By Kate Helm
When John Sperduto, a prospective Lafayette student from Middletown, N.J., arrived on campus for an alumni admissions reception with his father, he immediately liked the vibe. Lafayette was the first school among 10 others he’s applied to that saw him as something other than a walking application.
“Through the event, the admissions staff made it clear that they value more than a set of test scores and an application,” says Sperduto, whose academic interests range from engineering to literature. “The staff and alumni provided me with a chance to show who I am, how I speak, how I act, and how I react to the pressure of a person-to-person interaction. Those are topics I felt weren’t addressed in the application processes of other schools. Lafayette gave me an opportunity to show who I am, something I really appreciate.”
While Sperduto was discussing the College with Frank Giannelli ’07, his father was mingling with other parents and admissions staff and enjoying an alumni panel. Both Matthew Hyde, director of admissions, and Carol Rowlands ’81, associate dean of admissions and financial aid, talked with the father and son at the Jan. 14 reception in Pfenning Alumni Center. “They took time to personally speak to me at the event, something they did not have to do,” Sperduto says.
That personalized approach has long been a hallmark of a Lafayette education. Now, it’s becoming a key aspect of the admissions and financial aid process, says Greg MacDonald, dean of admissions and financial aid. The reception format sets Lafayette apart from other colleges and universities that include alumni interviews as part of the application process. The relaxed atmosphere allows the College to engage parents, who are becoming more involved in their children’s college searches, while making personal connections with applicants.
“Admission to Lafayette has never been purely about the numbers,” explains MacDonald. “In addition to providing our admissions team with a fresh perspective on a candidate, our alumni demonstrate the clear value of the Lafayette degree to our prospective students.”
This year, admissions hosted a series of alumni receptions at locations across the country, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Stamford, Conn., and Washington, D.C. Despite the national—and hopefully next year global—outreach, MacDonald still considers Easton the College’s most important market. Another reception was held at the College Jan. 28.
More than 103 alumni have participated in the events. They are trained to conduct interviews, or they serve on information panels. Parents learn about the College while their students are being interviewed. Alumni response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
Easton volunteer Cara Mohlmann ’97, director of advancement operations and annual giving at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., was inspired by the high caliber of applicants.
“It was easy to see how each of them could share their talents, explore areas of interest, and become involved, active members of the Lafayette community,” she says. “The positive energy around the event itself and the energy provided by the students show what a great job the College is doing in attracting bright, talented students.”
Reaching out to alumni wasn’t a hard sell for Janine Casey, assistant director of alumni affairs. Not only do they get to take an active role in shaping the future of their alma mater, they get to catch up with one another. Many who staffed the receptions this year have already volunteered to help again, and some made such great connections with the prospective students that they’re keeping in touch in case the students have more questions.
“Prospective students can easily relate to young alumni and vice versa,” says Casey. “Seeing young alumni enables prospective students to picture themselves a few years from now, and alumni are able to share their experiences with the ever-expanding variety of academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities at Lafayette.”
For Cathy Earley ’88, volunteering at the San Francisco event in November was a win-win situation since distance makes it difficult for her to return to campus frequently. She also added a little dose of history, sharing what it was like at the College a few decades ago.
“I bring a passion for Lafayette as well as perspective of what it was like as a female student in the 1980s to contribute to Lafayette both academically and outside the classroom,” says Earley, a practice leader, learning solutions, for InsideOut Development. “And doing this allows me to stay involved and be part of the broader Lafayette community, even here in San Francisco.”
Andrew Stafield ’04, a financial adviser with First Financial Group in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., was eager to help prospective students navigate the sometimes stressful application process at the Philadelphia event in September.
“I enjoyed sharing my positive experiences and explaining what made Lafayette different. I received a great education and forged dozens of lifelong friendships,” he says. “I want to see that happen for other people. Lafayette alumni love helping their own and know better than anyone what the true Lafayette experience is all about.”
It was that connection that really impressed prospective student Dan Flaherty of Trumbull, Conn. Flaherty interviewed with alumni at other schools, but those interviews took place individually or off-site. Coming to campus earlier this month gave him a good idea of what life would be like as a biology or physics student and showed him how the College impacts its students even after they graduate.
“Everyone seems to feel very connected to Lafayette, which to me evidences a strong sense of community—an important aspect in choosing a college,” says Flaherty, who interviewed with Diana Hasegan ’10.
It wasn’t only the prospective students who were impressed. At the Easton event, Nathan Terwilliger ’11, an application engineer at Flowserve Corporation in Phillipsburg, N.J., felt good seeing how hard the College works to attract students who will carry on Lafayette’s reputation for excellence.
“As an alum, I understand the culture that Lafayette has worked toward and the ‘Lafayette ideal’ the College hopes its students will embrace,” he says. “It was exciting to have a genuine conversation with an individual who has so much talent to offer. Seeing the consistent level of passion that the prospective students brought to the interview was very rewarding.”