May 28, 2020

Q&A Session Focused on Recruitment and Retention

UMW faculty and staff tuned in yesterday to a Zoom presentation and Q&A session centered on fall enrollment and retention in the time of COVID-19. Facilitated by Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken, the hour-long event included Vice President for Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski, Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies Kimberly Young and Director of Graduate Admissions Christy Pack.

Vice President for Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams

Vice President for Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams

Buster-Williams and Yakabouski, who together have worked half a century in college admissions, said that the recruitment-related woes they’ve faced throughout their careers have been trumped by unemployment rates, health concerns and other disruptions caused by the current pandemic.

COVID-19 has taken an increasingly competitive college-enrollment landscape to new heights, the administrators said, forcing them to re-imagine strategies for recruiting and retaining students, and pose innovative solutions. At the time of the talk, first-year deposits stood at slightly more than 100 less than anticipated, according to Buster-Williams. This mirrors a downward trend across the country, she said. Mary Washington, like other schools, has extended the enrollment deposit deadline to June 1.

“We find ourselves in the midst of a recruitment crisis, and the outpouring of support has been truly appreciated,” she said of faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the Mary Washington community who are pitching in to help yield a strong incoming class.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski

After working for years to build a 2020-21 UMW undergraduate cohort – visiting schools, attending college fairs, reading applications and more – “our entire operation went online,” Yakabouski said. Without the overwhelming support, she said, “we could not have pivoted as quickly or as well.”

Among incoming students’ top concerns, she said, are a need to connect and a desire to know if Mary Washington will be able to meet its goal of providing in-person learning this fall or if the coronavirus crisis will force courses back online.

Pack and Young said they also have been “sorting through uncertainties” to meet the changing demands of adult learners by enhancing testing and pathway options, and financial support opportunities.

Director of Graduate Admissions Christy Pack

Director of Graduate Admissions Christy Pack

Together, Pack said, the two have hosted virtual sessions throughout the past six weeks for 150 students interested in enrolling in UMW’s MBA, M.Ed., MSGA, BSN, BLS, GIS-certification and other professional development programs.

“Uncertainty means we have hope,” said Young, who is keeping a close eye on the ways in which UMW can help meet the changing needs of area industries, such as offering COVID-19-influenced courses required of educators.

Participants posed a host of questions about such topics as how other schools’ decisions impact UMW’s admissions operations and what unique enrollment strategies are being considered.

“We are making sure we’re being really brilliant at the basics,” Buster-Williams said.

Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies Kimberly Young

Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies Kimberly Young

In answer to Professor of Chemistry Nicole Crowder’s question on how the entire UMW community can continue to support this crucial effort, Yakabouski suggested being responsive to inquiries from prospective students and their parents, and sharing innovative ideas.

“Recruitment isn’t just about the four of us on this panel,” Young said. “It’s about all of us.”

Watch the May 20 Q&A session on YouTube.

Buster-Williams Participates in Virtual COVID-19 Discussion

Vice President for Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams

Vice President for Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams

Kimberley Buster-Williams, vice president for enrollment management, participated in American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) virtual Coffee Talk event on Friday, May 1, 2020. Buster-Williams presented with colleagues Tom Green, Stan Henderson, and Jody Gordon (University of the Fraser Valley). The 60-minute session was titled, “AACRAO Coffee Break: Enrollment Planning for COVID-19 and Beyond.”

Buster-Williams Headlines Strategic Enrollment Management Conference

Vice President of Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams was a headliner at the 29th Annual Strategic Enrollment Management Conference, presented by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) in Dallas, Texas, Nov. 3-6, 2019. An AACRAO member since 1996, Buster-Williams has more than two decades of experience in higher education, including senior administrative assignments at Northern Illinois University and the University of Michigan-Flint. Her background includes extensive work in strategic planning, enrollment management in the academic context, access and diversity, branding/marketing, and assessment.

Buster-Williams Published in Strategic Enrollment Management Quarterly (SEMQ)

Vice President of Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams

Vice President of Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams

Kimberley Buster-Williams, vice president for enrollment management, had an article featured in Strategic Enrollment Management Quarterly’s summer edition (Vol. 7, Issue 2). The article was titled “Reflections on SEM Leadership: Evolving and Emerging Roles.” SEM Quarterly, published by AACRAO, provides knowledge and insight into the ongoing evolution of strategic enrollment management (SEM). SEMQ bridges the gap between theory and practice with articles by thought leaders and practitioners who address the emerging dynamics of SEM, including: executive-level leadership, leading strategies, internationalization, research, academic orientation, and current trends.

Buster-Williams Nominated for AACRAO LEAD

Kimberley Buster-Williams, vice president for enrollment management, has been invited to participate in a new initiative called AACRAO LEAD. AACRAO’s new initiative called LEAD (Leaders in Enrollment Advancing Diversity) will take a multi-pronged approach at identifying and preparing a diverse group of enrollment leaders to take on leadership roles in Enrollment Management in North America and across the globe.

The LEAD initiative will kick off at the 2018 SEM Conference with a Monday evening reception hosted by Buster- Williams and colleagues who have taken the lead on inculcating diversity and inclusivity values in SEM.

At the reception, the hosts will introduce the AACRAO LEAD theme, which will be built upon at future events. Plans include:

  • A diversity leadership development program for mid-level professionals.
  • A webinar series.
  • A scholarship program for AACRAO’s SEM Endorsement Program.

AACRAO is a professional association of more than 11,000 higher education professionals who represent approximately 2,600 institutions in more than 40 countries. Its mission is to provide professional development, guidelines and voluntary standards to be used by higher education officials regarding the best practices in records management, admissions, enrollment management, administrative information technology and student services. AACRAO represents institutions in every part of the higher education community, from large public institutions to small, private liberal arts colleges. http://www.aacrao.org/home/about

Buster-Williams Published in Recruitment and Retention

Kimberley Buster-Williams, associate provost for enrollment management, had an article featured in Recruitment and Retention’s December edition. The article was titled “Moving to an Effective Digital Records Strategy.”

Buster-Williams Published in College & University Journal

Kimberley Buster- Williams, associate provost for enrollment management, had an article featured in College & University’s winter edition. The article was titled “Optimism in Enrollment Management.” College & University is AACRAO’s educational policy and research journal focusing on emerging concerns, new techniques, and technology in higher education. It is published four times a year.

UMW Initiates Test-Optional Admissions Provision

The University of Mary Washington will offer high-achieving prospective students the opportunity to opt out of providing standardized college admission tests with their application for enrollment. The University’s Board of Visitors approved the action during its April meeting. Donald Rallis' geography class, Thursday Oct. 27, 2011. (Photo by Norm Shafer).Beginning with the 2015-16 recruitment period, high school students who have maintained at least a 3.5 grade point average have the option of waiving submission of their SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or ACT (American College Test) scores when applying for admission to the university. Previously, UMW required either SAT or ACT scores for students to be considered for admission. Students applying for merit-based scholarships would be ineligible for this program. “High school GPAs are by far one of the strongest predictors of college success,” said Kimberley Buster-Williams, associate provost for enrollment management and admissions. “We welcome the opportunity to consider admission for students who perhaps do not test well or for whom a standardized test doesn’t reflect their true potential.” Strong academic students traditionally pursue a rigorous high school curriculum that includes college-level courses, Buster-Williams said. She added that the most compelling reason for instituting a test-optional policy is to enhance the diversity of the student body. Data reveals that schools with test-optional policies often see increased applications from minorities, women, Pell-eligible students, first-generation college students and students with learning differences. In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests that high school GPA is a better indicator of student success in college than standardized test scores. Currently, more than 800 colleges and universities no longer require the submission of standardized test scores in admission decisions, according to Fair Test: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. To be considered for admission to UMW, any student who applies to UMW must submit a high school transcript, essay and letters of recommendation.

Buster-Williams Publishes in Recruitment & Retention

Kimberley Buster-Williams, associate provost for enrollment management, recently had her article “Managing Big Data” accepted for publication in Recruitment & Retention In Higher Education. The paper will be published in April.

UMW Names Associate Provost for Enrollment Management

Kimberley Buster-Williams has been named to the position of associate provost for enrollment management at the University of Mary Washington. Buster-Williams has spent nearly 20 years in higher education admissions, most recently as acting associate vice president for enrollment management at Northern Illinois University. Kimberley Buster-Williams. Photo courtesy of Northern Illinois University. Buster-Williams, who will begin work at UMW on May 25, will oversee all matters related to enrollment and recruitment for the university. As associate provost, she will be responsible for the Office of Admissions, the Office of the University Registrar, and the Office of Financial Aid.  She will also chair UMW’s Enrollment Management and Retention Committee, which includes representation from faculty and staff serving in offices across campus. Buster-Williams will take the helm from Carol Descak, who has served as associate provost for admissions and financial aid since June 2012. “Kimberley has had broad experience, both addressing significant enrollment challenges associated with the changing landscape of higher education and utilizing new systems and technologies similar to and, in some cases, the same as those we have begun to utilize at Mary Washington,” said Provost Jonathan Levin. Prior to her current position at Northern Illinois University, Buster-Williams served as director of admissions. In her seven years as director of admissions at the University of Michigan at Flint she oversaw enrollment growth of nearly 33 percent and an increase in high-achieving students. She also has served in the admissions departments at Old Dominion University and Johnson and Wales University, both in Norfolk. A native of Richmond, Va., Buster-Williams earned a bachelor’s in English, a master’s degree in educational administration and an educational specialist degree in educational leadership, all from Old Dominion. She also holds professional certificates from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.