Importance of Natural Resources

Campus Conversations: Olufemi Ogundele, AVC and Dir. of Undergraduate Admissions

– Welcome to this year’s
first campus conversation. My name’s Dan Mogulof from the Campus Office of
Communication and Public Affairs, and I am really thrilled, particularly after our
rockin’ pre-interview, really thrilled to welcome our
new Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of Admissions, Femi Ogundele. (audience cheering)
(audience laughing) He came to us directly from
that little community college down in the–
– Small school, small school, small school.
(Dan laughing) What’s up? (laughing) – Anyways, just a little
bit of background. Femi earned his BS in mass communications with an emphasis in journalism
and public relations, yes, from Mansfield
University of Pennsylvania, and his MS in strategic communications from Ithaca College,
before coming to Berkeley, as I mentioned, he served as the Assistant Dean
of Diversity Outreach at Stanford, where he worked to increase access and diversity, and mentored hundreds of students of color during his tenure there. Femi began his career in
education at Ithaca College as an admissions counselor. In fact, that was his first job after finishing his undergraduate work, which will probably lead to
one of my first questions. Femi continued his work
in diversity recruitment at the University of Delaware, where he advocated for
the most diverse class in the university’s history, he coordinated the College
Readiness Scholar’s Institute, a partnership and summer program between the University of Delaware and a local school district
to promote a continued culture of college attendance and graduation for low income and
underrepresented students. Immediately prior to
his tenure at Stanford, Femi also worked in Cornell University’s College of Engineering,
where he developed programs and recruitment strategies
for students of color interested in STEM. So without further ado, fill in a little bit
more about your career. I’m just fascinated that you went right from undergraduate into admissions work. – Yeah.
– What drew you there? What about your sort of
upbringing and background led you down that path? – Yeah, so I remember
graduating from Mansfield thinking to myself whether or not I wanted to pursue a masters degree or go and work. At the time I definitely did not want to go and work, so I actually sat with a professor of mine who let me know that many times institutions
of higher education are able to provide masters
degrees as a benefit. And so at the time, as you mentioned, I was a journalism and
public relations major, so I was looking at both
marketing departments as well as admissions, as
I understood the skill set that was necessary to do admissions, and admissions just
happened to call first. And so I think, like many of my colleagues who are in the field, it’s something that I did not know that I was
going to pursue post undergrad, but then once I got into it, there’s a love for the work
that I think keeps us there, and that’s definitely
what has kind of fueled me and kept me in the field ever since. – So talk to us a little bit
about how you see your role, how you see the role of a
Director of Admissions in general, and also here at Berkeley. Talk a little bit about
where you office is at, what your priorities and
plans are for the future, and where things stand today, sort of. – Yeah, so I think to
answer the first part of your question in
regards to what I think the role of a director is, I think that the role of
a director is to kinda set some of the priorities
for the rest of the office in regards to how we go about our work, and who we are targeting our work towards. I also think that the
role is really to build and mentor staff, because they
are going to be the people that are really having those interactions with the students. And so it’s a little different,
because as you’ve mentioned, I’ve kind of been one of those people that have been out in
the field, on the road, on the ground, and I greatly
appreciate that work, but I recognize that in
order to truly be successful in this, it requires
more than just the effort of a single individual. And so ascending into leadership roles has really showed me the
importance of mentoring staff and working with staff to
not just find the passion that I have for the work, but really for them to
find the passion themselves in this work as well. And I think when staff are
passionate about the work that they do, they are
willing to really, I think, run through a wall for you. And that’s what I’m trying to build. – Step back for one second,
and on a broader level, I think some people think
that admissions is sort of, we get 100,000 applications,
you look at the numbers, you throw it all out,
you’re in, you’re out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? – Yeah.
– Expand our minds a little bit in terms
of that broad, holistic, comprehensive picture of
what an admission’s office at a university like this is all about. – Yeah, I think the
first part to understand is that admissions is much more of an art than it is a science. And so what I mean by that is
I think that a lot of folks believe that doing the evaluation pieces or choosing the class is
so rubric and formulaic, and in fact that’s not true. Especially at highly-selective
institutions like this one. I mean, the fact of the matter is is that the applicant pool that we see here is incredibly strong every single year. It does not create a natural
bell curve of students who are incredibly high achievers and students who are not. Most of the students who apply
to an institution like this are academically strong. So I think then where
the real work comes in, is really understanding the nuance, and also understanding
the university’s identity when it comes to building
a class of students that are supposed to
continue the excellence that the university has been producing. So for us that means being
incredibly thoughtful in how we outreach. Not just where we go,
but what we’re saying. I think admissions
makes a lot of decisions when describing an institution. And so it’s our job to
really create a narrative that we think is reflective
of not just who we are, but who we want to be. And that’s critically important. In the evaluation phase of that, I think that also requires us to have deep and strong understandings
of what’s happening, not just here at Berkeley,
not just here in California, but what’s happening nationally in regards to students who are entering the college-going pipeline. And so what are those barriers, what are those opportunities
that students have to show, and how that’s going to interact with our applicant pool? And then I think on the back end of that, the third part of our cycle
which is the yield cycle, understanding that right now, students are applying to more institutions than they’ve ever applied to before. And the students that
get into our institutions are students that are likely getting into a majority of the institutions
that they apply to. And so we have to take an active, and I think, intentional steps to making sure that we
are yielding our students, rather than just believing that students are lucky to be here,
really kind of shifting that and saying that we are incredibly
lucky if they choose us. – Just gonna break the flow for a second to remind everyone,
particularly those people just coming in, if questions occur to you in the course of the conversation, fine to fill out the cards in the middle and hold ’em on up and
they will be collected. So back to the office. What’s front burner right now? What are the priorities? You’ve been here long
enough sort of get a feel for the state of play,
what needs some TLC, where we’re doing, what’s job one, and two,
and three for you right now? – So I started in January, which is a quiet time, I
think for the university, but definitely an active time for us in admissions as we’re right in the thick of our evaluation process. And really my number one priority was to really take some active steps in the yield phase of our work, ’cause that’s kinda the
season in which we came in. And so this spring we did
some really robust things around Cal Day, making some experiences that were specific to our
admitted student population, creating a micro site, for
students to see as a landing page to get a stronger
introduction to Berkeley. And so that was my number
one priority at the time. I also came in at a time in
which we were deeply immersed in a lot of the work around the Chancellor’s
diversity initiatives, and so that clearly top of my mind as I got an opportunity to really talk with a lot of different campus partners around the state of this institution. And one of the things that I thought was really important was that I knew that the Chancellor had this initiative that was kind of coming from on top. I really wanted to get an understanding of what was the buy in across
campus around that initiative? Otherwise, it’s just words on paper. And I think that having an opportunity to sit in some of those working groups I really got a chance to
meet faculty and staff from across the campus, and there’s a lot of people
passionate around this work which is great, because I’ll tell you that I think admission’s role, when it comes to diversity and inclusion
on an institution, admissions can bring you diversity, but we can do nothing around inclusion, ’cause our job is to continue to bring in the next class. And so knowing that we have
the campus partners here that are also dedicated to
creating inclusive spaces is something that I’m incredibly excited to stand behind as we’re going out into the field this fall. – So let’s go back to
the diversity initiative the Chancellor announced. And obviously a large part
of that has to do with you, but I get a lot of
questions from reporters, and I’m sure many of us who work here get questions from others
who basically challenge us and say, “how do you do
that and remain compliant “with Prop 209 that
precludes any accounting “for a student’s race, ethnicity, “anything along those lines?” How are you able to do
that without sort of fudging around those rules? – Yeah, so I’ll tell
you that Prop 209 was, as somebody who’s done
multicultural recruitment my entire career, deciding to come to an institution where
Prop 209 was instituted was something that some
of my friends were like, “What are you doing?” But I saw it as a true opportunity. Because I believe that when
you are evaluating students and looking at students,
when you don’t have race or gender as a marker in the application, it actually requires you to have a deeper understanding
of what you’re reading. And so I think that having to go in and learn the other parts of a student and the things that make
them compelling is important. Now, when it comes to diversifying
a class in this climate, I think it’s also important
to understand that from my understanding of the law, and David Robinson will
correct me if I’m wrong, when it comes to Prop 209 in particular, we will continue to not consider race or gender in the
evaluation of an applicant. And that, I think, is
incredibly important. However, I’m less interested
in what we can’t do, and more interested in what we can do. And we can do a lot of really,
really strong messaging and outreach and targeted outreach to different communities
in which we have not necessarily engaged in in the past. And that’s not just race or ethnicity. That’s also rural students
and third culture kids that are out there that we know are a part of the California demographic, that we have just missed an opportunity, and I think that now is the time, both the political climate that we’re in, the Chancellor’s diversity initiative, and just all of this energy, now is a great opportunity for us to reimagine and reengage those students. I’ve been a strong believer that the changing demographics
in higher education are not a challenge. They are an opportunity to engage folks that have not traditionally been engaged. – But isn’t there a
little bit of a chicken and egg situation here, meaning, what do you say from a student from an underrepresented
community who has heard that this can be a tough campus to be? That there is a critical
mass across many populations. At the same time, if we
don’t become more diverse in our student body, how
do you break that cycle? – Yeah, well, I think that
there’s two pieces to that. The first is I would challenge the notion that students will not want
to attend an institution right now because that
institution is not necessarily reflective of who they are. I think that students right now are way more emboldened
and more outwardly facing, and taking up more space in classrooms than they’ve ever done before. And so I think that
there’s a lot of students who would absolutely see the challenge of being in these spaces, and being a part of that
growing critical mass as something to relish
in and be a part of. And then I also think
it’s important for us to really uplift the
work that has been done around building equitable
spaces on this campus for years. I think one of the
things that I’ve noticed when I was applying for the institution versus what I know now, the free speech movement
is obviously something that Berkeley’s incredibly proud of, but student activism has
been a threat ever since. And when we take a look
at all of the other things that the student activism
has created here, I think that it’s a very
easy and compelling argument to go out and talk to a
teenager and tell them, if you’re looking for an
institution that will respond to the student voice,
Berkeley is the place to be. – Do you find it somewhat ironic that, or maybe the supposition embedded in the question I’m about
to ask may be wrong, but was it some ways easier at Stanford, given that Stanford isn’t
subject to Prop 209, has ample financial resources necessary to attract a diverse student body? They can simply write a lot of checks to build that student body. Was it easier there in some way? – Sure. However, I would say from the
lens of your question, yes, but I think that the issue, and to be honest with you,
the issue with Stanford, and to be honest with you,
all of the Ivy Leagues is that they all only really contribute to 1% of the college-going population. – Right.
– So when you really talk about making a broader impact, when you have a 4.6% acceptance rate, and when your entire student body is the size of our freshman class, like, how much actual change
when you talk about society are you making? And so I think if you’re looking, again, my greatest pitch to
even a lot of my colleagues is that if you’re looking
for an opportunity to make a real change in this society, you need to go and work
at a public school. And if you’re looking for an opportunity to be at a place that is
still as groundbreaking and as innovative as some of those Ivys, then you should go to the
prestigious public schools, but this job’s taken. (audience laughing) – Well, at least for the next 45 minutes. – [Femi] At least, yeah, at least for the next 45 minutes, yeah. – We’ll see how you do.
– Yeah, yeah. – And so I’m interested, you went from really
different institutions but have a lot in common. We’re sort of here in the same kind of ecosystem,
northern California. What are the differences? What surprised you sort of coming across, and lie and just tell us
how amazing we are, okay? (audience laughing)
– Yeah, yeah, yeah. So really what I think surprised me, so the openness of public institutions has been very interesting. And we–
– What do you mean by that? – Interesting in the sense of– – [Dan] No, about the openness,
what do you mean by that? – The openness. And so there’s a, I have seen a… People expect more in
regards to the communication that comes out of public schools, they expect more in regards
to access to information when it comes to public schools, and that is something
that I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to see it from the public, I also didn’t expect the openness from the institution, to be
perfectly honest with you. I think it’s great, it’s just
not something that I expected. I also think that even here at Berkeley, what I’ll tell you is I
recently moved to Oakland, and prior to that I was living on the other side of the
bay over in San Mateo, and in my first two weeks here, I distinctly remember having very strong and sobering conversations
around the budget, as well as driving by
teacher strikes in Oakland. And so I think that when you talk about the funding of public education, that is something that,
in the private sector, we talk about it in a very abstract way, versus here, we really see it. And we don’t just see it in our programs, when we see it in like some
of the really tough cuts that some of my colleagues
have had to make, and even the office
that I’m in had to make prior to me getting
there, around personnel and all of these other things. And that’s not something
that I was used to, or that I think I could
have really prepared for. – And do you think there are substantive or interesting differences
between the student bodies at the two institutions beyond their size? – I think for me, it’s too soon to tell, to be honest with you. I think that as I’m
continuing to learn more about what makes Berkeley Berkeley, that is something that, for me, I don’t think the verdict
is necessarily out yet. I will tell you that, again, that emboldened student activism mindset is something that I
truly, truly appreciate. And to be honest with you, it’s not just because I
was a rabble rouser myself. It’s really because I love the fact that the institution responds. Like, I’ve sat in meetings with Bridges and Vice Chancellors, and Deans, and all of these other things, and that is not something that
I would have necessarily seen in some of my private institutions. And so the fact that
as I’m joining a group of professionals that understand, and that really do make
the student experience center to their work is something
that is inspiring daily. – So a couple more questions before I dive into the questions that have
come up from the audience. – [Femi] Sure. – I often talk to alumni, I think anybody who often talks to alumni and prospective parents
on behalf of the campus gets these questions that always start, I don’t understand why
my kid didn’t get in. They got a 4.5 and seven
million on this SAT. How could they possibly?
– Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
– Right? And this idea that it’s
just a numbers game. And then we say, “Oh, no,
we have holistic review.” And every time I say that, I have no idea what I’m talking about.
– Right, right. – So what does it actually
take to get in here? How does that process work?
– Yeah, so to begin, obviously academics are important, right? And so for every student
and family that’s out there considering Berkeley,
being a strong academic is definitely going to be a part of that. But we are not just interested in what you’ve done, we’re
very interested in who you are. And so I think the other parts
of the application matter. And that’s what holistic review truly is. It’s understanding that a
student is more than just two numbers, more than just
a GPA and an SAT score, and even making sure
that when we’re looking at the GPA and that SAT score, we’re taking in all of the
context that is required to understand what that
score actually means. And so what I mean by that is, there’s tons of research out there that talk around the
SAT and its bias towards or not certain groups and
certain segments of the– – [Dan] Well, the Chancellor
said that she believes that the SAT has an
inherent bias against– – Correct.
– Underrepresented minorities. Do you agree with that?
– I do agree with that. I do agree with that. And the data shows and lets us know that. Also as we’re reading transcripts from all across the
country, a 4.0 at one school can look very different than
a 4.0 at another school, and it’s important that we are making sure that we are evaluating students in the context in which
they are coming from. Now, when I say that,
that doesn’t mean that if a student is coming from
a privileged background that that somehow becomes
a slight on that student. I would never give a
bias towards a student that comes from a privileged background, or a bias that comes from a student, or for a student that comes
from a low income background. That’s too simplistic in that evaluation. So it’s important that
we are understanding that we’re looking for
excellence and not perfection. So when we have those
parents who come up to us that have the 4.5 and the 30 million SAT, that’s nice, but that’s
not necessarily to me the end all be all of why
a student belongs here. And so when we’re talking about excellence rather than perfection,
excellence gives way to some of those nuances that I mentioned. And we are looking for students who, when I take a look at a
school, or a city, or a state, the questions is, how
many standard deviations away from the mean is this
student that’s applying to our institution? And so what is standard in that sense, and how exceptional is that
student within those standards? And when you’ll give
yourself that type of leeway to evaluate students like that, then I think that you’re able to find some really, really strong gems that might not have perfect SATs, or might not have 45 AP courses on their high school transcripts. – So what’s your forecast
for the future of the SAT? I mean, they’ve added this adversity score and said, “What do you think about that?” I just read this week,
I can’t remember what some colleges dropped it completely. – Mm-hmm.
– Is it something that’s outlived its usefulness
for folks like you? Or is the addition of this adversity score a welcome sort of evolutionary
step for this test? – So I think the landscape,
or the adversity score, or the environmental context dashboard is definitely College Board’s attempt to continue to stay relevant in the field of higher education, and that’s gonna be necessary. So I have very different
opinions on the landscape than I do on standardized testing. For the landscape, I think that– – [Dan] What do you
mean by that, landscape? – So landscape is what they’re now calling the Environmental Context Dashboard, which is what hosts the–
– Oh, okay. – Adversity score.
– You mean that’s the context within which the student– – Correct. And so the landscape right now, the reason why I like,
why I personally like the Environmental Context
Dashboard is again, more information on a student’s
context is welcome, right? It will never be the deciding factor for why are making a decision on a student based off of any score that
we get from College Board. Any score that we get from College Board will never be the reason why we make a determinant decision on a student. But more information that we can get to understand a student’s
context, I think, the better. In regards to the SAT scores, however, and the relevance of
SATs as higher education, I think, continues to
come out with research around the validity of the SAT, I personally think that
the SATs days are numbered. As we’re starting to see more institutions become SAT optional, as we’re starting to see institutions like
University of Chicago and other elite institutions
go SAT optional, I think that higher education, particularly admissions,
there’s definitely a best practices type of atmosphere, and I think that more
institutions that perhaps are not necessarily as selective, are gonna start questioning, why are they using the SAT if the most
selective institutions are not? – Got it. So I’m gonna go for some of the
questions that have come up. And again if people have
more as we go along, just fill ’em out and hold ’em on up. This question is, with Berkeley
not being ranked this year in the “US News and World Report”, do you see this affecting
our applicant pool? Just a little bit of background for people just to make it easy to sort of summarize. So we have been removed from the “US News and
World Report” rankings after we discovered and reported to the “US News and World
Report” that we were not correctly reporting donations. They changed the methodology, and we had not kept pace with that change. As a response, “US News and
World Report” has removed us from our ranking, however
I should just note that we’re gonna be back. We’re gonna be back this
fall after we’ve made the necessary corrections. But I think it remains an interesting and important question all the same about, are you seeing any impacts of that, phone calls, are you concerned about that? Where are we? – I’m personally not concerned at all. I think that Berkeley has the brand that will outlast this hiccup, to be perfectly honest with you. People who know about Berkeley know the strength of the institution. Perhaps the only place that I can see that really paying any effect might
be international students who would use “US News and World Report” and look at those college rankings more so than domestic students do. But it’s not something that I’m
necessarily concerned about. – Let’s go a step further. What do you think about the very idea of the “US News and
World Report” rankings, and alumni giving, is
that an important criteria for an undergraduate? I’ll tell you to give you
some space to run around, Chancellor Christ just did
a back-to-school interview and she heaps scoring on the
“US News and World Report”, you’re good to go.
– Good, good, good. (audience laughing)
Okay, now that I know that, yeah, I’ve never been, I can’t stand it, to be perfectly honest with you. The “US News and World
Report”, I had a chance to go to a couple of conferences and get a sense of what
goes into those rankings. Peer reviews are a part of those rankings, and so people in my role literally having to describe institutions
that I’ve never been to, never heard of. And so I’ve never been a fan
of “US News and World Report”. I also think that I know that
“US News and World Report” places a big chunk of that on selectivity of those rankings, and I’ve never been one to believe that the
more selective you are, the better an institution you are. – I mean, it’s really a matter
of individual fit, right? – It is.
– It’s impossible that one-size-fits-all, right?
– Correct, correct. – And so let’s connect that to the sort of the Berkeley experience. Is there a Berkeley type? Is there sort of somebody for, parent comes to you and you say, “Well, if you kid is x, y, and z, “they are gonna do excellent here.” – Mm-hmm.
– Is there? – Yeah, and again I
think this is something that I’m continuing to develop. And actually, I’m really
grateful for the fact that in my, in the admissions
office there is a lot of alums in there as well that I’m
constantly kind of trying to balance this off of. And I think that when I think
of what the Berkeley type is, the Berkeley type is
someone who understands that your life is not a spectator’s sport. You have to be out here if
you want to make a difference, regardless of what your craft is. Whether that’s a philosopher, whether that’s a poet,
whether that’s an engineer or a mathematician, they understand that in order to truly change the world, one, you cannot do that in a silo, and so that requires
some true collaboration. So it’s gonna be students
who understand and feel that. And then two, to say that
you can’t wait for change, you need to be a part
of that change today. And so I’m kind of looking, if I were to talk to a student and they were to say, what are you looking for? I’m looking for an impatient trailblazer. – An impatient trailblazer.
– That’s right. – Yeah, that’s a good T-shirt.
– Yeah, right? Cal Day, it’ll be there, it’ll be there. (Dan laughing) – Here’s a really interesting question. Are there ways that
tech changes or advances are harming the applicant process? What has the loss of quote “paperwork” done for sort of expression
and commendations, I think it says here. Okay, they don’t wanna, I think you get the basic idea that
just things are online, and they’re digital.
– Yeah. Yeah, so there’s a couple things there. So I think that tech can skew the impact of the interpersonal experience. And so what I mean by that is, to begin with, when it
comes to technology, understanding that things
like the common application, or these other kind of just common spaces where students can apply, we’ve seen that students are now applying to more institutions than
they’ve ever had in the past. And so, in 20 years ago,
I think students applied to somewhere between
five to seven schools. Now the average student is applying between 10 to 15 schools. What that means for
institutions on the back end is that your yield modeling
needs to change, right? So where you thought that if
a student comes from this area and they apply, those
students typically yield. Your modeling now needs to change because more students are
simply pressing buttons to apply to your school. So there’s less of like
the intentional effort around applying to an institution
that there was before. The second part of that is, I think, making sure that we
understand that when it comes to rising above the noise, right, the students that are coming
up in the pipeline now are students who grew up on email, they are students who
likely have multiple emails, and they are way more tech
savvy than we’ll ever be, right? And so understanding that
sometimes it’s important to simply send some
things in the mail, right? I don’t think you can have all of your communication
strategies be digital, because how are you going to get to those students’ parents? And so I think making sure that, ’cause the college conversation is still a family conversation. And if we know that
and we understand that, we can’t rely too much on tech, but I do think that
technology has also allowed us to become way more
efficient with our work, it allows us to have
way more data analytics around the work that
we’re doing in regards to who’s coming to our campus, and how are they feeling, and
then you can segment that. And so I think that technology
is a double-edge sword just like any other tool, right? It can be used to really
advance your mission and your purpose, but it can also can create other blind spots that perhaps did not exist before.
– What do you think’s driving that whole phenomena
of plethora of applications from every student? Is it because it’s easy to do? Or is it part of this
sort of growing mania that found expression and the
whole varsity blues scandal of I’ve gotta get, I mean just like my life is ruined if I don’t.
– Yeah. – How do you see that?
– I think it’s a combination of the things that we talked
about before, actually. I think it’s a combination
of what you just mentioned. It’s easier to do. I also think that institutions
wanna make themselves more accessible, because
even though you’re not increasing your freshman class, if you drive up apps and your
acceptance rate goes down, which means “US News and
World Report” makes you up. – Up.
– So it’s all of those factors that I think that really
contribute to that, to be perfectly honest with you. – Yeah, got it. Next question from the audience. Can you explain how you review and view international applicants? Do you include these students as part of your diversity initiative? – I do. So when it comes to the
international applicant space, I think what’s really important there is that we’re making sure that that space is also diversified. And so where it’s one thing for, and many institutions do this. They’ll just simply say we have 11 or 10% international students. But if 95% of your international students are coming from four countries, that’s not a diverse co-hort, right? There’s plenty of students
all across the world, two things, there’s plenty of students all across the world that
can afford to come here. So the notion that only students from certain regions
of the world can afford to be here is not true. The second is that making
sure that when we are working with and selecting
international students in our process, that
we are also making sure that that is representative
of the diversity in their academic experiences
and their wants as well. And so making sure that the same way that we are looking at and
making sure we’re seeing strong international populations in some of our STEM field,
I know that there are international students that
are interested in philosophy, and I know that there are
international students that are interested in music, and we need to make sure
that we are doing our best to attract those students to us as well. – Mm-hmm, great. The next question, I may get this wrong, ’cause it’s a little hard to read. Asking it seems about, are
there different yield rates across the applicant pool? How are yield rates
sort of differentiated, and what’s the trend? And how do you improve a yield rate for a given population? So if you could just talk
about that whole yield magic. – Yeah, so there is definitely
different yield rates across different populations, and you can segment that
out in a variety of ways. You can take a look at the
yield rate for Californians versus domestic students, you can take a look at the yield rate for affluent students versus
Pell grant recipients. All of those things,
there’s a variety of factors that contribute to why
a student chooses us as an institution after
they’ve been admitted. And I think for us, what’s
critically important is to make sure that when
we have really great efforts like a Cal Day or a transfer day, and we take a look and we say, what percentage of the students
that attended this program decided to come here, we should absolutely segment that out as well, right? So what percentage of the
African-American students that came to Cal day decided to come? Because if we’re noticing
that that difference is great from the average, then that says that perhaps
for next year’s Cal Day, we need to infuse more resources or more experiences for that group. ‘Cause that’s what data
analytics provides us. And so I think it’s critically important that when we are looking
at any of these subgroups and subpopulations that
we’re constantly just aggregating the data to make sure we have the most accurate understanding
of what’s going on. – So here’s a question that probably came from an anxious parent in the audience, for one you get a lot.
– Sure. – What advice do you have for
kids beginning high school in regards to standing out as a potential UC Berkeley student? – Yeah, so I think,
that’s a good question. I think the thing is, a couple things. So the first is that the
student should pursue whatever their passions are. And if those are multiple passions or they don’t know right
now, that’s totally fine, just try things. I’ve always told students
that there’s a big difference between being undecided and uninterested. If you’re undecided that means
that you have some things that you’re passionate about, you just don’t know which
one you want to choose. If you’re uninterested, that means that you’re just uninterested. And so what I would say
for that students is simply to try the things that they
are currently interested, and as something kind of catches or piques your interest,
explore that not just in the classroom, but also
outside of the classroom. Right now what I’ll tell you is that a lot of institutions
are taking a look at, what are students doing in the summer? When you’re not in a curriculum, how are you choosing to spend your time? That, again, shows us a little bit about who those students are, not
just what they can accomplish. So I would say continuing to do that and continuing to do research. And then as someone says that they’re interested in Berkeley, I
would really ask them why. Is it because we’re a public school? There’s plenty of public schools. Is it because we’re in the PAC 12? There’s other schools in the PAC 12. Is it because we’re in
northern California? There’s other schools
in northern California. The same way that we
are de-segregating data to understand the best applicants, I think that students need
to just aggregate the data to understand the best
college fit for them. – So let’s talk a little bit about a story that was big news not that long ago, about sort of the dark side of admissions at certain institutions. It was called varsity blues, and this was the discovery
that there were people gaining the system in all sorts of ways, spending big, big money to get their kids into certain institutions. What do you think that was all about? Is it part of some exploding mania about, again, my life is ruined if I don’t go to a certain institution,
or something else? How do you see it from your perspectives in the admissions office? – So I think varsity blues is interesting to everyone who does
not work in admissions. That’s what I think about varsity blues. – I hate, sorry I bored you.
– No, no, no. (laughs) No, what I mean by that,
what I mean by that is the notion that there’s legacy practices at institutions is not new. The notion that there
are development practices at institutions, that’s not new. And that’s–
– Development practices mean you’re a donor, your kid’s gettin’ in. – Not necessarily like that, but something to that effect, right? There’s some sort of
weight that might be placed on a student based off of
their parent’s relationship with the institution. Whether that’s giving, whether
they attended, what have you. So pretty much giving
attributes to a student that they personally did
not necessarily earn. That’s what I’m talking about. And that’s what I think varsity blues is kind of highlighting. I think that it’s interesting
because one of the things that I was incredibly
excited to be a part of when I got here was understanding that Berkeley did not
have a legacy policy. And then understanding
that Berkeley does not have a relationship with development that interacts with
the admissions process. That’s not where I’m coming from, right? And so to have admissions,
what I like to think, in its purest form, which
is individuals who have gone out to these high schools, who have gotten to know the context in which these students are coming from, who are doing their best to make sure that the students that
we are admitting aligns with the students that
we believe are going to be successful here without any type of outside influence. As an admissions practitioner, that is the purest form of admissions. And we do that here at Berkeley, which has been incredibly,
for me, just reassuring, especially in this turbulent time. Varsity blues also kind of kicked off this system-wide audit in the UC system, in which we had to take a
sharp look at our practices. And again, it was great to
see that there was nothing wildly nefarious that had
to be corrected or fixed through that audit. Instead, it was really just for us was more around documentation,
and making sure that we are documenting all of our procedures
in a way that is palatable for those who might come in
and do an external audit. But I think that for varsity blues, it’s important for
people to know that it’s, in my opinion, varsity blues
is not an admissions scandal. Varsity blues is a scandal
that is adjacent to admissions. And so what I mean by that
is when you take a look at the actual facts of varsity blues, they’re taking where there
was nefarious behavior existed with the recruitment of student athletes and the validation of whether
or not they are athletic. All of that happens prior to admissions getting that information. Same thing with the test scores, right? So when the College Board
sends us test scores, we believe College Board
that these test scores are true, and accurate, and
they reflect the student in which College Board is telling us that these scores represent. In both of those places
is where the scandal truly took place, right? Both of those are inputs
into the admissions process and the admissions evaluation, but none of the nefarious things happened in the actual evaluation. And I think the media got it wrong when they dubbed varsity
blues an admissions scandal. It’s a higher ed scandal without a doubt, but I don’t think it’s
an admissions scandal, and I’m finding a lot
of my colleagues trying to answer questions for
parts of the process they don’t necessarily oversee. – All right, so this may not be anything that really engages you professionally, but just in case, I’ve
read and I’ve heard people who have talked about
the varsity blues thing as having a connection to one
of the really serious crises and growing crisis we’re
facing at this campus and campuses across the country, and that’s the percentage of students with mental health problems. And suddenly seeing a
connection in that some of that is a result of anxiety. This belief like, if I don’t
get into x, fill in the blank, my life is worthless and null, and the pressure that creates. What do you think from your perspective in the admissions office, do you think there’s some validity? And is there something
we can do about that? – I do think that the students are under enormous amounts of pressure. And I think that colleges
across the country might have contributed
to some of that, I do. I think that, and you’re
not just seeing it in the schools that they apply, but like, the proliferation of AP classes that students are taking now. They’re taking 10, 12 AP courses before graduating from high school. Students feel the pressure
to need to take AP courses as a freshman in high school, and I don’t think that
is necessary at all. And so that anxiety is real. However, I think that one of the things that institutions like ours can do, when we go out and we do recruitment, and do our, really when
we go out on the road and fall travel, really
changing our narrative from an outreach, from
a recruitment narrative to an outreach narrative. And what I mean by that
is when you are willing to do outreach, you’re willing to out as am ambassador for higher education. And I will use Berkeley as the template for why you should be
considering colleges, right? And so I will tell you all
about the types of services that we have, the types of
financial aid that we have. But I’ll also be honest to tell you that there’s other institutions that have other financial aid packages, there’s other institutions
that have other majors and programs that might be more
fitted to you, the student. As a highly-selective institution,
we can do that, right? We know that there are way more students in our applicant pool
than we’ll ever admit. And so there’s no need,
and I know that when we send our folks on the road, there’s not a single
group that they’ll ever stand in front of where a
majority of those people will be admitted. And so there’s some luxury there in your ability to have
a nuanced conversation with a student. At some of my former institutions, particularly Ithaca
College while I was there, we did not have an outreach mindset. It was very much a hard
recruitment mindset. It was my job in this next 45 minutes to tell you all about why my institution is where you need to be. The issue that I’ve seen is
that, as I’ve kind of moved through these different
types of institutions is that institutions that do not need
to have a recruitment mindset, they are still trying to have
that recruitment mindset, again, to become more selective. I think that’s a big
piece of what’s happening in higher education admissions as a whole. So if we can get more institutions I think to buy into a more
outreach type of narrative, then I think it allows
some of that anxiety to subside a little but. But again, that’s also
working with parents to also burst the parent’s bubble. ‘Cause a lot of the parents
are the ones that are saying, if my kid does not get
into these three schools, then they’re somehow not worthy of my last name or what have you. And I think that’s a lot. And the students feel that pressure, they feel that pressure without a doubt. I mean, the moment that you decide that you’re going to put Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley as your college choices, and Berkeley’s supposed
to be your safety school, your mindset is off, right? Like, if your safety school
has a 15% acceptance rate, that doesn’t make any sense, right? And so really understanding
that those colleges that might not be as selective, might actually be perfect for you. And I tell students all the time in the position that I’m in, I personally would not
have attended UC Berkeley. It’s too big for me. I came from a really small town. Corning, upstate New York. Berkeley would have been too big, it would have been too far. And so it’s important
for people to understand that that fit conversation
is one that really does need to be fleshed out, not just to students, but also to their parents. – So gonna take a slightly
different direction, with our next question. Just to set it up, as
I’m sure you’re aware that this campus, and
campuses across the UC generated a lot of controversy, and concern, and
conversation after we began to increase the number of out-of-state and international students, particularly in the wake
of the Great Recession. And so the question is, are
there goals or initiatives to increase the number of California, or to increase the rate of
California residents’ acceptance? There’s a perception that public schools in California admit out-of-state and international students
to increase revenue. And I will also add, this
was not in the question, I’ll also add, and there’s
also a perception that the standards are lower
for out-of-state students. So a little bit about that issue. – Yeah, so two things around that. The first is that it’s important to know that Berkeley in particular
will always be dedicated to the state of California. And you can see that in
the numbers of the students that we admit from Berkeley
versus the number of students that we admit, excuse me, from California versus the number of students that we take from out-of-state. I do think, however, that
one of the observations that I have, and another
one of these kind of pillars to our strategy this
fall is really not just doing more California outreach, but more Bay area outreach
in particular, yeah. I think that we need to really double down on what’s happening in the
shadows of our own ivory tower. We need to recognize
the migration patterns that are existing when it comes to students of color, and
that not all of the students of color are in Oakland,
they are out there in Pittsburgh, Antioch, and Vallejo and these other areas now, and we should be, our ground game there should be better than anyone’s. I’m a strong believer in that. I think when it comes to
the other piece about, to your question around whether or not the students are coming in with
lesser academic credentials is simply just untrue. And the fact of the
matter is that students from out-of-state, for us to
be even interested in them, they have to be strong
academic performers. We know that that’s also
critical in our ability to yield those students, and so that’s absolutely
where we’re leaning in regards to that strategy. – Cool.
– Yeah. – This next question is gonna take us back to a subject we touched
on in the beginning, but it’s gonna sharpen it up a little bit in a slightly different direction. What can you tell us about the experience or experiences of
African-American undergraduates and those of mixed heritage? The word on the street
is Berkeley is awful for black students. What do you say to this? And what are some of the
differences or similarities you see with your past work at Stanford? – So–
– Two very different, but let’s take the first one first. It takes us back to something, and we hear a lot of it.
– Yeah, yeah. And so in regards to the
African-American student experience on this campus, to be
perfectly honest with you, from what I’m hearing it’s
not the greatest, either. And I think that it’s a
relationship that needs work, and I also, work when I think about the African-American student experience and how they’re experiencing
the rest of campus. I also believe that all
of these things exist on a continuum, right? And I think that it’s
important to know that there’s not going to be a single day where you just get here
and all of a sudden it is paradise for everyone that is here. I think, what I’ve learned
in doing diversity work is you have to have a willingness to engage in tough conversations
on a continual basis. It’s not just going to be, I’m gonna have this tough conversation, I’m gonna walk out and everything’s
gonna be good from here. So I think that’s important. I also think it’s important to recognize and to understand that African-Americans are not a monolith, right? And so there’s variation
within that diaspora as well. As so we should never be
treating or believing that African-American is somehow
a proxy for low income, or a proxy for urban, or a proxy for any of these other things. So when we think about
supporting that student, we really should be thinking
about just how do we intentionally support all of our students? But that also includes these things that are particular to their identity. And so that’s not just in
programming or things like that, but it’s also in the staff and the cultural
competencies of our faculty and everything else, that is important, I think, to making sure
that that narrative is being addressed. In regards to the second
question about Stanford– – [Dan] Similarities, differences. – Similarities and differences. So the difference is
Stanford has an ability to throw a lot of money
at problems, right? And make things look really, really great. But Stanford has their
own racial issues as well. And that is something
that we absolutely saw, that I absolutely saw when I was there. The African-American students
not just in undergrad, at Stanford’s law school
and their business school they also had their own issues with race and ethnicity on their campuses. I don’t think any school is
going to be immune to that. I really don’t think that. And what I’ve learned at Stanford is that money can’t solve all of your problems. And so I know for a fact
that it requires, again, more intentional and
in-depth conversations if you really want to
create a better environment for those students. But the students will
and they should continue to push for services that they want, or that they believe that they need. They are the people who are
paying this institution, that make this place go, and I think it’s our
job to respond to that. – Got it. A question here from
one of our fundraisers. Says, as a fundraiser,
I have alumni and donors who express great disappointment with the low numbers of
underrepresented minorities on campus today. Please share language we can or should use to help our alumni understand
the challenges we face in building a diverse student body. So it’s sort of the other side of what we talked about before. We talked about the need,
and why, and that imperative, but also it’s this, there’s like, what’s the reality check?
– Yeah. Well, again, I think
that the reality check is if you are paying attention
then you will notice that Berkeley has been
taking absolute strides in regards to creating
a more equitable space. Again, I think that, when I got a chance to really start digging
into some of the work that’s being done here, I think that when I understand how new the Fannie Lou Hamer Center
is, when I understand programs like Berkeley’s Underground Scholars, or the Hope Scholars, these
programs that recognize parts of society that have
definitely been forgotten in higher education as a whole. And we have full blown programming
and support behind that, I think it’s important
for donors to know that. I also think it’s important for donors to know that we are committed
to the relationships that we have in communities. I’ve noticed that when it comes to working with some of my colleagues in the Center for Educational Partnerships and the work that they
are doing in high schools all across the state of California, right? I would gladly put our efforts up against many other institutions and the
fact that we don’t just have great brochures and things like that, but we actually have people on the ground is something that I think that we should absolutely lift to donors
and let them know that, yes, while the data might suggest this, that is not reflective of our effort, and I think the continued
momentum that we’re building towards creating a more equitable space. – So one of the things the
Chancellor talked about when she announced the,
when she rolled out the Undergraduate Diversity Initiative was this idea, this objective, this goal, this priority to become an HSI, a Hispanic-serving
institution within 10 years. What does that actually mean, and what kind of changes
is that engendering in your office?
– Yeah. So in order to become a
Hispanic-serving institution you have to have 25% of your
undergraduate enrollment study body represent students
who self-identify as Latin x. And right now I believe we’re
somewhere around like 15%, so we need to raise that by
some significant numbers. From my perspective, I think
we talked a little bit about some of those targeted outreach, and some of those targeted yields, and these deeper understandings
of these parts of the state in particular, where
perhaps we have not been in the past, and our need to go there and establish a presence.
– When you say we have not been, we’re not literally sending people? – Literally not going. Like, we literally have not
been to certain high schools in 10, 20, 30 years. We literally haven’t been
to certain high schools in seven or eight years. And when you’re talking
about creating pipelines, students need to see you, right? Even if, and this goes back to that whole digital thing, right? We can go out there and we can email, bombard students all day. If we are not in their spaces, then they will not believe
that they are seen. And so we have to make sure
that we are going out there and seeing students for who they are, understanding where they’re coming from, and then using that as we
are contextually considering who they are and their fit here. What I will also say, though, around becoming an HSI that I think is critically, critically important, if we, again, kind of doubling back on some of the things
that we’ve talked about. If we know that right now
we do still take the SAT, and we know that the SAT
is a racially-biased, or an ethnically-biased
program, or excuse me, test, then we need to make sure
that when we’re working with our campus partners, understanding that you
cannot change your race and ethnicity profile without other parts of your profile shifting. And so what that means is that what the average SAT score
looks like moving forward, there’s a likelihood that
that could shift or change. The amount of AP scores that
a student takes on average could likely shift or change. And so that also means that where students might need support, and where they don’t will also change once they
come onto our campuses. And so I think it’s gonna
be incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we are doing our best to not just make sure that
the students get here, but that they thrive here. Because I’m a big believer that access without support is not an opportunity. – So I’m gonna ask you last question. And it’s really gonna
step back from all this, ’cause we’ve been talking
a lot about diversity, no surprise given the extent to which the Chancellor
has put it front and center as a priority for the rest of her tenure. So when people ask you,
why should we even care about diversity in the
higher education space? Let the chips fall where they may. Why are you, what’s the argument you make for a diverse student body at an institution like UC Berkeley? – So much to say.
– Yeah. (audience laughing)
– Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, all of
the data in every sector of our society shows that
diverse environments, spaces drive innovation
and they are the places where genius can be found. And so for me, you are
really putting yourself at a disservice when you don’t have certain perspectives at the table. It’s critical. And I think that if we’re
really talking about engaging in a landscape that
is diversifying rapidly, we need to make sure that we’re having those people at our
table when we’re deciding how we are going to change
and shift the world. I am a big believer that the college space is the place for clashing. It’s the place for brave
conversations and safe spaces. And I think that it’s important for people to be exposed to
those who are not like them. It opens their minds, their perspectives, and that’s what I think
is gonna kinda drive not just what we’re
doing here in California, or in Silicon Valley, but really what’s gonna
be driving the world as we think about
innovation moving forward. – Cool, so before we wrap up, I just wanna note that our
next campus conversation is gonna be a little bit
different than the past in terms of its format. It’ll be on September 30th. And we’re going to be
joined by Oliver O’Reilly, the Chair of the Academic Senate, and Amma Sarkodee-Adoo,
who is the ASUC President, to get a different perspective about what’s happening on campus. Otherwise, Femi, I just wanna end this with one word I haven’t
used before in these, and that’s, wow.
(Femi laughing) Thanks.
– Thank you, thank you. I appreciate it.
(audience applauding)

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *