Stefanie Niles, Dickinson’s vice president for enrollment, marketing & communications, discusses her greatest influence, her favorite campus spot, the state of higher education and more.
What is your elevator pitch for Dickinson?
Global education, sustainability and civic engagement are the hallmarks of a Dickinson education. Through a highly interdisciplinary, liberal-arts curriculum, coupled with extraordinary, useful experiences designed to expose students to real-world situations, we prepare our students to address the challenges of future generations.
What do you see as the college’s primary strengths? Challenges?
One of the reasons I was so pleased to join the Dickinson community was that the college really knows its strengths and is committed to excellence in these areas. One of our greatest challenges, however, is to continue to communicate those messages clearly, concisely and consistently to prospective students and families in a market crowded with similar messages from multiple sources.
Do you have a favorite spot on campus yet?
I still have much more of the campus to explore, but the porch of The Quarry is a comfortable place to grab a quick snack with a colleague.
How about Carlisle?
I have to admit—like many others, I’ve spent several evenings taking a stroll down to Massey’s!
Dickinson is your first foray into overseeing Division III athletics. What do you see is the role of athletics here?
Athletics is an exceptionally important partner in the recruitment process. Many of Dickinson’s scholar-athletes are here not only because of their academic interests, but also because of the experience they will have on the field, in the pool or on the court under the guidance of a coach they know will help them grow. A strong athletics program provides students with a fantastic way to develop lifelong skills in teamwork, communication and compromise.
You’ve worked in higher education for over two decades. For you, what is the most rewarding aspect? The biggest frustration?
The most rewarding aspect is seeing the students whom I admitted to college years ago become successful individuals with fulfilling, happy lives, which I know were enriched by their college experience. The coursework, the internships and the people they met often became the foundation for personal and professional accomplishments. The biggest frustration is seeing students make uninformed decisions due to a lack of education about the financial resources available to them.
From demographics and enrollment trends to financial aid, admissions/enrollment is all about the data. How do you build in heart during the process?
Knowing whether or not a student is the right fit for Dickinson is critical. We want to enroll students who will graduate from the college, so getting to know them personally by asking questions, listening to them and assessing their interests is key. Telling stories about current students and alumni is an effective way to help prospective students understand the culture, environment and opportunities Dickinson can offer and how they might thrive in this community.
What is the single most important question a prospective student should ask?
“How can I schedule a visit?” While there are many online resources available, there is no substitute for a campus visit. Questions a prospective student or parent may not even have known they had can be addressed as they visit classes, talk with current students, listen to an information session and take a tour.
Who is your greatest influence?
I’ve had the good fortune to work for a handful of exceptional individuals who have taught me the importance of being gracious, collaborative, thoughtful and strategic. However, I also think my children are among my greatest influences. They help me recognize priorities and achieve a sense of balance; and, in turn, I hope that I’ve been able to teach them the importance of hard work and what a tremendous experience it is to have a fulfilling career that you enjoy each and every day.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in admissions?
I started college as a musical theatre major, so I would like to think that I would have taken Broadway by storm!
Read more of the fall 2015 issue of Dickinson Magazine.
Published November 13, 2015