Academic journal article College and University

Interview with Cliff Sjogren

Academic journal article College and University

Interview with Cliff Sjogren

Article excerpt

Cliff Sjogren, a past President of AACRAO, served as Director of Admissions at the University of Michigan and as Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at the University of Southern California. After 40 years as an admission professional, Mr. Sjogren now volunteers much of his time to work with the International Baccalaureate Program.

When you were a little boy, did you want to be an admissions director when you grew up?

When I was a little boy I wanted to be a sailor or drive a fire engine. I didn't know there was such a thing as admissions. I fell into the profession much like a lot of people do, almost by accident. I was a counselor in a high school in northern Michigan. Russ Gabier, a friend of mine, we'd been on the high school track team together, happened to be working for Western Michigan University. He asked me if I'd like to get into college work. And I said "No, I love it up here, skiing, fishing, and hunting. I've got it all up here." Well, we had three young children at that time and when I mentioned to Pat, my wife, that Russ had asked me about getting into college work, she quickly said "Yes, let's do it!"

Describe your tenure as director of admissions at the University of Michigan.

After four years at Western, I spent 24 years at Michigan, 16 as director of admissions. I served under what George Hanford, the one-time president of the College Board, called the best one-two punch in college admissions, Clyde Vroman and Gayle Wilson. They were national figures in admissions and created one of the first admissions offices in the country for a public university. These were two incredibly scholarly, sensitive men who, back in the early 1960s, gave their staff a long leash to really do something creative in admissions. They hired two or three of us younger guys at that time and together we came up with a highly successful student-centered admissions program within the very competitive admissions situation at Michigan.

In 1989, I left Michigan and began consulting. One of my jobs was at the University of Southern California. I was soon after hired by use and spent four really great years there. They'd had some problems in their admissions operation and they thought I might be able to fix them. Happily they were fixed and they're doing very well now. I left use in 1993 and since that time have had some consulting assignments in Mexico and around the u.s. I've also continued my very active participation in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program with which 1 have been associated since 1972. During my years at Michigan and use, I was also very active in the College Board, where I served as chair of two or three committees, and the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs, where I helped create and subsequently chaired the Admission Section.

Admissions offices tend to have three primary interests that they're going to serve: the student interest, societal interests, and university interests. The first and foremost priority should be the student interests. At Michigan at that time, we didn't use words like recruiting and marketing. The second interest that we wanted to serve was the social interest. We wanted to try to enroll poor kids, minority kids, returning adults, and students with disabilities into the University. Then the third interest that we served was the University.

My concern is that today those interests seem to have been reversed. Now it seems that we're more interested in serving the university interests first. We bring in very big, fast guys to perform on our football teams. (Judging from this year's Rose Bowl result, I was better at that at use than I was at Michigan!) We give special priorities to rich people who may give us some money. We go out and get the "best" students (defined as those with the best test scores and class ranks) because it will make us, the university, look better. The second interest continues to be social, and then the third is the student interest. …

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