New Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Sees a Good Forecast for UMW!

Kimberly Buster-Williams will soon join as us Associate Provost for Enrollment Management. Her arrival on May 25 enables her to get started while Carol Descak is still here, thus ensuring a smooth transition into her new role. Earlier announcements of her appointment have been brief, so we asked Kimberly to let us share a few more details about her background and interests. We also invited her to offer some initial thoughts about her new position and some of its challenges. Hopefully, this additional information gives you a more complete introduction.

As a native of Richmond, and through her earlier position at Old Dominion University, Kimberly was no stranger to UMW. In fact, when asked what prompted her to apply for the job, she remarked that she was “attracted to UMW because of its stellar reputation and the reputation of key leaders.” While working at ODU in the 1990s, Kimberly served on Virginia Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers committees and, as she says, “had occasion to attend planning meetings at UMW.  The campus was beautiful and the staff energetic. When the position was announced, I jumped at the opportunity.” The job announcement stated that the Associate Provost for Enrollment Management is a university-wide leader with a direct reporting relationship to the Provost and a “dotted line” report to the President.The Associate Provost will also serve on the President’s cabinet.

Chief among the many expectations listed for this position was a focus on analyzing data to shape strategic enrollment directions and to better forecast trends in student enrollment patterns. The presence of the word “forecast” in a job description might prompt you to think of another activity – and Kimberly makes an interesting analogy between her work in enrollment management and that of weather forecasting! When she was asked to comment on what she was excited about or looking forward to in her new position, Kimberly phrased her answer this way:

 “When asked about snow totals for December 2013’s Winter Storm Electra, a weatherman replied, ‘There remains some uncertainty as it relates to the exact track of this storm, including critical details on the position of the rain/ice/snow line.’ Depending on the time of year, my response is much the same when I am asked about enrollment projections for new or continuing students.

 Like a meteorologist, I look at various models, student migration patterns, and metrics and try to anticipate what’s coming. I use prediction tools that have improved over time. This year, I’ve tracked and responded to numerous enrollment management storms, especially those related to disclosures. Like many in higher education, I see more consumer disclosure on the horizon, especially since student loans have eclipsed credit cards as a top source of U.S. household debt, second only to mortgage debt.”

Among the approaches that will guide some of her work at UMW, Kimberly lists these – having an anticipatory mindset, linking data and measures to what matters, keeping the student’s needs in mind, and staying current by reading leading publications and other sources of information related to admissions and enrollment management issues. And she’ll likely do more than just read what other professionals have to say. Kimberly notes that she is a regular contributor to the Recruitment & Retention journal, where she shares her thoughts about best practices in enrollment management and admissions. As far as personal interests go, she is an avid reader and enjoys running. A few years ago, her book club group took up the challenge of re-reading a number of “banned” books. She also enjoys time with her husband and two daughters (a rising high school freshmen and a sixth grader). Both girls swim competitively and also play golf.

The position announcement for the job Kimberly is filling said that the Associate Provost is responsible for working closely with the senior leadership team, deans, and other members of the University community to develop and manage processes for communicating the strengths of UMW’s academic and student-life programs to prospective students and the extended community. In reflecting on the enrollment tasks that lie ahead, Kimberly commented that she is “excited to work with Jonathan and others on enrollment planning and goal setting. UMW has a great brand and I’m looking forward to leveraging that.”   The Directors of Undergraduate and Graduate Admissions, the Director of Financial Aid, and the University Registrar will be among the positions that report directly to Kimberly. The Associate Provost for Enrollment Management also chairs UMW’s Enrollment Management and Retention Committee.

Kimberly will arrive on campus shortly after the start of the summer session, less than a month before UMW’s next freshmen class starts summer orientation sessions. And, of course, the seemingly never ending work of getting ready for enrolling the next class will already be underway! Please welcome Kimberly to UMW when you get the chance to see her on campus.   *Photo used by courtesy of Northern Illinois University. 

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