Q & A with Andrew Flagel, Dean of Admissions and Enrollment Development
Posted: July 17, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
Editor’s note: Over the summer, the Daily Gazette will publish interviews with 11 deans, 2 institute directors, and the vice president for University Life focusing on what was successful in their departments last year and what the George Mason community can expect this year. This is the second article in the series.
By Colleen Kearney Rich
What would you say were the high points of the 2002-03 academic year for the Office of Admissions?
There was a tremendous surge of interest in Mason from across the country this past year. Non-Virginia applications from within the United States were up more than 35 percent. At the same time, Mason continues to attract an incredibly diverse applicant pool, and once again the quality of our applicants increased.
It’s particularly exciting for me that our increasing popularity is largely driven by the strength of our academic programs. In addition to the notoriety brought by Dr. [Vernon] Smith’s Nobel Prize, we are also seeing incredible interest in our performing and visual arts, in the biosciences and computational sciences, in information technology, and in dozens of other fields. Students from Texas, Florida, California, and Ohio are rapidly joining the large number of students from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New England in competing for space in these programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
How have the budget cuts over the past few years affected Admissions?
George Mason University has nearly doubled the number of applications we receive–both graduate and undergraduate–in just a few short years. At the same time, budget cuts have not permitted us to increase staff levels to match that increase in volume. To the best of my knowledge, Mason has fewer admissions staff members per student and per applicant than any other four-year institution in the commonwealth. We have been able to manage this increase by making maximum use of technology, and through the diligence of staff members of admissions units throughout the institution who have put in large amounts of overtime, often uncompensated. It is not uncommon to find admissions staff members here on weekends and late into the evening to counsel prospective students and to keep the paperwork flowing.
We are in the midst of implementing an array of new technologies to assist with these challenges, but the largest share of the recognition for our achievements go to those staff members who have accomplished an amazing volume of work.
What are some of your goals for the upcoming academic year?
We’ll be implementing new technology in the next year, including the Banner student information system, a document imaging system, and upgraded admissions web sites and web services. We’ll continue our outreach to areas where there is increasing interest in Mason from competitive and diverse students, especially in Florida, Texas, and overseas. I’m also looking forward to a high level of cooperation with the various agencies of our student government to enhance our on-campus recruitment efforts by making our open houses as much fun for current students as they are for prospective students.
Are you adding any new staff members or programs that the university community should be aware of?
The admissions and visa process for international students has become increasingly difficult. This can have an impact on the talented admitted students–and the diversity of our institution. We will be experimenting with adding at least one staff member to assist with credential evaluation in an effort to streamline these processes. We will also be adding new web services, including an interactive online graduate application, a greatly enhanced online undergraduate application, and online application status checking at all levels.
What are some of the challenges facing admissions and enrollment in the upcoming academic year?
Retention continues to be an issue that deserves great attention. Although our student retention rate has increased yearly, we need to continue to find ways to help our students succeed and graduate in the most timely manner that is appropriate. We also need to pay attention to staff retention. Since our student services staff has larger workloads than those of the other public universities in Virginia, our most talented people are often recruited by other institutions where they may be offered more money for less work. We need to be sure we are demonstrating our appreciation for the terrific work they do on behalf of our students and the university.
As our application pool increases and the competition for space continues to increase, we will need to make sure that we are adequately serving Virginia students, and that we continue to attract a diverse applicant pool. Fortunately, Mason’s applicants so far have reflected the kind of diversity and quality that we want.
Perhaps the largest challenge is getting the word out on the amazing changes happening so quickly at our institution. Making sure that students know that we are more competitive, have more housing, and have the newest and most relevant academic programs will require a coordinated effort. I am looking forward to using the new visual identity that is being developed and to another exciting year in our performing arts and athletics, which are two areas that have been a great help in spreading the news about Mason.
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