Blog / Opening Doors and Possibilities: Fellows Forum with David Burge, Director of Enrollment Services

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To the delight of our entire team at UI, David Burge, Executive Director of Enrollment Services, joined us for our February Fellows’ Forum. My colleague Mike Meaney shared a great idea for a conversational icebreaker where we described a seemingly random, almost bizarre and yet profound event that happened to each of us in our lives so far. It was neat to hear personal stories from my colleagues that we had never shared before, and coincidentally, it was a great transition for our guest to actually talk about the eye-opening and happenstance events that led to his current career path. Mr. Burge brought a highly informative presentation with him, and to his pleasure, our team couldn’t help but engage him in questions related to his slides. Our UI team had a great time talking about financial aid and enrollment services with Mr. Burge, and the lively discussions ensued to the very last second of our allotted time with him.


Here are some of the highlights:

  • Background: A native Kansan, Mr. Burge has worked in higher education and the admissions world for nearly two decades, most previously as an Associate Dean of Admissions at the University of Nebraska. This is his fifth year at ASU and his first major role outside of the Midwest. He is a two-time graduate from the University of Kansas, where he earned his undergraduate degree in English and his Masters in Higher Education Policy and Leadership. Historically, he has also held a passion in theatre and debate, which helps explain why he is a natural fit for our incredible and immensely engaging enrollment services videos on YouTube. 
  • A giant, well-oiled machine: Admission Services, a highly integrated unit within our institution, includes three major responsibilities: recruitment, application processing and service delivery. We talked about the common misperception that ASU’s enrollment services is mostly the recruitment arm of the university. However, his unit also oversees the intensive processes that move our students through our doors. Admissions Services processes about 100,000 applications, which translates to nearly a million supporting documents that are collected at the end of a cycle. These applications also include those for ASU Online and graduate programs. Service delivery is also multi-faceted, ranging from financial aid for a typical domestic student to visa and arrival support for international students. 
  • Guiding principles: We spent a notable section of our time engrossed in an interesting conversation about Enrollment Services’ six guiding principles and how Mr. Burge hopes to narrow them down to a tight 4 or 5 that truly embody who they are. This led to a discussion about how not-for-profit and for-profit institutions models and practices “can look the same if you let it.” We delved further into ASU’s fierce efforts to create a culture of service that places the student at the center of our work, and we discussed further how their specific practices are in place to ensure that decisions are made ethically. When asked about how his team interacts with students ethically, he says that it is most important to communicate with them authentically, never promising something ASU cannot deliver (e.g. “Tempe is a small community.”) Dealing with out-of-state students is another area of sensitive practices. He makes sure not to suggest in any way that it is easy to become a resident in Arizona because it certainly is not, and he enlightened us with information about how his unit changes their approaches with high-financial-need out-of-state students so as to not actively recruit students who will not be able to realistically continue and finish their education at ASU. 
  • Access: Aryn Baxter, Director of ASU’s MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, posed some very interesting questions about access in enrollment services. Our discussion on this topic started with highlighting the inaccuracy of the common precept that access is synonymous with low admission standards. ASU does admit a high percentage of applicants, which makes us a target by many other people, but our commitment to accept people who are qualified to assume college-level work is a great point of pride for us. Of course, yes, there is a percentage of students whom we turn away, and we discussed further at length about whether or not and to what extent the “access” piece of ASU’s identity is skewed to Arizona residents. 
  • Did you know: ASU does not (yet) have a large representation of international students enrolled in ASU Online? We were rather surprised by this but intrigued to learn of the different initiatives that will take place to change this status quo. 
  • No, not at this time, but yes, maybe later: My colleague Bethany Weigele posed the question, “What happens to students who are not accepted?” This led to an intriguing conversation of what Mr. Burge calls “the idea of ‘no, not yet.’” Enrollment Services tries to avoid using the term “denied” as much as possible and tries to push our students to one of our partner programs (e.g. Maricopa community college (MCC) Maricopa-ASU Pathways Program (MAPP), guaranteed path to admission programs with California community colleges and many other locations in the country). We expressed our appreciation that the ASU “denied” letter communicates the concept of growth mindset. ASU gives these individuals a route, and if they enroll at a Maricopa Community College and make substantial progress, these individuals are flagged by ASU and invited to transfer. 

The soul of our institution is our student body, and it was very enlightening and comforting to see that our future leaders are in good hands, whether they start at ASU immediately or transition to our institution at a better time in their lives. We extend our sincerest thanks to Mr. Burge, for helping us learn, in greater depth, about this crucial facet of our institution that has a direct and immense impact on who we are as an institution and where we are headed.

Blog / Fellows Forum With David Burge