By Anjali Dayal
Spectator Staff writer
Jessica Marinaccio, the director of admissions operations, will assume the position of director of admissions for Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science in April 2004, following current director Eric Furda's move to vice president of alumni relations.
Marinaccio envisions no dramatic changes to the admissions office when she moves to its helm.
"Eric's shoes are very large ones to fill, and I think I will hopefully just continue the kind of success he's laid down. I've had the privilege of working very closely with him, and I feel like part of this success is my baby too," she said.
The success to which Marinaccio refers is the dramatic rise in undergraduate applications during the Furda years.
"Quite frankly, Columbia was just not there in the early '90s," said Dean of Student Affairs Chris Colombo. He credited adroit leadership and vision with the subsequent change. "We needed to think about diversity and looking at the applicant pool in ways we hadn't done."
"Eric was at the head of the team, but Jessica was a key player. I'm sure she'll continue to do that in ways that ensure success," he said.
Marinaccio, who has worked in admissions for nine years, and at Columbia since 1999, will face a steadily rising number of applicants in her first few years as director. Columbia received a record 17,000 undergraduate applications this year, and demographic trends indicate that this number will continue to rise until 2008.
"I do think there's a point, which some of our peer institutions have reached, of saturation. You're not going to have 10 percent increases every year, and at that point you have to focus on the kind of student [you want]" Marinaccio said. "We can only accept a certain number [of students]. It's a very interesting challenge. I hope that the quality of the pool continues to increase as it has. We'll have to see in 2008 what it looks like from there."
This large number of applications, which will continue to force Columbia's admissions rate lower, is the culmination of two strategic plans undertaken by the admissions office in conjunction with Student Affairs, its parent department. The first of these plans, according to Colombo, was focusing on a diverse applicant pool, while the second major thrust was developing initiatives in recruiting more science, language, and arts students, while also deepening the role that technology played in this process.
"We're about to complete our second strategic plan. Jessica has been part of steering us there." Colombo said.
Marinaccio also traced Columbia's recent admissions success to the department's place under the umbrella of student affairs. At Columbia, this positioning has resulted in substantial student involvement with admissions.
"One of the major benefits of admissions being part of student affairs is that we're able to keep in contact with students. The reason people are in higher education is that they love working with students, and having that student involvement in the admissions office has been one of the major reasons we've been successful," Marinaccio said.
Marinaccio said that she would give herself some time to lead "a very successful and cohesive office" before deciding whether any major changes were necessary.
Marinaccio, who holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard University, may not have sweeping change in mind for admissions processes, but Colombo said he anticipated "Tweaking here and there, absolutely."
"Jessica and her staff will look into the next five years and say where we are going," Colombo said, "We're just so excited to have her take this role, and we just think it will be wonderful."