Q&A with Mary Parker, the new VP of enrollment management

Mary Parker

Mary Parker

Lauren Sasala

Editor’s note: Some changes have been made to the transcript for clarity.

The following is a Q&A with Mary Parker, the first vice president of enrollment management for Kent State, who started this semester. 

KentWired:How have your first few weeks been going?

Mary Parker: I’ve been here a week and a half, and it has been going great. I was excited when I was offered the job. This place is amazing with wonderful programs, and I was just excited to be a part of a community where students are put first. It’s been fun getting to know the area and getting to know the campus. Wanting to figure out how I can have patience with students to learn about their experiences, that part’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed it.

KW: Can you tell me a little bit about your background with enrollment management?

MP: I have been within enrollment management for 27 years. I worked at LSU in Louisiana for nine years forseeing the enrollment area and really worked on how can we create a class that is very diverse that can be successful and retain them and graduate them on campus. Enrollment management is an area that I believe partners across campus, with academic colleges, with service units, with student life. It partners with athletics, because it really is about the life cycle of the students. How do we do early outreach? How do we get them here? How do we retain them? And though enrollment management does not oversee all those areas, it really has to partner because when you think about what we do to support students, everything impacts the retention and graduation of those students. I really just fell in love with that type of work. The University of Utah called and said “Hey, we’ve seen some of the things you’ve been doing at LSU, we’re creating an associate vice president position, would you be interested?” And I went there and developed an enrollment management area of its own division. We created an area that really looked at the recruitment, retention and graduation of students, and worked across campus to really develop that. We saw great strides in our class coming in. We increased our retention and graduation rates. It really for me is about the student. Everything we do has to be putting the students first and thinking about business processes that don’t make it easier for us, but make it easier for the student. Making sure that our policies we create are not putting barriers in the way of any student on our campus.

KW:In recent years, Kent State’s enrollment has decreased specifically with international students. Are there certain strategies you plan to use at Kent State? 

MP: I will tell you this, enrollment management is not – you can certainly draw on your experience with other places, but one strategy at one place may or may not work at another place. You have to understand the culture of the campus that you’re working on. You have to understand the community. You have to understand the student population that we serve. When you look at all of that and truly understand, then you can say, ‘Do I think that a strategy I did here would be successful?’ And again, it may or may not, but I think what really will help here is as we begin to  really look at the data and talk with our academic colleges how do we promote Kent State. There are amazing programs here. There are amazing faculty here who are doing ground-breaking research that are recognized in their fields, and how do we promote that so students know that they can come here. I think there are strategies that I have done that could possibly be used here but before I start doing that, I really want to understand more about who we are and who we serve in order to determine what would be the best strategy for us.

KW:We have a lot of well-known programs, like our Fashion School, that reach students from all over the world. Will you be looking at programs like this to promote and increase enrollment?

MP: Right now I am into the data and understanding that. Certainly we want to look at where we have opportunities to grow and that’s working with the academic colleges. We have great programs so to make sure we have the capacity to serve students if we bring them here. It’s really kind of understanding that and looking across the board, where we have programs that haven’t even been highlighted that should be highlighted and if we do that would it help increase enrollment? Right now, for me, it’s learning, getting to work with the deans, and the academic chairs and directors to fully understand what’s happening in the college, what are their enrollment goals and how can I support that so we meet our enrollment goals of the campus. That takes a little bit of time and work with partners across campus. 

KW:Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

MP: I would love if students were interested in talking so I can learn about their experiences. I welcome to have opportunities to talk with students across campus to learn about their journey here and what we can do to help support them, be successful and get them to graduate.

Lauren Sasala covers administration. Contact her at [email protected].