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Recruiting students with CARE

  Blake Rasmussen  

A new alumni network is adding TLC to Cornell’s student recruitment process, sharing firsthand knowledge and showcasing postgraduate success at events including college fairs and off-campus receptions.

“We gathered a group of alumni together, trained them, provided them with updated information about Cornell, and then utilized them throughout the recruiting year,” says associate director of admission Sharon Grice, coordinator of CARE, short for Cornell Admission Recruitment Experience. “Working with this program has been so rewarding. Our alumni love the college and are eager to share their Cornell experience with students and families in their communities.”

Beginning with a pilot program in Minneapolis two years ago, CARE was designed to get alumni actively involved in recruiting. CARE teams have expanded to Chicago, Kansas City/St. Louis, Denver, and Houston. More than 50 alumni assist with college fairs and hotel interviews, phone or e-mail prospective students, attend receptions, and serve as panelists for on and off-campus events. For 2004-05, the admission staff would like to add teams in Des Moines, Omaha, Milwaukee, Dallas, and Virgina/Maryland, but also needs volunteers across the nation and overseas. In addition, CARE will be expanded to include parents of current Cornell students.

“The CARE program enables us to greatly increase the college’s representation at admission events. This coverage is vital if we want to reach out to as many high school students as possible, which is critical especially in today’s very competitive admission environment,” says Jonathan Stroud, vice president for enrollment.

Last year, CARE members worked 34 college fairs in Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, California, Ohio, Missouri, and Oregon, as well as the national fair in Minneapolis.

Stroud states confidently that CARE has made a difference. The two most recent first-year classes have been the strongest academically in the college’s history, and student retention is at a high. “Alumni have an innate understanding of the caliber of student who thrives at Cornell,” he says. “Our CARE participants do a wonderful job in not only sharing their college experience but in communicating what is essential about the Cornell experience for any student.”

The program has shown results with recruits, parents, and alumni alike.

“The biggest benefit I see from alumni participating with CARE is that when you are at college fairs or other gatherings, parents like to see what your education prepared you for,” says Karen Ullery ’99, who is part of the Kansas City/ St. Louis group. “The students like to see a real-world person who is fairly close in age, understand what their college experience was like, and see what type of job they landed with their education.”

Ullery adds that it helps prospective students to better grasp the importance of Cornell’s unique learning experience. “It’s very beneficial to be able to tell students and parents that the block plan prepares you for tasks too numerous to count in everyday life, as well as in the work force.”

It has also been a boon for the alumni themselves.

“It’s a really good opportunity for alumni to stay connected to the college. It gives me an easy opportunity to talk about my positive experiences at Cornell,” says RJ Holmes ’99, another Kansas City/St. Louis volunteer who has also worked in the Washington, D.C., area.

According to Grice, a typical volunteer carries a workload of around five to 10 hours in the fall and five to eight hours in the spring.

The program continues to expand as Grice eyes future cities in which to implement CARE. It is not, however, simply a way for Cornell to add extra admission counselors to its roster. It has become an extension of the Cornell College experience itself.

“CARE, in my opinion, is simply making Cornell accessible in a real-world format to interested parties,” Ullery says. “An alumnus who has been through the experience and can answer the ‘hard questions’ is an invaluable resource for prospective students and parents alike.”

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