|New Senior Admission Staffers Boost Efforts to Match Students with Right College
October 02, 2008
Contact: Bill Giduz
The recent addition of two new directors for the Office of Admission and Financial Aid has finally brought that college division up to full speed again. The outstanding credentials of the two men who occupy those positions has also made Vice President and Dean Chris Gruber a very happy man.
|New staff members (l-r) David Kraus and David Gelinas are pictured in front of the college's new Admission Office building extension. |
David W. Kraus joined the Davidson staff as director of admission on August 17, filling a slot that been vacant for more than three years, when Gruber was elevated from that position to direct the entire office.
David R. Gelinas joined the staff as director of financial aid on September 1. That position was previously held by the longtime and popular director Kathleen Stevenson, who died shortly after Thanksgiving in 2007. Her death was a severe blow to her colleagues, and they had to handle aid packages for this year without her guidance and expertise.
Gruber said both Kraus and Gelinas were selected simply because "they're the best in their fields." He recalled, "Kathleen Stevenson, who was fabulous at her job, used to refer to Dave Gelinas as the 'guru' of financial aid."
Gelinas has been active in the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and its regional chapters throughout his career, which included 22 years as director of financial aid at The University of the South. He regularly makes presentations at conferences, has led committees, and served as chair of the national organization for 2005-06. The group honored him with its Distinguished Service Award in 2006.
Likewise, Kraus served as president of the Potomac and Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling, the fifth largest of the national association's 23 state and regional affiliates, while working for 12 years at Radford University. He was also the inaugural recipient of the New England Association of College Admissions Counseling "Outstanding Admissions Professional" Award when he worked previously at the University of New Hampshire.
Gruber, who had a long career at the University of Richmond before coming to Davidson, had known Kraus for many years through professional development events and presentations in Virginia. Gruber said, "I had been witness on panel discussions to his bright ideas, enthusiasm, and work with secondary school counselors. He's a man of integrity who is passionate about what he does."
Kraus recalled that Gruber's move to Davidson from the University of Richmond had piqued his curiosity about this North Carolina college. "When Chris left I asked myself, 'What is it about that place?' Then later when I heard about The Davidson Trust it took my breath away. I saw Davidson doing the right thing for the right reason."
Gelinas said colleagues at the University of the South understood why he was leaving only when they found out where he was going. He said, "The sentiment I heard over and over again was 'I didn't see you making a move, but I understand why you would move to Davidson.'"
The power of The Davidson Trust to give students a running start on their postgraduate careers by eliminating the need for college loans was a strong attraction for both new staffers. Gelinas said, "Over time it will be seen to have brought into higher education a population of students who would have seen Davidson as being outside the realm of their aspirations. To know that ethos was in place here was very attractive to me."
Gruber said both men are perfect matches for the Davidson culture. "Their skills, personality, and humor shows me they are the absolutely right and natural candidates for their jobs here," he said.
|Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid Chris Gruber. |
Gruber pointed out that filling the two director positions will allow him to become "more macro" in promoting Davidson to constituencies that can contribute special interests to the college. That could include a greater emphasis on recruiting international students, students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and those who might be the first in their families to attend college.
Kraus arrives with considerable experience in another initiative that is becoming increasingly important to Davidson - educating high school guidance counselors about the college so that they can recommend appropriate students to apply here.
At Radford University Kraus organized an annual Blue Ridge Mountain Counselors' Tour that attracted almost 450 guidance counselors primarily from outside Virginia to tour several campuses in that state. He also initiated "Virginia Sampler" breakfasts for guidance counselors at annual conferences of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling.
Davidson began a program in 2006 to educate high school counselors about financial aid in general, and Davidson in particular. Last year 430 counselors from just North and South Carolina participated. Gruber wants to maintain that effort, and extend it to include closer work with foundations and community based organizations that help students select and transition to colleges that matches their interests and personalities. He commented, "Having Dave Kraus and Dave Gelinas on board shouldn't be about moving things off my plate, but about them putting things on my plate that we hadn't previously considered."
Gelinas said the most profound change in financial aid during his 22 years in the business has been automation, which has created challenges for schools like Davidson that take pride in dealing with applicants individually. "It's so computer oriented now that a student can be admitted and funded for four years at some places without ever talking to a human being in the financial aid office," Gelinas said. "We want to remain personal throughout the process."
Kraus agreed that technology has been the most profound agent of change during his 25-year career. "When I joined the admission staff at the University of New Hampshire, they asked if I knew how to use a Dictaphone!" he recalled.
Gelinas said Davidson plans to express the personal nature of the process here in a new way beginning this fall by assigning a counselor to all prospects who would be first-generation college students. He explained, "Rather than telling them to call the financial aid office if they have questions, we'll give them a number and say, 'Call Chad Spencer, or John Leach.'"
Gruber added, "The way we convey our message to people tells them a lot about the culture of the place, and if we can continually enhance the way we personalize the process it should give prospective student and their families more comfort about how they'll be treated over the next four years. It pulls them into the family."
Changing demographics offer another challenge. The increasing number of non-traditional students in the Southeast will require Davidson to evaluate its recruitment efforts in this area so students can be identified and fairly evaluated.
Gelinas also mentioned the "US News & World Report effect." Since that magazine began publishing its widely read rankings of higher education institutions, families have become more demanding of the colleges they explore. "Families are more self-educated about financial aid because of the plethora of rankings and ratings and guidebooks now out there," he said. "Everyone has gotten the message to negotiate, to never accept the first financial aid award you're sent. I have to be much more precise in explaining how we arrive at an award based on a family's individual circumstances, and that can take a lot of time."
Gruber added that new methods of communication have increased the complexity of how the admission and financial aid office must communicate with prospective students and their families. The office is still responsible for traditional marketing tactics such as publishing viewbooks and sending counselors around the country to visit students at college fairs and high schools. But admission offices must now also consider reaching students via new methods, such as sophisticated Web pages, video, text message, and social networking sites. "There are so many more tools for us to manage," said Gruber. "You can't assume everyone has the latest technology. You've got to meet students on whatever level they reside."
Gruber is proud that applications to Davidson increased this past year, especially with the right type of applicants. This year, the number of visitors to campus is up 23 percent over the same time last year. He attributes the significant increase to both The Davidson Trust and national publicity during last year's basketball season. He expects to have a better picture of demand for places in the Class of 2013 at the early decision deadline of November 15.
But Gruber stresses that success in admission should not be measured by numbers. "I tell students and families that my favorite day isn't their first day on campus, but it's the day they graduate," he said. "We want qualified students here for four powerful years. Admission work isn't about a prize student to be won, it's about the good match that's made."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz