Research Article Review: Professional Socialization in Graduate Enrollment Management

In a recent conversation with a few of the senior members of the enrollment management staff for Arizona State University, a colleague said to me, “the odd thing about all of the materials out there about enrollment management is the titles that sound like ‘enrollment management revolution’ or ‘paradigm shifts through enrollment management’; if someone thinks the concepts of enrollment management are new or represent a paradigm shift, they’re already 20 years behind most of the industry.” It set me on an interesting path of reviewing the literature published on enrollment management and, really, something of a historiographical analysis of the field.

My colleague was correct when he said that there wasn’t much new about the idea of enrollment management as a field. Using Google’s NGram tool, which charts the frequency of the appearance of words in literature across time, the phrase ‘enrollment management’ begins to appear in approximately 1975, yielding almost 40 years of material. Interestingly, the frequency trends dramatically upward around the year 1999, begging the question of what drivers might be attendant in that increase.

I was reminded of a frequent frustration I’ve had in reviewing the enrollment management literature, as my reading has not yielded much material on the impact of enrollment management strategy on graduate education. When I came across an article in College & University magazine on the role of Graduate Enrollment Management, I was delighted to see how the work is situated in the field.

EM & Charts: A match made in heaven

Enrollment management: we’re mostly charts. Source:

In the article, Crossing the GEM Frontier: Graduate Admissions Professionals’ Participation in Enrollment Management, authors Dean Campbell and Jahmaine Smith take on a very interesting topic: the development of professional identity in the field of Graduate Enrollment Management. The article begins with a brief “state of the field” section, wherein the authors describe the blurred line between enrollment management as a set of practices and as a philosophy or a mindset. They also describe enrollment management in a traditional sense as a set of practices that ties together student recruitment, admission, retention, career, and alumni functional groups. The central point of research inquiry questions the process of individual identity development as it relates to the integration of general tasks and responsibilities of the admissions function with the general processes of identity development.

The concept that had the greatest impact for me was the one around professional socialization. This is the idea that supports the general ‘community of practice’ idea that there are internally reinforcing processes that inform identity. There are many components of professional identity: institution, background, communities, professional associations, individual departments, inter-office collaboration, all in addition to the thoughts, beliefs, emotions, culture, and more traditional drivers associated with identity development. But the notion of professional socialization, that knowledge, beliefs, skills, and behaviors are specifically socialized by the different professional communities affiliated with the admissions professional.

The authors detail three components of identity in enrollment management (anticipatory, meaning development, and personal), discuss the details around the role of socializing of structural forces (i.e. institutions, departments, associations), and then the very role of having a field called enrollment management.

There’s some interesting descriptive work in their ‘Methods’ section, focusing on the way they attempted to ensure validity in the qualitative information solicited, the themes identified, and then the development of findings. Interestingly, there’s a great revelation around the source of the labor force in enrollment management being individuals who have worked in some way in the admissions field.

Additionally, there are some interesting discussions of the roles of traditional identity types in enrollment management, how they both reinforce and produce cultural norms and socializing forces. And the conclusion is really around how professional socialization can be used as an effective analytical lens for figuring out how the field works.

Overall, it’s a great article that I think I’ll be able to use in my work. Here are the big takeaways:

  • There’s a fantastic bibliography, that indicates the article is well-situated in the literature
  • The concept of identity and profession being a framework for analyzing a field, is extremely effective, or at least interesting, when I think about the normative role of executive leadership at the college and university level in higher education administration
  • There’s an additional reinforcement to the field with the notion of enrollment management as a set of standard practices, as a set of general styles, and as a philosophy or approach to working.
  • The role of the individual in development of strategy and operational design as professionally socially contingent – excellent!
  • The role of key socializing factors in defining the ability to be successful as an individual (and by extension as a department and as a unit/school)



Campbell, C. Dean & Smith, Jahmaine (2014). Crossing the GEM Frontier: Graduate Admissions Professionals’ Participation in Enrollment Management. College and University, Volume 89 (Issue 3), 3-11.


Keeping Up the Good Fight: Reflections on Writing for a Highly-Specialized Audience

The website “Existential Comics” is one of my very favorites. It has a great nerdish sense of humor, and it gets at some of the more complicated informal components of why studying philosophy can be such a challenge (i.e. is it possible that Kant actually wanted someone to understand the Critique of Pure Reason? Why is symbolic logic such a pain in the neck? Why are there so few women represented in philosophy courses? What’s with all the beards?). In one of their best comics, a handful of philosophers are playing the game Pictionary and arguing the entire time. In one of the panels of the comic, Jeremy Bentham, one of the theorists responsible for the development of Utilitarian philosophy, leans over to Martin Heidegger and says “Oh look at that, you *can* communicate in a way that is comprehensible.” It doesn’t have the same chortle-inducing hilarity to it when writing it out in a blog post, but what really caught me about this missive is that it reminded me that it can be quite difficult to take on a reading for which you may not have been part of the authors’ intended audience.

Huh? Heidegger is known to be a bit challenging to understand.  Source

Huh? Heidegger is known to be a bit challenging to understand. Source:

Take the article on Flores v. Arizona published by Thomas et. al out of Arizona State University in the Policy Futures in Education Volume 12. The article is an interesting one for a number of reasons, but for the purposes of this entry, I’d like for the readers here to think about the audience for the article; let me give a brief summary. The authors are writing about a landmark case in education out of Arizona; the case (Flores v. Arizona) is centered on whether or not a public school is obliged – via U.S. Civil Rights law – to provide instruction that supports English Language Learners (ELL). There is a brief description of the demography and language characteristics of the state of Arizona, a detailed legislative and legal history of the lawsuit/case, a comprehensive description of the data methods and motivations, and orientation on the scholarly research that applies to the case, and as a bridge to the conclusion, a lengthy detailing of neo-liberalism, its challenges, shortfalls, and its morphology in U.S. politics.

The sections on demography and language policy are clear. The growth of the Latino/a population in Arizona is substantial and is projected to rise, and many of the children in these families will be ELLs, so there is a clear need for more resources and planning to ensure that language acquisition instruction is provided to the populations that need it.  Similarly, the history of the Flores v. Arizona case is straightforward and is replete with references to literature that supports the history of the case and the media attention it has received. The section on methodology comes as a mildly jarring turn: a discussion of the technical details of how research was conducted on the media attention on the case. There is a lengthy section here intended to orient the reader to the research literature, too, with a multitude of references.

Here’s where the fun really begins, though, in the sections on neo-liberalism. The writing is at once descriptive of the general political-economic philosophy of neo-liberalism and also the way it is intertwined in the developmental arc of U.S. politics in the last 30-40 years. There are sections describing the central problems of the neo-liberal state, the academics who developed the theory, and the characteristic markers of a neo-liberal state in the way its legislation and cultural posture foster the creation of a specific set of values (rather than serving as a moderator of citizens’ civil liberties).

The conclusion comes down to making a connection between neo-liberalism and the education-legislative footprint of Arizona as viewed through the lens of the Flores v. Arizona case. One comes away from the article with a sense that of what neo-liberalism is, what its flaws are, and how it’s connected to Arizona legislation. Also, the Flores v. Arizona case is used as a tool to demonstrate that neo-liberalism is a narrow window through which to view civil rights and education.

The connection here between the cartoon where Bentham gives Heidegger a hard time and the article is around finding an audience. While reading the article, I found myself wrinkling my brow, wondering why the authors continued to pepper the writing with the word “discursive” and undefined phrases like “appropriate education.” I kept finding myself wondering when the authors would say something along the lines of “we argue,” or “based on our research findings, we contend,” or some other clear marker of a formal argument being made. I read the article a second time, more slowly, making notes along the way to ensure I hadn’t missed something while looking for the argument.

What I realized is that I am approaching the article, and all of the readings for that matter, from a source of bias. I have a mental model, a framework of understanding academic literature, that requires me to be able to pull out a contestable thesis, and after thinking carefully about the article, I am left with the following possibilities: (1) the argument in the article is that the description of the demography, legislation, case history, and neo-liberalism is valid, or (2) that there should be non-neo-liberal ways of viewing civil rights cases such as Flores v. Arizona.

Neither one of those arguments is contestable, to my mind, and so I imagine that I’m missing some critical reflexivity, some sense of the community of practice in higher education research, and some general understanding of the audience of the article. Heidegger isn’t terribly accessible, but if you can be professionally socialized into the field of Continental philosophy, his work on defining what it is to “be” is fascinating, and is critical to the development of the field of existentialism. Similarly, I am reminded that the literature in the field of higher education will be a new journey, and one that will require me to develop a new set of analytical frameworks to appreciate and understand the efforts therein.

As for finding an audience, this article is a reminder that as I write, considering my audience will be critical to my success; as I conclude, I wonder if I’ve been able to hit the mark in that regard.  The notion that “access” is a multifaceted concept is, I hope, one that doesn’t require much qualification.  But as I process this piece of writing, especially in the context of the literature I’ve read recently on communities of practice, part of the “access” conversation, I would contend, includes the concept of making your arguments accessible as a scholar to those who would both follow in your footsteps and those who would use your work to influence policy.


Melinda Hollis Thomas, Dinny Risri Aletheiani, David Lee Carlson, Ann Dutton Ewbank (2014). ‘Keeping Up the Good Fight’: the said and unsaid in Flores v. Arizona, Policy Futures in Education, 12(2), 242-261.

Reflections on Scholarly Writing – On Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Tyrone Howard begins an article from 2003’s Theory Into Practice by talking about the inherent need for the development of culturally sensitive teaching methods. The growing diversity of the population in the United States will require teacher training to fundamentally alter to include new or updated “skills and knowledge” that will allow teachers to “effectively educate today’s diverse student population.”

On the surface, few would question the veracity of Howard’s claim; the idea that the public education system has an implied obligation to promote the achievement of the greatest outcomes for the greatest number is one that may be assumed as embedded in the ethos of American culture. And while, pragmatically, his argument is one that is difficult to deny, I would like to question his very first assertion that “…the nation must be prepared to make the necessary adjustments to face the changing ethnic texture of its citizens.”

If the nation does not meet Howard’s stated challenge – the culturally sensitive education of a diverse student population – what will happen? What assumptions are being made about the public education system that might deserve investigation in the opening paragraphs? Is it the case that the normative role of the public education system is the culturally sensitive, culturally aware presentation of legislatively prescribed curricula?

Throughout the twentieth century, one can look to the development of standardized testing and its concomitant critiques to see that the intent of these types of exams was to remove any effect of a heterogeneous testing population. This may not, on the surface, seem like an insidious attempt at homogenizing the population, there are more explicit examples of education being used as a tool of assimilation. The Ford Motor Company ran an “English School” for immigrant workers wherein a Melting Pot commencement ceremony was held with graduates emerging from a staged pot to represent their “graduation” into American culture.  And although it seems likely that one would be hard pressed to find a public school with a melting pot as part of their commencement exercises, there are still wildly polarizing debates on the role of the Pledge of Allegiance and whether or not it ought be compulsory in public schools.

All of that is to say that there is some evidence to suggest that – at least at some point, to some group of people – the normative role of the public education system was in fact quite the opposite of providing a culturally sensitive platform for the creation of critical thinking young adults with a mind framed in the impressions of social justice; it was to assimilate, inculcate, and create a very specific set of values often framed in terms of nationalism and patriotism.

To be clear here, I agree with Howard’s article.  I find it to be well-presented, thoughtful, and thoroughly cited with material to support the assertion that race (and culture) matters, and that in order to ensure that public schools meet the needs of newly and increasingly diverse populations, there must be an “upstream” attempt to prepare teachers to meet the demands of the students that are and will continue to be in their classrooms.

I did find, however, that the opening paragraphs, and the assumptions therein, provided a fantastic opportunity to pause and analyze the complications of scholarly writing. We will be engaged in a highly specialized field of inquiry with an audience that is likely speaking the same professional language and operating from the same frame of reference as we are. Must we be careful to draw out and justify the assumptions implicit in our writings? Are we to assume that each reading of our work is to be subject to a fine-toothed exegesis that may reveal we have failed to justify a premise in our argument?  Or may we assume that our shared frameworks and language influence an understanding of the “spirit” of our writing?

Quite clearly, there is a fantastic component of Access from the Access, Excellence, Impact theme here: is the public education system in the U.S. one that is inherently designed to provide access (and therefore impact) to all students on terms that most effectively meet their needs and help them achieve, or is it a tool of assimilation and inculcation? For my own purposes, the most interesting part of this read for me was that I was immediately disarmed by the “wait, is that right?” question I had when beginning the article, and the subsequent attempt at trying to figure out to what standard we will be held.


Howard, T.C. (2003). Culturally relevant pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection. Theory Into Practice, 42(3), 195-202.