Tuesday, May 12, 2015

50 for 50: James Pennix

James Pennix
Dean of Admissions
Radford University (VA)

How long have you been in your current position at Radford? How long have you been there total? 

I have been at Radford University as the Dean of Admissions since 2010. I have been in my current (joint) position as Dean of Admissions and Enrollment Management since 2012. 

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?

I actually worked in the Sales world for 10 years prior to higher education. I was an Assistant Basketball coach at Roanoke College while working on my Master’s degree in Social Work at Radford University. Part of my coaching duties was to help the admissions office with college fairs during the off-season of coaching. I was pretty good at the recruitment end for admissions. When I graduate with my MSW, I accepted an Assistant Director position in the Admissions office and continued to advance in the field. I have been called to serve students in understanding this college admissions process.

What's your favorite counseling memory?

There are really too many to think about, but I once had a student who was trying to choose between Roanoke College and UVA. She was dead set on attending Roanoke and majoring in Biology. The she wanted to go to UVA for medical school. She deposited and was all set until mid-April. She received the Jefferson Scholarship from UVA but felt committed to attending Roanoke. Her mom called and asked if I would talk with the student because the Jefferson Scholarship was too good to turn down. We met and talked for a while and I told her that she should do what was best for her and the family. She needed to know that I was alright with her choosing UVA. I told her that it was a great opportunity and follow her heart. She enrolled at UVA, and we are big buds on Facebook. She will graduate this year with her Biology degree.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership in PCACAC and/or NACAC?

Get involved right away in your office and the association. Do not wait for someone to give an invitation. Just show up to these conferences and jump right in helping out. Ultimately, you will be on committee and find your passion area to serve students and the organization.

If not working in college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing? 

I would probably be a college or high school basketball coach. I enjoy the sport and have coached many young folks who have gone on to great collegiate careers.

What's one thing that most people don't know about you?

I am the youngest in my family (8 of 8) and the first to attend and graduate from college with a Bachelors and Master’s degree. I am also the biggest Spiderman fan over 40 years old, and I have a Spiderman full outfit.

What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why? 

Affordability and access is a joint issue that I am passionate about for prospective students and families. In the same conversation, I believe that PCACAC and all admission professionals must continue to educate students on the process of making college affordable, therefore more attainable. I was a first generation student from a single parent low-income household and had to figure everything out for me and my mom.

***Interested in being featured in the Anchor? Email Aundra Weissert at aweissert2@washcoll.edu to get started.***

Barbara Conner Outlines Strategy For Success in the College Exploration Process

PCACAC member and leader Barbara Conner (Foxcroft School, VA), outlines a strategy for success for students and families going through the college exploration process. Recently published in the Journal of College Admission Spring 2015 issue, this article suggests a change in approach: selecting five first-choice colleges instead of designating schools as "reach, zone, or safety." Read the full article here. Congratulations to Barbara!


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Is that Phone Call Ethical?

We'd like to introduce you to a new, on-going effort from the Admission Practices Committee. Throughout the year, we plan to bring you thoughts concerning timely and relevant ethical issues. These thoughts are meant to proactively start discussions about issues you may face.
For professionals on both sides of the desk, May 1 is an important date that symbolically ends the admission cycle. But for many students, families and admission counselors, the process is not finished. For example, over the coming days and weeks, some colleges will move to the waitlist. Often, this process will start as a phone call from an admission officer to a student asking whether the student is still interested in the college or offering admission. But, is this phone call ethical?
As you work with students through this process, we encourage you to remember that, at our core, the NACAC Statement of Principles and Good Practices (SPGP) is about treating students properly. Therefore, while it may seem great to get students news—often by phone—as quickly as possible, we need to remember that the student needs to be treated fairly and that the SPGP can guide us.  According to SPGP Mandatory Practices Section II B 6, “All postsecondary members agree that they will establish wait list procedures that ensure that no student on any wait list is asked for a deposit to remain on the wait list or for a commitment to enroll prior to receiving an official written offer of admission. Written notification may include mail or electronic communications.”
Given this direction, there is a gray area for phone calls. On one hand, it would be fair to call a student to make sure (s)he is still interested in the specific college before admission; but, the college cannot ask for a commitment. Even though the college could tell the student that (s)he is admitted, it is imperative that the college allows that the student has the right to get the decision in writing before asking for a commitment.
Once that official admission offer has been made, NACAC’s SPGP can further guide us as professionals. According to NACAC’s SPGP Best Practices II B 2, “All postsecondary members should allow students a reasonable amount of time (at least 72 hours or May 1, whichever is later) to respond to an offer of admission from that institution’s wait list and gain admission to that institution’s incoming class. This offer of admission should be a written or electronic communication to the student. Postsecondary institutions should also strive to fully inform wait list students of their financial aid and housing opportunities, if different from their normal policies. Postsecondary institutions should not require a commitment from a student until the financial aid award and housing options, if any, have been provided.” Please note, this statement is not a Mandatory Practice as the previous one, but a Best Practice which takes into account that the process needs to be flexible given specific circumstances.
As the admission process for the high school class of 2015 wraps up, waitlist is only one issue that may arise. NACAC’s SPGP can provide us direction on a variety of issues. The SPGP is available on the NACAC webpage at: http://www.nacacnet.org/about/Governance/Policies/Documents/SPGP_10_4_2014_FINAL.pdf.
Or, you may contact Lou Hirsh, the current AP Chair, at louhirsh@udel.edu or Jake Talmage, Vice-chair of Admissions Practices, at jtalmage@stpaulsschool.org if you have questions or concerns.