways in which our students are marginalized and disenfranchised before, during, and beyond their college admission and college experience.
Anthony Grant is an associate director of admissions at Earlham College (IN). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in history from Syracuse University (NY). He is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion, higher education. He also sings and plays piano, so you may find him at karaoke at the NACAC conference social.