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New enrollment head upbeat on University's potential
August 29, 1997
Dolan Evanovich is leaning forward. The enthusiasm in his voice is clear, almost tangible.
"I am really excited about the direction the University of Connecticut is headed," he says.
"UConn is already a great University. And everything is in place so that we can move to the next level and become a truly outstanding University. Everything. It really is a unique moment in the history of this institution. How can you not be excited to play a part in that?"
Evanovich sits back, still smiling. "Of course," he says "there's still a lot of work to be done."
Evanovich is the University's new associate provost for enrollment management, the first person to hold that position since it was established earlier this year.
The position was created as part of the strategic plan, says Judith Meyer, interim vice provost for undergraduate education and instruction. "It brings together the units that focus on admissions, financial aid, scholarships, retention and orientation. This will help us improve our ability as a University to attract and retain the kind of students we are interested in."
A national search also has been initiated for a director of admissions, who will be responsible for the day-to-day management of a variety of duties, including recruitment strategies, the interviewing of prospective students, application reviews, and the office's fiscal affairs.
Evanovich will be focusing on the larger issues.
"I really see this job as having several major components, each of which interlock and complement the other," he says. "It all begins with attracting more of the best and brightest students from diverse backgrounds to the University. We need to get prospective students interested and let them know why the University of Connecticut should be among their principal choices for college."
"Preliminary data show that this year's freshmen have an average SAT score of 1113, up from last year's average of 1112," he says. "Their high school class rank has remained on par with last year's students. So, even though we have been dealing with a slightly smaller applicant pool, we have been able to attract great students."
Still, Evanovich knows that to increase both the number and quality of applicants, there must be some changes in the way things are done. To that end, he hopes to find ways to refine and improve upon current strategies such as high school recruiting visits and the types of publications the University produces and sends to these students. He is also looking into new strategies such as direct mail, telemarketing and use of technology to improve student services.
"It's important to make contact with prospective students early on, while they are high school juniors," he says. "From there we build relationships and show them what UConn has to offer."
New and improved recruitment strategies will be combined with specific enrollment goals and strategic use of scholarships and financial aid. And Evanovich would like to turn orientation into an ongoing process that follows students throughout their undergraduate career.
Evanovich also believes it is important to benchmark how the University stacks up against its competition, regionally and nationally, not just in admissions and the quality of students, but also in the areas of retention, orientation, and enrollment strategies.
"Eighty-seven percent of our freshmen return for their sophomore year," he says. "That is outstanding when compared with other public institutions."
Evanovich adds that UConn is also ranked 13th out of 56 public Research I institutions in freshmen who go on to graduate, and was ranked 20th among all public universities in the nation in a recent U.S. News &World Report survey (see related story on page 1).
"These are certainly numbers to be proud of, but they also show us how we stack up against the very best," he says. "We know what the next level is and who's there: Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina, and Penn State. That's what we want to shoot for."
Evanovich says part of moving to the next level also includes deciding what is the University's optimal size. The University administration is currently wrestling with this issue, but the ultimate decision will be factored into developing a strategic enrollment management plan.
Evanovich also hopes that faculty, staff, and alumni will become more active in the recruiting and retention process.
"We already have many faculty, staff, and alums who contribute to the process," he says. "I can only see this continuing and improving the way we attract good students from all areas."
Evanovich points to the success of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources as an indicator of how focused efforts can produce results.
"The initial data show that they did an excellent job in recruitment over the last year," he says. "Their average freshman SAT rose from 1085 to 1122 and their class rank increased from the 74th to 76th percentile."
Evanovich's philosophy is exactly what the University's leadership is looking for.
"We all know how extremely competitive the marketplace for high quality students has become," says Mark Emmert, chancellor and provost for university affairs. "It's critical in this environment that the University has someone who is responsible for seeing the big picture regarding enrollment management strategies, including retention issues. Dolan has already begun to provide excellent leadership in this area."
"There are a lot of elements coming together all at once," he says. "We have a tremendous University with excellent academic programs and a world-class faculty. We have great people in enrollment management who, I believe, are as excited as I am about the opportunities we have. There is the strategic plan, UConn 2000, and a commitment by the leadership of the University to move forward to the next level.
"Also, over the next 10 years the number of graduating high school seniors in Connecticut will increase from 32,700 to 39,500. There will be similar increases in surrounding states. All the pieces are in place for success. It's a tremendous opportunity."