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ISSUE 119 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/2/2005

Admissions opportunity: recent hire should advance reputation

By Andrea Horbinski
Opinion Editor

Friday, December 2, 2005

St. Olaf has just hired Jerry W. Pope to be our new director of admissions. I had no idea we were undertaking a nationwide search to fill this position, but Pope’s hiring represents a golden opportunity to catapult St. Olaf onto the national stage.

Pope has spent his entire career in the admissions office at Illinois Wesleyan University, where he was dean of admissions and financial aid. I can only presume that he must have been enthusiastic enough about St. Olaf to give up his alma mater, and hopefully he will bring that enthusiasm to the task of raising our national profile.

I am sure most students from further afield than the Midwest are, like me, tired of the “Golden Girls” jokes – or worse, the blank stares – which greet our answers to the question, “So, where do you go to school?” St. Olaf is not perfect, but all in all, we are an excellent school, and it is time we had the national reputation to match our qualifications.

But cautious optimism is appropriate even regarding our faults. As a circulation worker in the library, I hear tour guides boasting daily about how our minority student population has doubled from six to 11 percent of the student body in the past few years. I am almost ashamed that we call that progress.

Pope has a proven track record of increasing the number of minority students at Illinois Wesleyan, and hopefully he will be able to put his experiences to good use here at St. Olaf. It is a little ridiculous that we continue to boast about our global perspective without possessing the national perspective on which it should be founded.

If the admissions office successfully raises St. Olaf’s national fame, admissions should be more selective as well. A glance at Class of 2009 profile reveals that only 3,000 people applied for admission to St. Olaf last year. Of those, a little less than 2,200 were accepted – but only 770 chose to attend.

Those numbers should rise across the board. Being able to be more selective among a wider pool of applicants can only benefit St. Olaf as an institution and as a community; when the best and the brightest are drawn to apply to a certain school, it is a win-win situation, both for the successful applicants and for the school itself.

When I googled Pope I was surprised to get a hit from At Illinois Wesleyan Pope led an outreach effort not only to minority but also to gay students. He attended a gay/straight youth festival to promote his school in Massachusetts in 2003, saying, “One alum asked me, Why [was I attending]? We go to [minority] college fairs, and since we don't discriminate, why not?"

This sort of outreach is exactly what St. Olaf needs to compete on the national stage. We’re already an outstanding institution. But ,with a little help from our new admissions director, we could become even better.

Opinions editor Andrea Horbinski is a junior from Marlton, N.J. She majors in classics with concentrations in linguistics and in Japan studies.

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