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  September 4, 2001

Sought By Other Schools, Morales
Makes UConn His Top Choice

James Morales was highly sought after by five different schools.

An out-of-state resident, he first heard of the University of Connecticut through the US News & World Report ranking of top colleges and the national championship success of the Husky basketball teams.

When he began sending out applications, he learned more about UConn's academic programs and the state's investment in the University's physical infrastructure through UConn 2000.

A visit to the Storrs campus clinched his interest. He was impressed by the rural setting and by the people he met. If UConn makes me an offer, he decided, I'll take it.

Morales is not a student. But the same reasons that brought him to UConn are also attracting record numbers of young people to the University and will form a basis for him to reach out to prospective students and their parents in his new job as director of undergraduate admissions.

Morales, former associate director of admissions at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and a finalist in four other searches nationwide, moved to Storrs in August.

"We are very excited to have James as part of our enrollment management team," says Dolan Evanovich, associate provost for enrollment management, which includes undergraduate admissions, the University Registrar, student financial aid services, and new student orientation. "He brings an outstanding administrative background and an impressive record of accomplishments. He will represent the institution well."

In addition to his former post in admissions, Morales held concurrent positions in academic support and student life and equity education and services at the University of Minnesota, and was previously a diversity admissions counselor.

He joins UConn at a time when freshman enrollment has increased significantly. The challenge will be to maintain the momentum, he says, and to help manage the growth.

His goals include increasing the quality and the diversity of the student body.

"As the student demand increases, we can be more selective," he says. "But there's a fine balance. We are a land-grant institution. Our roots are to provide education for the sons and daughters of the state, and we must continue to provide access to education for a wide range of people."

Morales, who won a number of awards for his work with minority groups in Minnesota and speaks Spanish, English and Japanese, says he will build on the University's outreach efforts to attract more students from underrepresented communities.

"The most effective strategy in working to diversify the class is to establish sincere relationships with minority communities," he says. "We need to send a message to those communities that we care, so that they feel comfortable sending their daughters and sons to us."

Morales knows how important that is. His parents, immigrants from Mexico, encouraged their children to pursue an education but had little formal education themselves. He grew up in Idaho and earned a bachelor's degree in speech communication from the University of Utah.

In 2000, he earned an Ed.D. in higher education policy and administrati on from the University of Minnesota. His dissertation was on Hispanic administrators in Minnesota's colleges and universities.

Morales says UConn's admissions office is already doing sterling work. His job, he says, will be to fine-tune it: "The task that's facing us now is about excellence in terms of the service we provide."

Part of that task has to do with streamlining the admissions processes. The University is currently switching to PeopleSoft, university-wide software that will integrate student information systems.

Morales is already familiar with PeopleSoft, having been involved in implementing the software at the University of Minnesota for more than five years.

He says he will also work to improve the information that's available for prospective students on the University's website, especially for out-of-state and international students who may not be able to visit the campus and who often rely on the Internet for information when selecting a college in the United States.

But technology can only go so far. Improving service, says Morales, will largely depend on building relationships - on campus, in the schools and in the community.

"Admissions work is all about relationships," he says.

Relationships with high school guidance counselors are key. "When high school counselors know you're there for them and their students when they need you, you have another recruiter there for you," says Morales. "When a student walks in, they'll quickly pull your name out and help show the student how the institution could be a good fit. I want every single high school counselor to have that kind of feeling about UConn."

But the job of recruiting new students goes beyond the admissions office, says Morales, who has a staff of about 30. "The admissions office does the formal part, but everyone recruits," he says.

"Faculty, staff, students, and their families all have a role to play, through the messages they send about the University to their communities, as well as the faculty who take their research projects nationally and worldwide."

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu

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