Q & A: Matthew Whelan
Matthew Whelan, vice president for University enrollment strategy and relationship development, spoke to us about his commitment to student success and SBU’s mission to attract top students from around the world.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT SBU?
I am charged with assisting faculty, staff and administration in the development of strategies and relationships that will help us optimize enrollment across a number of variables — the size of the institution, diversity, academic quality, geographic representation, infrastructure and academic program capacity. All this supports our ability to carry out our mission to grow our research and scholarship, and build a diverse and inclusive campus.
HOW DOES SBU ATTRACT OUTSTANDING STUDENTS?
First, we promote student access and student success. We can’t have conversations about one without the other. All universities — and Stony Brook already does this quite well — need to concentrate on this dual mission to ensure students are achieving their dreams, and in the process, improving their lives and the lives of others. Second, through diversity and inclusion. Even where diversity flourishes, inclusion is critical to ensuring SBU is a place where everyone feels empowered to pursue their dreams.
HOW HAS THE WORLD OF ADMISSIONS CHANGED?
I started in this field when all we had were paper inquiry cards and applications. The technological/social media revolution has changed patterns of behavior throughout the admissions process, not only for colleges and universities, but also for parents and counselors, and of course, for students. We need to utilize the available tools, including social platforms, to help reach all students and their counselors. It’s our job to present an authentic view of the Stony Brook experience. On- and offline, that requires good people — faculty, staff, students, alumni — all of whom work hard to help us acquaint prospective students with the breadth of experiences available to them at Stony Brook.
WHAT ACCOUNTS FOR OUR INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS?
Good people doing good work. It helps that we have growing name recognition, but fundamentally it takes hard work to ensure that we are getting our message across. For instance, we communicate our commitment to diversity and inclusion via video to international students, and we make sure they know they are welcome here. Our beautiful campus, new residence halls and the many support services we offer specifically for international students are also key factors, as is our proximity to New York City.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE STONY BROOK’S ADMISSIONS PROCESS?
We take a holistic approach to student recruitment. While we use electronic data throughout the process, we focus on finding evidence that would indicate a student can succeed — we want them to get in. It’s not just about GPA or SAT scores. Was the student engaged in their community and environment? Did they overcome hardships? What does their guidance counselor have to say? This is a delicate process, and we thoroughly consider all facets of every student’s application when making these life-changing admissions decisions.
WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT AND MOTIVATES YOU TO GET UP?
What keeps me awake? Mostly my dog Lucy, a 3-year-old border collie mix. Seriously, though, I sleep pretty well. If I had to choose something, I would say that we are facing one of the most tumultuous periods for enrollment due to local, state, regional, national and international demographics; questions about the value of higher education; new technology for learning; and evolving delivery methods. All of this intersects with the need to grow and enhance the enrollment that drives Stony Brook toward excellence. We do great things here, in the classrooms, in creative expression and scholarship, and we do it for so many students from diverse backgrounds. The recent findings on SBU’s ability to move students out of the lowest income quintiles to the top are proof we do this well.
Why do I get up? I believe in our mission, and I’m confident in our ability to propel students beyond their aspirations to positions of leadership that can change the world for the better.