Giving thanks for a fulfilling career and the great people with whom I work

During this season of thanks I am giving thanks for a great career and for all those people who (have been) are a part of my work.

First and foremost, I am thankful for a supportive family. I work long hours, take the job home with me too often and spend more time checking in with the office than anyone ever should. But, Jennie and the kids remain supportive of me, and what I love to do. I could not be more thankful for their support.

Throughout my time in higher education, I’ve been surrounded by awesome teammates. The people with whom I’ve worked—whether in admission, financial aid or marketing—have consistently pushed me to get better. They’ve also kept me humble. They’ve stepped up and stepped in whenever needed to make sure the work gets done. Most importantly, they’ve supported me. I am also really, really proud of many of my teammates who have gone on to leadership positions elsewhere. I am thankful (and admire) their success. I could not more thankful for my teammates.

The directors with whom I’ve worked (and work with currently) have been amazing. I am thankful to each for their tolerance of my style, demeanor and occasional crazy idea. I look forward to working with my senior team every day. I am thankful for their great leadership in their respective offices and for their patience and support of me as a supervisor.

My mentors are the best in the world and I am thankful for everything they’ve taught me and inspired me to do. I am grateful for their patience with me and for the time they’ve taken to respond to my silly and often time-consuming questions throughout the years. I give special thanks to my mentors for the role they’ve played in helping me find meaning in my career.

Each one of my bosses; Gordon Bateman, Ted Long and Steve Bahls put more faith in me than I had earned at the time. I am grateful for the opportunities provided, the confidence placed in me and the responsibilities put in front of me through the years.

I am also thankful for those with whom I’ve clashed throughout the years. Those with whom I’ve had tense relationships have made me better and more self-aware. I am grateful to everyone who has told me that I am “full of it.” I have been inspired to do better and to accomplish the task at hand. I am thankful for those colleagues who have forced me to reflect and get better.

Who are you thankful to when it comes to your career? Why not let them know?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

We can’t afford what we’ve become: Higher ed’s woes.

Years ago during a strategic planning session a friend and colleague of mine stood up in front of a room full of people and declared, “we can’t really afford what we’ve become.” This friend and college was a Ph.D in Finance, had taught for thirty years at the time, and had served both as provost and vice president of finance. His comment stuck with me and I’ve never forgotten the somewhat sick feeling I had when I realized how accurate he was and how difficult the work would be to adjust.

Well, today, the reality of “we cannot afford what we’ve become” is more real than it was 15 years ago when I first heard this phrase.

With the exception of the wealthiest and most prestigious colleges and universities, the vast majority of colleges and universities must face this reality head-on.

And, as an enrollment manage, I know we can’t just grow our way out of this.

Here are a couple of charts to ponder:

Chart 1

Chart 2


See what I mean? We can’t afford what we’ve become. I am sure that there are some who would like to debate this, but the data seems pretty clear to me.

What should we do about this?

Inaction or hoping that things will turn around probably won’t yield very good results.

At some colleges we’ve already seen action. Some have eliminated programs, others have transitioned to adjunct faculty to deliver more and more of the academic program, and, we’ve even seen some colleges close. In most of these cases, there has been considerable gnashing of teeth.

Sadly, that is likely to continue since admitting that we’ve can’t afford what we’ve become hurts and is an uncomfortable admonition. But, let’s also be honest, the reason we can’t afford what we’ve become is directly related to the fact that there are not enough students who can afford what we’ve become. This is a reality.

I think that colleges that come to this realization and take action will be in a much stronger position.

Below are some of my thoughts about how I think some colleges will react. In my view, those that have a clear plan in each area will be the winners, while those who do not have a plan will be featured in the higher ed press.

Cut core costs—Colleges must cut core costs for student. They must develop orderly plans to make meaningful cuts to free up resource to continue to pay employees and deliver services students demand. Some programs (academic and co-curricular) will have to close. Some requirements within general education and perhaps even some majors may need to be reduced. Class sizes will need to increase. Some services currently offered will have to be cut or reduced. Nobody gets excited about this, I know.

But, this is reality for most of us.

Those colleges that will be successful navigating this pain are those, which develop plans transparently and involve all stakeholders in decision-making.

Consolidate—Consolidation may be attractive for some. Merging with a college or set of colleges with a similar profile and mission may enable some reduction in administrative costs. We’ve seen this in a number of public systems already and private colleges may need to do some of this in order to survive. Maybe a centralized admissions and financial aid office? Maybe one registrar? Maybe one German department? Maybe one president? Maybe one Board of Trustees?

While this probably won’t work for everyone, there are some colleges that will need to find a partner in order to survive. We can’t compete against each other indefinitely.

Those colleges with imagination about partnering with like-minder organizations in order to consolidate are likely to thrive during these difficult times.

Outsource—Colleges that have not explored outsourcing services will have to do so. This will painful, but it will be important as college think about cutting core cost and becoming more affordable.

Colleges that have transparent plans about outsourcing will be in a stronger position that those which reject the idea outright.

Clarify mission—Some colleges will have to change or re-focus mission to survive, while others may double-down on an existing mission. These difficult times will force colleges to think more clearly than ever before about mission, because we can’t continue to try to be everything to everybody; that’s what got us into the mess.

We’ve started to see a little bit of this with some college choosing to abandon undergraduate education altogether to focus on graduate education exclusively, while others have rejected adding graduate programs in order to focus on undergraduate education.

Colleges that have a confused mission during these difficult times are destined for infighting about resources in a time of diminishing resources.

I know this is pretty sober, but it’s reality and the sooner we realize it and take action, the better off we will be.

What do you think?

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

For the next several weeks I plan to focus my blog on the realties we face in contemporary enrollment work and the implications for enrollment leaders #admissions #emchat #highered

I recently led a webcast titled “Enrollment challenges 2015 and beyond: Shifting demographics, decreasing numbers and implications for enrollment management.”

The webcast for Paper Clip Communications was a great chance for me to think critically about the profession of enrollment management and the challenges we face. Over the next several weeks, I will opine on each of the following trends/themes that have me thinking.

I hope to identify the implications for enrollment leaders.

The realities I discussed in the webcast and will write about in the coming weeks include:

  1. We can’t afford what we’ve become.
  1. Demographic change will lead to significant changes on many campuses and will bring more focus to strategic enrollment planning.
  1. Alternative selection criteria are likely to take hold and become the norm.
  1. The VP for enrollment will continue to be on the “hot seat,” which will result in significant enrollment fluctuations and tremendous “churn” in the profession.
  1. Career Services and outcomes will be as important as financial aid, location, strength of major, and fit when choosing a college.
  1. Making the class will not longer be an indicator of success.
  1. New numbers will become the focus for financial aid.
  1. There will continue to be price and net-price experimentation, but no new model will emerge.
  1. Effective strategic enrollment management will take on increased importance.

Some of these realties have been discussed widely (demographics); others have not been explored as thoroughly. I plan to look at the implications of these realities to try to stimulate some discussion. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you and highlighting the implications for our profession, higher ed and for enrollment leadership. I hope you will follow along and perhaps join in the discussion.

Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

Career services is central to #admissions and #recruitment success. #emchat

As a chief admissions officer, I am convinced that the strength of career services and the programs a college offers to prepare students for life after college are more important than ever for those responsible for recruitment. Admissions officers must be equipped with the strongest-possible case for their career services, if they are going to be able to persuade increasingly skeptical students and parents.

I am really proud of what we are doing at Augustana College and feel like I am better equipped than ever before to illustrate how we do things better than others. I love our approach for the value it will have to our students and future graduates. And, as an admissions officer, I am thrilled to be able to highlight what we are doing through CORE.

This fall we launched CORE, which is outlined in detail below.


CORE is more than collection of offices and services, which many colleges have. It’s more than an acronym for Careers, Opportunities, Research and Exploration. CORE is a campus-wide re-orientation to the student experience, with a primary focus to ensure students connect experiences, information, knowledge, passions and ambitions—all with the objective of understanding and reaching their goals for success. CORE’s approach is to sit side-by-side with Augustana students throughout their four years, and guide them—in partnership with their advisor—to make sure they are ready and equipped to achieve their goals. This approach to a residential liberal arts college education is something new.

CORE—The approach 

CORE’s approach is research-driven, emphasizing the experiences that have proven most effective in preparing students to be successful. It also represents a shift in how a college can prepare students to take ownership of their career path by planning ahead and making strategic connections between in- and out-of-classroom learning. The approach of meeting students in the moment enables CORE staff to equip them with the resources and opportunities to customize their education, maximize their success, and make the necessary connections that lead to meaningful learning experiences.

CORE—The place 

Like the Tredway Library and the Center for Student Life, CORE is a hub in the center of Augustana’s campus. The centralization and integration of CORE services send an important message about our campus community, and make it easier to stop in throughout the week.

CORE—The services 

Primary services and staff are in offices and services related to advising, career development, community outreach, internships, student research, study away and vocational exploration.

CORE—The differences 

Viking Score—A proactive, practical way for students to ensure they are on the path to reach their post-graduate goals

Staffing levels—An increase from four career counselors to 13 professionals

Advising and vocational exploration—Advising on first-year experience, choice of academic fields, identification of skills and talents, internship and research opportunities, career and graduate school preparation, and more

Augie Choice—$2,000 for each student to fund an internship, research experience or study abroad

Research and other projects to solve community problems—Community service, Entrepreneurship (EDGE) Center projects, and internships through the Upper Mississippi Center

Faculty-led international study—We have a long history of our faculty developing and leading international study programs at Augustana. We don’t outsource our international programs to other schools, but maintain the values of Augustana by having our faculty work with students on and off campus.

CORE—The worth 

CORE prepares Augustana College graduates to navigate a challenging future and complex job market with versatility, generosity and skill. In doing so, CORE positions Augustana as one of the nation’s leaders in advancing the benefits of a liberal arts education on a residential campus.

As an admissions professional, I know that more than ever before my message must focus on this aspect of the college experience and I need to be armed with a persuasive case. I believe that CORE has equipped me with that.

How are you approaching this new frontier? Has career services and programming associated with preparing students for success taken on new life for you? What do you think of the CORE approach?

W. Kent Barnds @bowtieadmission

Some thoughts about leading #admissions teams #emchat

Last week a colleague returned a book I’d loaned out a few years ago. The book, “The art of worldly wisdom,” by Baltasar Gracian, was a gift to me and I’ve found comfort and guidance in it throughout my career. Since I’d not seen the book for some time I took a few minutes to leaf through it and came across a folded piece of paper titled “Advice from Kent Barnds.”

The sheet of paper was yellowed and had clearly been folded in the pages of this book for some time. To be honest, I’d forgotten about this collection of thoughts about becoming a leader. However, as I re-read this collection of thoughts and suggestions, I thought it might be worth sharing here.

I can’t claim these thoughts as original and credit many others who have helped shape this advice through the years.

Here’s what I’d written years ago:

Advice from Kent Barnds about becoming a leader

Work/Life Balance

Book a vacation on your calendar so you have something to look forward to and work towards.

Staff Morale

Host a traditional/annual team gathering, i.e. Christmas party, July 4, Flag Day.

Involvement Avoids the Perception of Power

Continue to participate in tactics like interviews, fall travel, information session, etc.

Communicate openly when working on non-team items

Send regular email updates to staff on items that don’t necessarily involve them. Doing so prevents gossip and rumbles about you not being involved.

We all have roles to play

As a leader your loyalties are divided among your employer, your team and the students you serve. Think of it all like a jazz quintet. Everyone takes turns playing a solo, sitting in the background or playing together. You will get recognized at the appropriate time just like the bassist does.

Acknowledge/Praise Good Work Privately

Beware of praising individuals in front of groups. Send an email, note or stop into the office of the individual to offer praise.

Be forward-thinking

One, generally, needs one full cycle to become an effective leader; appreciate that and be patient. Also, know your optimal daily work cycle; what times are best for you to get done what you need to get done. Don’t get behind.

I don’t know if this advice has any value to others, but I am glad I ran across this document because it reminded me of a number of things I need to work on and I continue to develop as a leader. As hard as I’ve tried to live up to this advice, I know there are areas that require constant work and improvement.

I think it’s still relevant to me and I hope others out there who are in leadership positions.

What would you add?

Kent Barnds aka @bowtieadmissions

Wanted Experienced Enrollment Professional: The world is your oyster! #admissions #emchat

Wanted Experienced Enrollment Professional: The world is your oyster!

Earlier this week I received an email from Witt-Kieffer, a higher leaderships search firm, that congratulated people who recently landed new enrollment leadership roles. It was an impressive list of people—some of whom I know and some I don’t. I wish each new leader well as they transition and take over the reigns of leadership and their new institution; we certainly face interesting times in enrollment leadership and I welcome new energy, perspective and ideas.

In addition to the congratulations offered to a couple of dozen people who have landed new gigs, there was another interesting list of openings for which Witt-Kieffer is seeking leadership.

That list is below and includes some very high profile positions as you’ll see below:

  • Boston College, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management
  • College of William and Mary, Associate Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admission
  • Dickinson College, Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing and Communications
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology, Associate Vice President for Academic and Enrollment Services
  • Olin College of Engineering, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
  • Portland State University, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
  • Rutgers University – Camden, Associate Chancellor for Enrollment Management
  • Trinity College, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
  • University at Buffalo, Director of Undergraduate Admissions
  • University of California, Los Angeles, Deputy Director of Undergraduate Admission
  • University of Texas at Austin, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management
  • Washington and Lee University, Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid

Looking at that list, the impressive titles and range of places where positions are available, I am led to believe that experienced enrollment professionals have a lot of options if they are thinking about changing positions!

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this.  I know there is a great deal of turnover and churn of leadership in our profession right now and am withholding judgment to determine if this churn is good or bad. Is this good? Is this unusual? Is this a sign of time? How should I interpret all of this?

The one take-away from this list is:  If you are an ambitious, experienced enrollment leader, the world is your oyster! That is, if you are ready for a new challenge and secure enough to leave your current post.

What do you think about the turnover in leadership?

W. Kent Barnds @bowtieadmission


Teaching, preaching and competing: What I love about college #admissions

I’ve been lazy about contributing to my blog in recent months and thought my return to @bowtieadmission should be a tribute to college admission.

So, here it goes. I love college admissions work because, as professionals, we get to teach, preach and compete and I think that’s a pretty powerful combination for a fulfilling career.

I am a teacher (and so are you)

I know there’s some danger describing what we do in college admissions as teaching in an environment that has a pretty clear definition of who teaches and who does not. But, after more than twenty years in college admissions work, I consider myself and my colleagues to be teachers. Not only are we teachers—we are excellent teachers. We teach, generally, about a critically important process—the college search and selection process. The curriculum changes from year to year as processes, the environment and the competitive landscape shifts. We have to keep on top of the changes and have an obligation to keep our teaching fresh in order to serve our students effectively.

We also engage in a great deal of one-on-one teaching through the sort of advising we do. I can think of no more rewarding teaching than those intimate conversations with prospective students as they navigate the most important decision they’ll make up to this point in their life. All of those interviews, phone calls, one-on-one conversations and opportunities to advise prospective students is the teaching we do as admissions officers and it is tremendously rewarding.

Oh, and, we also do a little bit of grading, just like teachers, during the selection process; that’s a pretty important parts of what we do.

For those admissions officers, like me, who are in leadership roles, we engage in different sort of teaching through training new staff in the profession, the ethics of our work and the Xs and Os of the day-to-day work in the office. This is critically important teaching for our institutions and for the profession as a whole and it is this teaching role that keeps me excited about this great profession.

The bottom-line is that if you don’t think of yourself as a teacher, you should.

Preach it like you mean it

These days the word passion is overused. However, the most effective admissions officers talk about the institution they represent like they are spreading the gospel. They are passionate about the subject, institution, people, place and product. Admissions officers are evangelists for the type of institutions they represent, as well as the individual institution. I’ve witnessed countless information sessions, college night conversations, and one-on-one exchanges that resemble a member of the clergy or layperson in the pulpit engaged in sharing an important, impassioned message or lesson. The most effective admissions officers get behind their institution and the type of institution they represent in the same way a preacher gets behind sharing the gospel. To be successful, long-term, in this work, one has to get fired up about the people and place and spread the good news by preaching it high and low, on- and off-line and with the passion of an evangelist.

For me, as a product of a residential liberal arts college and having witnessed the transformative value of similar colleges for which I’ve worked, I look forward to preaching the good word each and every day.

Competition is good

While we all like to say, “we want every college to be successful,” the truth is that the best admissions counselors like to compete and are very competitive by their nature. In my view, the refrain competition is good is like Gordon Gecko’s, “Greed is good.” Not everyone will embrace this part of the work, but the fact is competition is an important part of this work. One’s competitive nature may be more internally-driven and might manifest itself with an overwhelming need to continually improve. However, there are plenty of great admissions people who I know who compete hard and may approach things differently. There are some for whom it is important to identify a competitor against whom it’s important to always win.

Competition and competing is what makes this job fun and fresh. Competing for mind-share, market, applications and enrollments is tremendously rewarding. Competing is not for the faint of heart and one has to have a tough stomach. But, engaging in goal-driven work and knowing that others (especially at tuition-driven and enrollment-urgent colleges) depend on you and the work you do is fulfilling and is among the many things that keeps me excited about this job and profession.

What do you love about college admissions?

And, do you consider yourself a teacher, preacher and competitor?

W. Kent Barnds @bowtieadmission

W. Kent Barnds

W. Kent Barnds

Experienced Higher Education Professional and Complex Problem Solver

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