Vice president for enrollment candidate visits college

by Joshua Warrener / Beacon Correspondent • April 9, 2015

James O’Hara, one of Emerson’s candidates to fill the open position of vice president of enrollment management, visited the college on April 2 and 3 to hold an open forum and to meet and speak with students, faculty, and administrators.

The open forum, attended by 48, was held on April 2. O’Hara delivered a slideshow detailing his prospective plans for Emerson, then took questions from the crowd. The forum focused on O’Hara’s resume as a college administrator, the strategies he uses in his current position at Rider University to increase admissions in target demographics, and how he plans to adapt those strategies for Emerson.

O’Hara said his current target demographics include minorities, international students, graduate students, and adults interested in continuing their education. The number of undergraduate applications at Rider—a university in New Jersey with a 280-acre campus and over 5,300 students—has increased by 117 percent during O’Hara’s time there, and applications for underrepresented populations increased by 7 percent.

O’Hara said he wants to work at Emerson because he is impressed by its reputation for high-quality programs, the experience of its professors, and the prestige that has been achieved by its notable alumni.

Candidates for the position were identified and vetted by a selection committee headed by President M. Lee Pelton.

Pelton said the committee’s criteria for the job includes experience in enrollment management and a compelling vision for Emerson.

“We have a very strong enrollment program now, and so we’re looking for someone who will continue to provide strength in that area,” Pelton said in an interview. “And, of course, we are always open to new ideas.”

Because O’Hara is visiting Emerson unbeknown to his current employer, he declined to be interviewed for this piece.

During the presentation, O’Hara discussed a more holistic approach to advising students, access to enrollment statistics for staff at all levels, and a stronger emphasis on the role of the enrollment staff.

When asked what his coworkers at Rider might say about him as an administrator, O’Hara offered some insight into his administrative process.

“They would say that he is someone who lives and dies by the numbers,” O’Hara said. “He is someone who has a great deal of energy and that he always has time.”

Most forum attendees were staff from the admissions department, though there was also staff from the Office of Housing and Residential Life, the Athletic Department, and the Office of the Registrar. No students attended the event.

After the event, those who met with O’Hara during his two-day visit were emailed a survey about the candidate. According to Anne Shaughnessy, the director of the Office of the President, the results of the survey will influence the selection process.

Pelton said that there were other candidates being reviewed by the selection committee, though Emerson has not yet announced any visits similar to O’Hara’s by the others.

The previous vice president for enrollment management, MJ Knoll-Finn, left the college in November.