A.D. White Statue in front of Goldwin Smith Hall

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October 3, 2017

Administrators Tackle Admissions and Advising Problems at Cornell

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Arts and Sciences administrators held a forum to discuss ways to remedy the outdated look of admissions and advising at Cornell.

Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Rachel Bean opened the forum by broadly discussing problems the College of Arts and Sciences currently faces.

Bean mentioned the “pressure with focusing on professional pathways,” the struggle to show the desirability of a liberal arts degree, the increasing need for internship experience and the uniqueness of serving both the liberal arts college and the surrounding pre-professional schools.

Director of Admissions John Morganelli spoke on the usefulness of viewing admissions “from the funnel perspective,” where the process mirrors the shape of a funnel: A student begins as a prospect at the top of the funnel and makes their way through their inquiry, application, admission and enrollment.

Morganelli said that instead of focusing on the middle of the metaphorical funnel — the admissions process — the college should place emphasis on the bottom of the funnel, when admitted students have to decide if they want to attend Cornell.

Morganelli addressed this by mentioning the development of a “new diversity recruitment plan,” new communication methods and “engaging with our current diversity student ambassadors” to better communicate with admits to reach a higher yield of enrolled applicants.

He called the strive for the new initiatives a “contemporary diversity recruitment program.”

Additionally, Morganelli highlighted the importance of connecting admitted students with current students and faculty. He noted survey data that show admitted students enroll in institutions in which they feel a part of.

This is facilitated by having these prospective students interact with students and faculty, and even connect them with alumni, Morganelli said.

Morganelli also asked what the most effective ways to facilitate these “meaningful interactions” could be, saying that “shooting an email to somebody really isn’t enough.”

Transitioning into advising was led by Director of Advising Bonnie Comella. She stressed the importance of developing programming for first-generation students and “really trying to understand what they need,” which included interaction with current students, faculty and alumni.

Comella stressed the importance of exposing first-generation students to research, “that, given their background may not be something they thought of.”

She also spoke about the current advising system, which consists of assigning open faculty to students, saying “this system doesn’t work well.”

“Students aren’t happy, faculty aren’t happy, and we need to redesign it in some way,” she said.

Comella spoke about a new way to avoid “seeing your advisor once in August.” She highlighted a new format where six instructors with groups of 10 students meet weekly to discuss “scheduling, navigating the academic landscape … career development, exploring majors, academic freedom and civil discourse.”

However, Comalla says that full-scale adoption will be slow, and this is not the current model.

She suggested looking into “what other institutions are doing well and doing right” regarding advising to make it a more productive and enjoyable experience.

Comalla ended by stating that looking to other institutions for advising models may allow for new innovations regarding the development of a more enjoyable advising experience.

Ending the formal forum was Director of Career Development Jen MacLaughlin. She focused on moving the core concentration from finance, technology and consulting to the humanities.

MacLaughlin spoke about reaching out to new employers and “utilizing technology to leverage those relationships to help students in terms of internships.”

She highlighted the “barrier” due to location that “smaller and more humanities-based organizations” face with their generally smaller budgets.

Another initiative involves spotlighting eight majors or department areas and talking to students and alumni about their past experiences and how to assist career development of those majors.

She addressed the lingering question, “what one is going to do with their major,” and stressed the firm belief in a liberal arts education, its “power” and the “diversity of each major.”

“We solidly believe that your major does not equal your career,” MacLaughlin said.

MacLaughlin spoke about gaining input on how students can be encouraged to “use our services early and often.”

Bean emphasized the University’s commitment to students by providing funds for summer internships, “financial support for students who would otherwise hit [a] barrier to an equal opportunity,” she said.