Director of Admissions
“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 only to be surpassed by anticipated enrollment of 736 for fall 2018.
Bennington is seeking an exceptional Director of Admissions who will report to newly appointed Vice President for Enrollment Tony Cabasco. The successful candidate will provide leadership to the counseling and operations teams in the Office of Admissions and will implement strategic and tactical initiatives that assure goals are achieved. The Director will work closely with the Vice President for Enrollment on admissions policy and strategy and will assist in creating a progressive student-centered admissions and recruitment program. A proven collaborator, the Director will build relationships across campus with faculty and staff colleagues on events, programs and other admissions opportunities to enroll students who will understand the unique and important progressive educational experience at Bennington. The successful candidate will have exceptional interpersonal skills and set as a priority building relationships with prospective students and families, high school college counselors, teachers and schools.
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. For 2018, Bennington received 1472 applications, admitted 831, and will enroll 213. The total undergraduate, degree-seeking enrollment anticipated for fall 2018 is 736, 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 Fruman ’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:
- Oversees a talented staff of 13 counselors and operations staff that includes on-campus and remote staff; hires, trains, supervises and evaluates the team, and provides opportunities for professional development.
- Leads an admissions team that is effective, inventive, and embodies and extends the central tenets of the College.
- Works in partnership with admissions counselors to develop and manage territories and administrative functions.
- Manages recruitment, admission, and cultivation activities for her/his own geographic territory; serves as primary point of contact for strategy development, relationship management, and application reading from that territory.
- In concert with the Vice President for Enrollment and admissions team, works to attract a growing number of qualified applicants with an emphasis on the increasing diversity necessary for the College to thrive.
- Evaluates the effectiveness of Bennington’s recruitment and selection, and makes appropriate adjustments so as to lead an effort that is proactive and continues to grow the student body.
- Serves as a dynamic and compelling representative of the College to prospective students and their families, current students and parents, secondary schools, alumni, faculty, and staff.
- Serves as a visible presence on Bennington’s campus as well as a trusted and respected leader in higher education admissions.
- Represents Bennington College in the regional and national programs of National Association of College Admission Counseling (NEACAC and NACAC) and The College Board meetings and Forum.
- Develops recruitment strategies for particular constituencies and/or regions through best practices, data analytics, and researching trends.
- Enhances relationships with members of the high school counseling community. Equip them to effectively communicate Bennington’s programs, approach, and value to aspiring college students and their families.
- Provides energetic, inventive, and results-oriented leadership to the admissions team. Clearly articulate the planning and goals of the admissions effort and promotes effectiveness, professional development, and job satisfaction to the staff.
- Utilizes technologies to communicate and build relationships.
The ideal candidate will have the following professional qualifications and personal characteristics:
- Experience leading and managing an admissions staff: Experience participating in leadership and management within an admissions office, preferably in a liberal arts college or university; the capacity to manage the complex interplay of recruitment strategies, admissions process and yield. Able to select and supervise staff, provide and/or encourage professional development, build trust and camaraderie in the department as well across the campus.
- 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 being part of 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, their families, 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 and in particular, the liberal arts.
- Vision, leadership, and communication skills: Vision for the future of admissions at Bennington; leadership ability, including the ability to build consensus and a sense of teamwork.
- Technological adept: Demonstrated experience leveraging emerging technology to more efficiently support the processes within admissions.
- 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 and someone who will complement the work of the Vice President for Enrollment.
- 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 Director of Admissions. For a confidential conversation or if you wish to nominate someone for this position, please contact Nancy Benedict [email protected] or Mary Napier [email protected]. 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 [email protected]. Resumes will be reviewed upon receipt, however, for assurance of full consideration, please submit materials before July 7.
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.