I’ll demystify the last part of the title first: “Economics of Marine Biology” is the title of the latest episode of Community, one
which I finally had the opportunity to watch this past Saturday, as I readied myself to head to Accepted Student Visiting Day (hereafter referred to as ASVD). It turned out to be a fitting episode to watch before my departure (and this is for someone who, as a former community college AND parks department employee, sometimes feels as though NBC is mining her life for ratings).
In this latest episode, Greendale finds itself flipped upside down as students and staff alike prepare for the visit of a “whale” (their name for students with enough money to pay for lots of classes without intent to graduate) by wooing him with promises of parties and celebrity lecturers. The student arrived on campus on a Vespa, purchased for him by a neighboring community college, also competing for his affections.
While this is the type of wooing scenario that we generally either dismiss as fiction, or would attribute (often wrongly) to athletics departments, it recalled a conversation I had with my director while assembling our board for the ASVD resource fair. As we selected photographs to place on our board, we tried to have students come in to ensure that the photos were representative of the experience that they were having. We admittedly don’t have the most diverse campus, and did our best to highlight the outstanding multicultural programs we do offer without appearing to provide an experience that we can’t deliver.
I’m glad that we presented ourselves as we did, for we had a few students come up and courageously ask “what is there on this campus for people that look like me?” I commend them for being so upfront in asking for that; I know I didn’t have it in me to ask that question at that age! I’m glad that we did our best to highlight our strengths while being realistic. Conversely, when working with our Director of First Year Experience to review the image that we presented to all first year students in viewbooks, we saw that liberties were being taken. Nothing egregious, but there was absolutely a concern that we were presenting ourselves as we would like to be, rather than how we are.
Admissions and marketing officers typically have more say over these things, but how does that message look when it does come from your office? Are you authentic? Are you idealistic? If a “whale” were to land on your campus, would the presented experience and the actual experience match?