Winter 2018—Amherst College invites applications and nominations for the position of dean of admission and financial aid. Reporting to the president and serving as a member of the College’s senior staff, the dean is responsible for all aspects of admissions and financial aid, including student recruitment, selection, and the financial aid process. The dean serves as a highly visible advocate and spokesperson for the College’s mission and offerings as well as the principles of student access and need-blind admission.
Amherst is among this country’s most diverse and selective liberal arts colleges, renowned for its intellectual rigor, the quality of its student body, and the contributions of its alumni. Amherst is a true “research college,” where faculty members break important ground in their fields without sacrificing their commitment to the bedrock endeavor – the teaching of students, mostly in small groups, often one-on-one, and always with personal involvement. The College has become a national leader in the conversation about the importance of liberal arts education, as well as its financial aid policies, outreach to international students, and insistence that the privilege of an Amherst education comes with an enduring obligation of service.
Amherst’s admission program is one of the nation’s most competitive, and the College’s admission policies give strong emphasis to student achievement, diversity, and access. The new dean will lead a team responsible for recruiting, enrolling, and aiding extraordinarily talented classes of highly motivated students, and will be expected to build on current strengths, enhance national and global visibility and reach, and deftly manage the many competing imperatives so that the College’s priorities are reflected in each incoming class. Amherst benefits from a strong faculty governance model; the new dean will have an especially close working relationship with faculty within which matters of admission policy and practice are continuously and collaboratively explored and evaluated.
Amherst offers one of the most comprehensive and ambitious financial aid programs in the country. The College is fiercely dedicated to access and is need blind at every step of the admission process including for international students, transfer students, and waitlisted
students. Amherst is proud to be one of the first colleges in the country to adopt a no-loan policy for all of its students. In addition, Amherst has been a leader in international admission and financial aid; international students are recruited and admitted without regard to ability to pay, and full calculated need is met for each.
Amherst’s student body represents nearly every state and over 50 countries. Forty-five percent of the College’s students self-identify as students of color, ten percent are international, fourteen percent are the first in their family to attend college, and fifty-six percent receive need-based financial aid.
The new dean of admission and financial aid will bring substantial leadership-level experience as an admission and/or financial aid officer of national distinction. The new leader will have superior communication skills – including strong listening skills – and the ability to make connections across the College in order to promote open dialogue and the sharing of information. Above all, the new dean will be dedicated to the mission and people of Amherst and to the College’s value of the liberal arts, the importance of critical thinking, the centrality of access and inclusiveness, and the imperative to prepare students to use ideas to make a difference in the world.
Admission and Financial Aid at Amherst
Amherst College looks, above all, for students of intellectual promise who have demonstrated qualities of mind and character that will enable them to take full advantage of our curriculum. We seek qualified applicants from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds – students whose several perspectives might contribute significantly to a process of mutual education within and beyond the curriculum.
We aim to select from among the many qualified applicants those possessing the intellectual talent, discipline and imagination that will allow them most fully to benefit from our curriculum and contribute to the life of the College and society. Grades, standardized test scores, essays, recommendations, independent work, the quality of the secondary school program and achievements outside the classroom are among the factors used to evaluate this promise, but none of these measures is considered determinative.
Mission Statement of the Amherst College Office of Admission Voted by the Faculty in 1983
Access and affordability are core strategies and key determinants of Amherst’s success. The College assembles an exceptional student body by setting admission standards high and fully committing its human and financial resources to widening educational opportunity. From across the country and around the world, the College brings together accomplished and talented students of rare promise in an intimate residential setting. Amherst believes that citizens and future leaders develop best from taking responsibility for creating a community of learners with unlike backgrounds and shared curiosity. The student body is one of the most socioeconomically, racially, ethnically, and internationally diverse in the country. As diversity has increased, the quality of the students has also risen by every standard measure. This combination of academic quality and student diversity puts Amherst in a unique position to rethink residential liberal arts education in order to preserve it for a changing population and an uncertain future.
With impressive acceptance and retention rates, Amherst has a well-earned reputation for its admission selectivity and for providing an outstanding liberal arts education that meets students’ goals for their educational experience. The College’s acceptance rate is 13 percent, the retention rate for first-year students is 96 percent, and the six-year graduation rate is 95 percent. Annually, the College enrolls a residential student body of approximately 1,800 students; an additional one hundred Amherst students typically are off campus studying abroad each year. In 2017–2018, students have come to Amherst from 48 states, three U.S. territories, and 58 countries. Forty-five percent of students self-identify as students of color; ten percent are international students. Currently, 14 percent of Amherst students are the first members of their family to attend college, and 23 percent receive Pell Grants. The College achieved a milestone in 2012 when, for the first time in its history, students of color and international students made up the majority of the student body, as has been true in years since. In 2016, the College was recognized as the second recipient of the $1 million Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence.
The Office of Admission employs innovative, focused recruitment strategies aligned with the work to diversify the student body. It hosts annual diversity open houses for prospective applicants and their families, providing funding for underrepresented students and those from low-income backgrounds to travel to campus. Special programs also exist to bring Native and veteran prospective students to campus. The College is a founding partner of QuestBridge, a non-profit organization that connects promising low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities at leading American colleges and universities. The College also works with other organizations devoted to identifying talented students from lower-income and disadvantaged backgrounds, including as inaugural members of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, and the American Talent Initiative. Annually, in partnership with the Five Colleges, Amherst sponsors a multi-day tour for secondary school guidance counselors and community-based organization advisors. Recently the Office of Admission has invested in new technology to help facilitate the application process, with student-facing processes increasingly available online. A new integrated software program has helped modernize admission operations and improve service.
In addition to vigorous outreach, progressive financial aid policies have played an essential role in supporting the diversification of the student body. Fifty-six percent of students currently receive need-based aid, with an average aid package of more than $52,000. Admission is need- blind for all students, regardless of citizenship, and each admitted student is guaranteed financial aid equal to demonstrated financial need. Loans are not packaged as part of financial aid awards – Amherst was among the first colleges in the country to adopt a no-loan policy for all students. Admission and Financial Aid remain committed to implementing strategies to support Priority #4 in Amherst’s Strategic Plan (2015): contributing to educational equity by identifying and enrolling the most promising students from all social and economic backgrounds.
Admission and Financial Aid employs a total staff of thirty-two people in two locations on campus. The dean currently has two direct department head reports: the dean of admission and the dean of financial aid. A committee structure within the College provides guidance on admission. The Faculty Committee on Admission and Financial Aid (FCAFA), on which the dean of admission and financial aid serves, is responsible for formulating the admission priorities and standards that guide the work of the Offices of Admission and Financial Aid, examining trends over time to determine whether admission policies are being implemented and priorities and standards met. Several times a year, the faculty and administrative members of FCAFA join the dean of the faculty to form the College Committee on Admission and Financial Aid (CCAFA), chaired by the dean of admission and financial aid, which reviews the general composition of the group of candidates recommended for admission, and formally endorses their admission.
Role of the Dean
The dean of admission and financial aid, who reports directly to the president and serves on the president’s senior staff as a member of the College’s leadership team, is charged with leadership, oversight and administrative direction of the College’s admission and financial aid activities. In collaboration with the dean of admission and the dean of financial aid, the dean leads a strong and dedicated team charged with communicating Amherst’s academic strengths and distinctive culture and offerings broadly to prospective students, their families, high school counselors, and others, and above all with recruiting, enrolling and aiding a diverse and extraordinarily talented student body. The dean, in concert with an engaged faculty and with the president and the board of trustees, shapes, manages and continuously evaluates admission and financial aid policies designed to bring to Amherst exceptional classes both in the present day and into the future.
As the College’s senior admission and financial aid professional, the dean is expected to collaborate easily, continuously and productively with faculty, campus committees, trustees, and key constituencies including alumni and donors to ensure they are well informed and that admission and financial aid policies and practice effectively respond to the needs of the College. The dean works in close partnership with the chief student affairs officer and others to effect a strong student transition to the Amherst community, and remains a visible and accessible campus figure.
The dean serves as a primary and highly visible advocate and spokesperson for Amherst College and for its mission and values. As such, the dean is expected to remain accessible to the many external constituencies including the media, which look to Amherst for comment and guidance on important issues relating to educational access, need-blind admission, and the selective college admission process.
The position of dean of admission and financial aid at Amherst College is central to the institution, embracing three major components. The dean is expected to bring in a class, year after year, that is in consonance with the College’s priorities and mission, and where multiple forms of excellence are valued highly. In addition, the dean is a member of a senior leadership team that normally meets together weekly and, in partnership with one another, charts the course for the College. As important, the dean is expected to be a skillful diplomat and communicator both on campus and off, within the Amherst community and without, using the position as a pulpit nationally and globally to address issues of access, affordability, student excellence and success, and the K-16 pipeline.
Principal duties and responsibilities within admission and financial aid currently include the following:
Policy Development: Lead the planning, development and continuous evaluation of admission and financial aid policy in consultation with the president, Board of Trustees, and Faculty Committee on Admission and Financial Aid; lead the implementation of admission and financial aid policy;
Strategic Planning: Maintain awareness of the competitive environment of admission and financial aid, and of current and prospective trends and pressures; prepare and assess admission and financial aid goals, including accomplishment of institutional objectives; plan, develop and be accountable for the strategic use of institutional resources including personnel, budgets, publications and communications in the admission and financial aid operations and processes; plan and develop budget for institutional financial aid program;
Program Analysis: Lead the planning, development and oversight of admission and financial aid policies as well as the analysis and reporting on findings, and propose new or modified policies and practices in light of findings; lead the planning, development, and oversight of – and hold accountability for – the preparation of statistics for annual reporting;
Operational Activities: Lead the planning, development and implementation of admission and financial aid application processes; travel on prearranged schedules to represent the College before school groups, guidance counselors, prospective students and their families, alumni, and special constituencies; participate in evaluation of applications for admission; review appeals and special aid cases with the dean of financial aid; counsel legacy students and candidates for admission referred by special constituencies; participate in administrative computer systems development in support of admission and financial aid;
Communications and External Relations: Serve as liaison to the president, Board of Trustees, senior College leaders and key offices on admission and financial aid matters; participate in the work of the Faculty Committee on Admission and Financial Aid and the Committee on Academic Standing, and serve as chair of the College Committee on Admission and Financial Aid, and of the Committee on Enrollment Management; represent the College and/or serve as liaison to outside organizations including Five Colleges, the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Expendables, and The College Board; plan and develop admission and financial aid publications and communications including print, social, and electronic media; serve as spokesperson to the media on admission and financial aid matters; review and respond to proposed federal and state legislation and regulations pertaining to admission and financial aid;
Personnel Administration: Hire, oversee, develop and evaluate the dean of admission and the dean of financial aid; participate in performance management process for staff of 32 in the unit;
Other: Perform special projects as required and as assigned by the president or Board of Trustees
Opportunities and Challenges
Amherst has benefitted tremendously from years of outstanding leadership of the admission and financial aid offices. This leadership has provided great continuity, forward momentum, innovation, and excellence, leading to increasingly diverse classes of exceptionally talented students and a high-functioning unit characterized by skill, professionalism, dedication and strong morale. The new dean will inherit a unit in which energy need not be diverted by clean- up or pent-up demand for either change or stability. Rather, the new dean will have the opportunity to become an engaged and a critical thought partner on the ground in both offices.
Key opportunities and challenges for the new dean will include the following:
Build and maintain strong, effective and highly collaborative relationships across the College
It will be critical for the new dean to build and maintain strong and collaborative relationships with institutional leadership, faculty members, and other key colleagues across the College. It is expected that the dean will approach colleagues with a genuine openness and eagerness to hear alternate viewpoints, engage in meaningful discourse, and incorporate the thinking, perspectives and ideas of others.
Provide leadership toward and guide conversation related to the continued diversification and inclusion of the Amherst student body
Amherst’s commitment to access, equity and diversity is central to its mission and the College has been able to transform its student body so that a multiplicity of diversities is interwoven throughout. This effort requires continuous leadership and energy, and strong continued effort from the dean will be necessary. There is room for the new dean to bring specific recruiting priorities to the effort, while working within the mandate to have a balanced student body. In addition, two areas should draw additional focus:
As the composition of the student body has shifted, so too has the composition of Amherst’s exceptionally strong athletic teams. The College’s teams now lead the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) in diversity, yet lag behind the diversity of the overall Amherst student body. The new dean will be asked to partner closely with a strong and committed director of athletics to make further progress on this issue.
The Amherst students of today bring different ways of engaging with and making meaning of the culture and structures around them. Some of this is generational and some is related to the fact that the College’s student body has never been so heterogeneous, thus bringing greater variety to the ways in which Amherst is experienced. The dean of admission and financial aid brings a knowledge of the entering student body that is invaluable; the dean will be asked to bring a greater focus and understanding to issues related to the transition to and experience of Amherst for today’s students, and to play a leadership role in identifying needs and training personnel to work with all populations sensitively.
Lead a continued, data-informed analysis and conversation around admission and financial aid policy and priorities
Admission and financial aid policy is continuously discussed and evaluated at Amherst. The new dean should welcome and enjoy frequent engagement and open collaboration with faculty and other key constituencies in discussions about enrollment priorities and shared goals. The new dean will bring the personal qualities necessary – including an inclination toward transparency and pro-active engagement – that will inspire the confidence of the community.
As a concrete example, while all admission and financial aid-related policies are vetted frequently, the role of athletics in admission is currently receiving increased attention by the Amherst faculty in particular, and the new dean is likely to join the College while this discussion is still at the forefront. The ability to engage in and provide additional leadership within this conversation will be valued.
Qualities and Qualifications
The ideal candidate will have the following professional qualifications and personal characteristics:
Excellence in the leadership and management of admission and financial aid: Significant experience participating in leadership and management within the admission and/or financial aid offices in a selective liberal arts college or university; knowledge of the national landscape and the ability to anticipate emerging opportunities and challenges as well as serve as thought leader nationally; the capacity to lead and manage the interplay of marketing and recruiting strategies, enrollment goals, yield, and financial aid; fiscal responsibility and strength in planning; prowess as a manager for a unit of skilled people;
Strong mission alignment: The personal and intellectual qualities expected of members of the Amherst community including an especially strong and nuanced understanding of liberal arts education within a small and residential learning community and an unwavering commitment to student equity and access, and to need-blind admission;
Formidable communication skills: Vision for the future of admission and financial aid at Amherst; leadership ability, including imagination, the ability to build consensus, a sense of partnership and capacity to build community-wide engagement, and ability to inspire others to action to achieve ambitious goals; transparency and the ability to understand and work effectively with all those who have an interest in the process of attracting and shaping Amherst’s student body; eagerness to engage in lively exchange and examination of views; and the ability to be articulate, persuasive, authentic, and fearless in talking with both internal and external audiences including faculty, trustees, alumni, prospective students and parents, and the media, including the ability to articulate the value of race as one factor among others in admission considerations;
Enthusiastic collaboration with faculty colleagues: Commitment to the benefits of a strong faculty governance structure and process; genuine interest in and skill at forming a strong working relationship with faculty and a conviction that such a structured and continuous discourse about admission policy ultimately leads to the greatest possible vitality of the Amherst community;
Analytical and strategic prowess: Excellent strategic and analytical ability with experience with predictive modeling; ability to ask thoughtful research questions; commitment to integrity and transparency in reporting; demonstrated experience employing data to identify and assess the effectiveness of admission and financial aid policies and practices; experience harnessing data to develop, shape, and support a clear message and narrative;
Technological sophistication: Ability to understand the value of potential technological innovations and to lead the process of selecting emerging technologies that can support the processes of admissions and financial aid;
Institutional leadership: Readiness to play a vital role as a member of the college’s senior leadership team; the capacity to add value by serving as an influential and strategic contributor to the college’s ongoing success;
Personal qualities: Values and demonstrates honesty, integrity, transparency, and empathy; nimble, astute; responsiveness, confidence, and a realistic understanding of the challenges at hand combined with optimism, an ability to juggle multiple priorities and competing imperatives, and an eye to the possible; strong people skills and diplomacy; impeccable judgment; openness to new ideas and to sharing ideas with others; humility; the ability to derive joy from one’s work and to inspire the same in others.
Amherst College: An Overview
Now approaching its bicentennial, the College has demonstrated steadfast confidence in the value of the liberal arts and the importance of critical thinking. A liberal arts education at Amherst cultivates breadth and depth of knowledge; the ability to think critically, contextually, and creatively; and the love of learning. Small classes, an open curriculum, sophisticated research opportunities, and a singular focus on undergraduate education ensure that leading scholars engage daily with talented, curious students from all backgrounds, equipping them for leadership in an increasingly launching publicly in spring 2018 will enhance the College’ strength as Amherst enters its third century.
The residential experience is a key component of an Amherst education; ninety-eight percent of students live on campus. Students are involved in an array of co-curricular activities, from theater and orchestra to student government. Amherst has the oldest athletics program in the country. Almost one third of all students participate in varsity athletics; and many students participate in sports at the club level. Amherst takes its athletic competition seriously and has enjoyed successes on the national stage, including recently winning the 2017 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball and 2015 NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer championships The College is a member of NESCAC, which espouses the highest ideals and standards for the scholar- athlete.
Amherst’s alumni are a distinguished group. The College has more than 22,700 graduates, who are represented in science, education, law, medicine, politics, and the arts. Many are or have been prominent on the world scene (including five Nobel laureates, numerous Pulitzer Prize winners, the President of the National Urban League, a chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, several National Book Award winners, and a U.S. President). Countless others contribute to society in important but less public ways. The networks of affinity and ambition among Amherst’s alumni transcend any differences of age or background. Alumni are deeply engaged, regularly corresponding with the College and with one another, attending events nationwide, coming to campus as speakers and mentors, sponsoring internships, and, in 2016-17, helping to achieve an all-time record for Amherst’s Annual Fund.
The Town of Amherst
Located in the beautiful Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts, the Town of Amherst is a diverse, inclusive community of more than 35,000 politically-engaged, culturally-aware people. More that 40 percent of the local adult population has a graduate degree. Amherst is frequenlty named the "best college town in America." Home to Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts, the town offers a wealth of educational and cultural opportunities. Within walking distance of the College are affordable restaurants of every cuisine, boutiques, coffee shops, yoga studios, museums, bookstores, and an independent cinema. Arts festivals, concerts, and farmers’ markets are held on the Common adjacent to the College campus. The Town of Amherst is linked to neighboring towns via a robust and affordable public transportation system. Residents take advantage of local nature conservancies, including the Robert Frost Trail and Mount Holyoke Range State Park, for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. The Connecticut River presents opportunities to swim, boat, kayak, and water ski. The Berkshires, a popular vacation destination, is about an hour’s drive. The Town of Amherst is located approximately 90 miles from Boston and 150 miles from New York City.
Procedure for Candidacy
Inquiries, nominations and applications are invited. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled; for fullest consideration, interested individuals are encouraged to submit credentials by no later than March 26. Candidates should provide a professional resume and a letter of application that addresses the responsibilities and
requirements described in this leadership profile. Materials should be sent electronically via e- mail to the college’s consultants Robin Mamlet and Patricia Coleman at AmherstDean@wittkieffer.com. The consultants can be reached by telephone through the desk of Leslie Donahue at 630-575-6178.
Amherst College does not discriminate in admission, employment, or administration of its programs and activities on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex or gender (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity), age, disability, genetic information, military service, or any other characteristic or class protected under applicable federal, state, or local law. Amherst College complies with all state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Inquiries should be addressed to the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Amherst College, P.O. Box 5000, Amherst, MA 01002-5000.