Academic journal article College and University

CROSSING THE GEM FRONTIER: Graduate Admissions Professionals' Participation in Enrollment Management

Academic journal article College and University

CROSSING THE GEM FRONTIER: Graduate Admissions Professionals' Participation in Enrollment Management

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND & RATIONALE: GRADUATE ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT (GEM)

For some time, admissions professionals have played a key role in advancing enrollment management as a concept and field of practice in postsecondary education. Henderson (zoo 8) traces the history of the admissions profession and the evolution of the undergraduate admissions officer from "gatekeeper" to "recruiter" and then to strategic enrollment manager. Hossler (2004) proposes that the scope of the professional field transitioned from admissions to enrollment management, defined as a "set of activities designed to enable educational institutions to exert more influence over their student enrollments and total net tuition revenue" (p. 65). As an emerging concept, enrollment management garners attention as a process as well as an organizational philosophy. Black (2004) describes enrollment management as "an institutional commitment to reorganization" (p. 37) and a conceptual framework for the "cradle to endowment" relationship between student and institution that outlines the comprehensive, developmental nature of a mature enrollment management organization.

Affinity groups and professional societies (e.g., aacrao, nafsa) contribute to ongoing discourse about the intersection between enrollment management and graduate admissions. Recently, the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (nagap) added "enrollment management" to its name, signifying the importance of such activities to graduate admissions work. These developments point to the transition from intake {i.e., admissions and recruitment) as independent activities to enrollment, which functions as part of a larger matrix of activities gaining popularity among graduate and undergraduate admissions professionals.

In analyzing enrollment management at graduate institutions, Schulz (2008) identifies the pursuit of institutional quality, access, and financial stability as "pillars" or guiding priorities of many admissions professionals over the past 30 years. Wilhams (2008) characterizes graduate enrollment management (gem) as being led by professionals who "work proactively to build and maintain relationships across administrative silos...assigning responsibilities based on cost efficiencies, customer service, and expertise" (p. 57). Graduate admissions professionals now spend almost 60 percent of their time on retention, leading researchers to conclude that "institutions are shifting their primary focus on retaining current students, rather than recruiting new students" (nagap 2011, p. 16).

In their effort to understand enrollment management, scholars apply multiple conceptual perspectives, to include resource dependency, systems, revenue, as well as cultural theories pertaining to institutional image (Barnes and Harris 2010, Hossler 2004). There is increasing interest in the study of graduate admissions professionals and how they view their work in enrollment management. Moreover, graduate admissions is an increasingly professionalized field. Nevertheless, few empirical studies look specifically at professional administrators' day-to-day participation in graduate enrollment management. As gem becomes increasingly significant, so will researchers' examination of the experiences of graduate admissions professionals in their quest for insight into the future of gem.

The guiding research construct for this project is professional role development in graduate admissions professionals who describe enrollment management as part of their work. The central research question is "How do select graduate admissions professionals identify with enrollment management in their work?" The purpose of the project is to examine the work experiences of graduate admissions professionals (from their perspective) as they relate to enrollment management. Ultimately, this research makes more explicit the process of how one identifies with and promulgates graduate enrollment management. …

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