FALL 2002 VOLUME
7, NUMBER 2
E. Cook '98, director of West Coast operations, in Mount Holyoke's
new admission office in California
about two hundred years ago, the Lewis and Clark expedition began
its journey across western North America, then unknown territory
for all but Native Americans. Now it's Lauren E. Cook '98's turn
to blaze a new trail westward, this time for the benefit of Mount
Holyoke's admission effort. Cook's mission, the establishment
and operation of a West Coast branch of the College's admission
office, shares some objectives with that of her famous predecessors--to
make friends with the locals and establish new relationships in
the West. While many East Coast colleges have representatives
who travel extensively on the West Coast, very few, to College
admission officials' knowledge, have established regional offices,
and none operate them as virtual offices. Yet now, as in Thomas
Jefferson's day, there are good reasons to put down roots west
of the Mississippi.
"Opening a West Coast
office was a research-based enrollment decision," says Jane Brown,
vice president for enrollment and College relations. "While it
is anticipated that the number of high school graduates will increase
through 2008, the growth will not be evenly distributed across
the country." According to Brown, the West, in particular California
and some parts of the Southwest, is expected to see the largest
increases nationally in high school graduates. Last year, California
ranked third in terms of the highest number of applications to
the College received from individual states, trailing only Massachusetts
and New York. "At present," says Brown, "just under 12 percent
of the student body hails from the West. These students are academically
well prepared and contribute to the diverse student body that
we value. We decided to take a cutting-edge approach to heightening
the College's visibility on the West Coast to maximize our recruitment
potential from this region."
Wired for Admission
Not only is the approach innovative, it's high-tech. In late June,
Cook, who was promoted to the newly created position of associate
director of admission and director of West Coast operations, moved
from South Hadley to Albany, California, just north of Berkeley.
By August, with the help of Paul Kandel, senior associate director
for systems and technology, she had a fully operational "virtual
admission office" in a room of her new home. Says Diane Anci,
dean of admission, "We want Lauren to be a fully integrated member
of the admission staff, and technology is helping to make this
Cook now "attends"
staff meetings and consults with colleagues via an audio/video
feed from her computer in California to computers in the South
Hadley office. She also has a virtual private network (VPN) that
allows her computer to "act" as though she is on campus, meaning
Cook has full access to on-campus-only services and databases.
Should any of these gadgets break down, she will receive technical
support through software that will enable College technical-support
specialists to take full control of her computer system to monitor
and fix most glitches.
bells and whistles will help Cook remain connected to campus,
it is old-fashioned face-to-face contact and the human touch that
will make all the difference when it comes to recruitment. "Since
she will be based in the West, Lauren will be able to strengthen
relationships with area high schools, guidance counselors, and
alumnae and establish long-term connections," says Anci. "She
will be accessible, which is so important."
Cook's duties include
interviewing prospective students, visiting high schools, representing
Mount Holyoke at college fairs, reading applications, and training
West Coast alumnae volunteers. She also continues to oversee the
College's Alumnae-in-Admission program, outreach to "legacy" students
(prospective students who have close relatives who are alumnae
of the College), and the new arts recruitment outreach program
she helped to develop and launch last year. "There are now far
greater opportunities for Web-based chats and interviews in students'
own time zones than there were before," Cook says. Her "territory"
includes not only California, but Washington, Hawaii, and Oregon.
"Lauren will also be available to conduct interviews with students
from the Pacific Rim," Anci says.
To keep fresh in her
mind such fixtures as the look of the campus aglow in fall colors
and the silhouette of College buildings against a bright blue
winter sky, and to allow her to interact in person with her colleagues,
Cook will return to home base about four times a year. She will
participate in everything from staff training to reunions.
Cook began her admission
career as a tour guide during her junior year at the College.
Although she enjoyed living in South Hadley for eight years, she
says, she is "ready for a new adventure." Her journey certainly
will have some major advantages over Lewis and Clark's; raging
rivers and grizzly bears will not be part of the mix.
to reach the West Coast office, or contact Cook by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.