Vice President for Enrollment
“Bennington has long been among the most forward-thinking liberal arts colleges in the United States, and I think our alumni stand as evidence that it has been extraordinarily successful. The resourcefulness a place this size demands of its students, its faculty, its administrators—it permeates everything—has a huge impact on teaching and learning. In a world beset with complex challenges, understanding how to ask the questions that really matter and to find creative, elegant, actionable solutions is crucial. It’s an ethos that has been with Bennington since its founding and one higher education needs to be reminded of.”
Mariko Silver, President of Bennington College
A private, coeducational liberal arts college in southwestern Vermont, Bennington College is intentionally small and yet large in the impact it has had on American higher education since 1932. Bennington’s undergraduate, degree-seeking enrollment in the fall of 2017 reached 717, the largest in the college’s history.
Bennington is seeking an exceptional Vice President for Enrollment who will report to President Mariko Silver. The successful candidate will oversee admissions and financial aid, serve as a strategic partner on the senior leadership team, and work in collaboration with faculty, staff, students, and alumni to further advance the value of Bennington’s unique and important educational experience, which pushes the edge of a progressive education while always keeping the students at the center. The new vice president will balance financial aid approaches to effectively leverage scholarship resources while respecting the need to grow net tuition revenue. The new vice president will ideally be an experienced admissions and financial aid professional, have strong analytical ability, be a talented strategist and leader, and have outstanding interpersonal skills.
Background and History
Bennington College began with the idea that America higher education needed a progressive, forward-thinking college to consider the remarkable changes that were happening culturally, socially, and technologically. Once land was secured in southwestern Vermont and a charter established, Bennington opened as a women’s college in 1932, becoming fully coeducational in 1969. Bennington was the first institution of higher learning to include the performing and visual arts as fully recognized programs in the liberal arts. John Dewey, influential early 20th century thinker and educational reformer, served as a trustee of the College; many of the College’s signature programs, such as the Field Work Term and the Plan process, are extensions of his educational principles. The College aims to educate students towards self-fulfillment and constructive social purposes, and believes that equity, diversity, and inclusivity–in community and in curriculum–are vital to achieving those aims.
The Academic Program
Bennington’s approach to learning is inquiry-based: “a process based on the belief that the deepest and most meaningful learning stems from and is driven by a student’s individual curiosity. Students design, curate, and build their own education.” Isabel Roche, Provost and Dean of the College.
Students construct their own framework for learning in close collaboration with a faculty advisor and a Plan committee and guided by the Capacities they are expected to develop throughout their time at the College. This individualized plan guides course selection and learning outside the classroom to help students accomplish their goals, learn deeply and broadly, and move their skills forward. It also allows students to have agency in their learning and to creatively pull from the curriculum to support their work. Every year, all students participate in Field Work Term, a seven-week term in the winter spent off campus/out of the classroom to put into practice their intellectual curiosity through internships, work, or entrepreneurial endeavors. The open, responsive curriculum is constantly evolving with courses shifting and adapting based on the interests and suggestions of faculty and students. “Pop-up” classes provide opportunities to address emerging situations and events through short, rigorous academic courses taught by faculty with expertise in the area. The average class size is 13; the student-faculty ratio for the coming academic year is projected to be 10:1. In addition to the undergraduate degree program, Bennington offers an acclaimed low-residency MFA program in writing (the Bennington Writing Seminars) as well as a premedical post-baccalaureate program for students pursuing careers in the medical field.
“Central to the College’s founding vision was the belief that education is most powerful when students themselves define its direction. The College envisioned that students would take with them when they graduated not only what they had learned but also an understanding of how they had learned it — developing a kind of metacognition that has become only more relevant (and I would even say necessary) today.” Isabel Roche, Provost and Dean of the College.
The Campus and Residential Life
Occupying 440 lush, rolling acres in southern Vermont, Bennington’s campus has earned praise from Architectural Digest as one of the Top 10 Colleges with Best Architecture and appears on the list of Princeton Review’s Most Beautiful College Campuses. Whether a shingled New England cottage or the stunning modern design of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA), Bennington’s campus both reflects the traditional New England aesthetic as well as the forward-looking nature of the college. Students live in houses of 30-45 people, all coeducational and all reflecting the eclectic yet cohesive architecture of the campus. There is a strong sense of community within each of the houses and leadership comes in the form of House Chairs, a student selected among the residents of each house, and in the forum of Coffee Hour.
There are over 40 clubs and organizations on campus ranging from beekeeping to basketball. The Office of Student Life generates and supports a wide array of extracurricular programming, including concerts, wellness initiatives, and a variety of recreational activities — both on and off campus. Some of the best skiing in the Northeast is just an hour from campus. The Meyer Recreation Barn is the campus athletic and wellness facility that houses an aerobics room, climbing wall, free weights, sauna, and showers. The Bennington Athletic Department offers yoga and other fitness classes each term.
Enrollment Trends at Bennington
Students at Bennington come from 31 states and 47 countries. The college is test-optional in its admissions practices, and offers the Dimensional Application as well as the Common Application.
The college has seen significant, deliberate growth both in the applicant pool and in the number of enrolled students: In 2014, Bennington received 1117 applications, admitted 759 students, and enrolled 192. In 2017, Bennington received 1458 applications, admitted 823, and enrolled 219. The total undergraduate, degree-seeking enrollment in fall 2017 was 717, compared to 631 in 2014.
Accolades for Bennington College
Princeton Review has named Bennington #2 Best Classroom Experience, #2 Most Beautiful Campus, #3 Professors Get High Marks, #5 Best College Theater, #6 Best College Dorms, #8 Most Politically Active Students. Forbes named Bennington #4 on the list of America’s Most Entrepreneurial Colleges, and Unigo placed Bennington among the top ten “Brainiest Colleges.”
Bennington, Vermont sits at the foot of the Green Mountains and is a culturally rich town with a population of approximately 15,500. Ranked #3 in the United States as the “Most Arts Vibrant Small Community,” Bennington’s downtown captures the traditional look and feel of a New England village. Home to four colleges (Bennington, Southern Vermont College, Community College of Vermont, and Northeastern Baptist College), four B&Bs, a riverwalk, a professional co-working space, farmers market and over 40 locally owned businesses, restaurants, and shops, Bennington “has preserved what most of American has sacrificed: a thriving community center with a rich history, stunning architecture, locally owned shops, and small town hospitality.” www.vermontvacation.com
Bennington’s alumni include Alan Arkin, Peter Dinklage, Helen Frankenthaler, Michael Pollan, and Donna Tartt, to name just a few among many notables and influencers.
“Bennington taught me to live an audacious life.”-Judith Jones ‘45, senior editor and vice president at Knopf
“I wanted to go to Bennington and nowhere else…but I worried about my chances because Bennington was famous for all its students possessing the highest IQs in the country… Still I simply had to go there….Bennington lived up to its reputation..” – Carol Channing ’42, Broadway and film actress
“The whole idea of Bennington is learning by doing. That’s what attracted me to the College. I wanted that freedom. I did not want to go to a college that told me that I had to do exactly what it said. Bennington attracts people who have that kind of confidence.”–Bret Easton Ellis ’86, bestselling novelist
“It felt like a holy place, a place you could do anything.” –Jonathan Marc Sherman ’90, American playwright
“Paul [Feeley] was a very positive influence and very supportive and a marvelous teacher in that he sort of milked his students to investigate what he himself wanted to know more about, which I think great teachers do.” –Helen Frankenthaler ’49 painter; pioneer in abstract expressionism
“There’s this wacky thing that Bennington teaches you: not to be afraid of anything. Not to say ‘oh, I’m not trained to do that.’ But instead to have a confidence in your natural abilities. I call it Courage College.” – Laura Furman ’68, author and current editor of the PEN/ O. Henry Prize series
Qualifications and Requirements
Chief responsibilities will include but not be limited to the following:
- Practice both the art and science of enrollment management balancing quantitative analyses and data-driven decision-making for effective results while nurturing the relational admissions practices characteristic of a small, liberal arts college.
- Shape and lead an admissions and financial aid program that is effective, is inventive, and embodies and extends the central tenets of the College. Establish strategic direction, priorities, and goals for Bennington enrollment and for each of the offices within it while maintaining fiscally responsible leadership.
- Attract a growing number of qualified applicants with an emphasis on the increasing diversity necessary for the College to thrive.
- Serve as a collaborative and visible partner and contributor on the senior leadership team, to inform the strategic direction of the college.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of Bennington’s recruitment, selection, and financial aid programs and make appropriate adjustments so as to lead a college-wide effort that is proactive and continues to align policies and practice with the purposes, approach and goals of the College.
- Work closely with the Provost and Dean of the College and related staff to understand ongoing enrollment challenges and opportunities; to facilitate and support students as they the transition from prospective to enrolled; and to help calibrate recruitment, retention, and student success efforts through routine exchange of data and information.
- Serve as a dynamic and compelling representative of the College to prospective students and their families, current students and parents, secondary schools, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, and potential donors. Inspire and engage as many constituents as possible to join together in serving as ambassadors for Bennington.
- Be a visible presence on Bennington’s campus as well as a trusted and respected leader in higher education enrollment both domestically and internationally.
- Demonstrate a thorough understanding of current trends and challenges in higher education, a keen sense for which audiences to reach and how to reach them, and a willingness to be creative in concept and practice in order to achieve College goals.
- Further diversify the international student body through the establishment and nurturing global admissions partners.
- Enhance relationships with members of the high school counseling community across the country and the world. Equip them to effectively communicate Bennington’s programs, approach, and value to aspiring college students and their families.
- Provide energetic, inventive, and results-oriented leadership and vision to a strong and devoted team of admissions and student aid professionals and, in particular, direct reports. Clearly articulate the planning and goals of the enrollment effort. Lend strategic oversight and analytic expertise while further promoting effectiveness, professional development, and job satisfaction.
- In collaboration with the Chief Communications Officer, engage artfully and proactively with national media to help ensure that Bennington’s values and views are heard as frequently and widely as possible. Foster strong, consistent messages that increase the College’s reputation and national and international visibility and reach.
- Creatively develop and utilize existing and emerging technologies to communicate and build relationships among all constituents and primarily with students, families, and counselors; deploy appropriate technology and other tools and resources to effectively manage and administer the enrollment offices.
- Work collaboratively with other members of the senior administration, especially in areas of recruitment, retention, branding, college publicity, fundraising, alumni engagement, fiscal solvency, and student/alumni career development. Serve as an influential and strategic contributor to the College’s ongoing success.
- Further define the role of the vice president for enrollment at Bennington as needed, working closely with the president, other senior leaders, and members of the faculty so that the duties and scope of the position enable the vice president to fulfill most effectively the vision for enrollment at the College.
The ideal candidate will have the following professional qualifications and personal characteristics:
- Experience leading and managing admissions and financial aid: Experience participating in leadership and management within admissions and financial aid offices in a liberal arts college or university; the capacity to manage the complex interplay of marketing and recruitment strategies, enrollment goals, yield, and financial aid; fiscal responsibility, strategic planning, selection and supervision of personnel, professional development and team-building;
- A gifted story-teller and an acute listener: The ability to hear and integrate the thinking and views of the Bennington College community and translate this into compelling stories of Bennington; the capacity to understand and work collaboratively with all those who have an interest in the process of attracting and shaping Bennington’s student body; and the ability to be articulate and compelling in speaking with both internal audiences including faculty, and external audiences including prospective students, parents, donors, and college counselors;
- Alignment and embodiment of Bennington’s values: Strong and deep resonance with and grasp of the mission, character, and approach embodied in a Bennington education; the personal and intellectual qualities expected of members of the Bennington community;
- Vision, leadership, and communication skills: Vision for the future of admissions and financial aid at Bennington; leadership ability, including the ability to build consensus and a sense of teamwork; clear communication with faculty, staff, and colleagues; transparency in the work of the college;
- Institutional leadership: Readiness and competencies to actively participate and contribute as part of the College’s senior leadership team;
- Technological sophistication: Demonstrated experience leveraging emerging technologies to more efficiently support the processes within admissions and financial aid;
- Data-savvy and proficient in data analytics: Experienced practitioner using data to inform planning, strategy and decision-making.
- Personal qualities: Articulate; honest and ethical; hard working; demonstrating a personal presence that is accessible, active and engaged; ability to work effectively in a relationship-oriented culture; openness to innovation; and a collegial collaborator.
- Credentials: An advanced degree is preferred. A bachelor’s degree is required, preferably in the liberal arts.
Napier Executive Search is assisting Bennington College in their search for the Vice President for Enrollment. For a confidential conversation or if you wish to nominate someone for this position, please contact Nancy Benedict firstname.lastname@example.org or Mary Napier email@example.com. If you wish to apply, please send a resume, a cover letter outlining your specific interest in this opportunity at Bennington College and addressing your knowledge and appreciation for the liberal arts, and contact information for three professional references including name, current title, your relationship to the reference, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For assurance of full consideration, please submit materials by Thursday, January 25, 2018.
All applications and nominations will be considered confidential and notice will be given before references are contacted.
The start date for the position is negotiable.
All offers of employment are contingent upon the finalist successfully passing a background check.
Bennington College values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity for all persons regardless of age, gender identity, color, disability, ethnicity, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status or any other status protected by law.