Texas Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals - Sessions

Below were the keynote, plenary and breakout session speakers for the 2017 Summer Institute. Are you interested in leading a session or do you have a suggestion for the 2018 keynote speaker? If so, please email the conference chair, Rene Archambault, at reneja@mail.smu.edu.

2017 Keynote Speaker

Dean Lindsay
Keynote Address: The Progress Challenge: Working and Winning in a World of Change

Additional Breakout Session: "Big PHAT Goals"

With over seventeen years of experience helping build Engaged, PROGRESS-Based Sales Leadership and Customer Service Cultures, Dean Lindsay has been hailed as a ‘Outstanding Thought Leader on Building Priceless Business Relationships’ by Sales and Marketing Executives International as well as a ‘Sales-and-Networking Guru’ by the Dallas Business Journal.

His books, Big PHAT Goals, CRACKING THE NETWORKING CODE & THE PROGRESS CHALLENGE have sold over 100,000 copies worldwide and been translated into Chinese, Hindi, Polish, Korean, Spanish and Greek. Dean has had the privilege of sharing his sales leadership and customer service insights in numerous countries including: Sweden, Poland, Spain, Turkey, Ecuador, Venezuela, and the islands of Aruba and Jamaica Dean’s clients include: New York Life, Ericsson, Gold’s Gym, Aramark Canada, International Customer Management Institute, UCLA Anderson School of Management & Haggar Clothing.

Dean is the host of The DEAN’s List on the C-Suite TV Network and a Cum Laude graduate of the University of North Texas where he served on the advisory board for UNT’s Department of Marketing and Logistics. Dean is also an award-winning songwriter, a marathon runner, a founding member of the Texas Shakespeare Festival, and an alumni of Up With People, the legendary international organization that bridges cultural barriers and creates global understanding through service and a rocking musical show – Dean’s cast was the first to perform in the Soviet Union.

Bits of Trivia about Dean: He was LeAnn Rimes on-set acting coach on both a Hallmark Movie of the Week and on the soap opera Days of Our Lives and he played the role of one of the ‘bad guys’ in the Warner Brothers’ blockbuster TWISTER (Dean urges you to not look to hard for him in the film however, sharing that ‘the flying cow ended up with a big part than I did.”). His wife Lena, and their two strong and wonderfully nutty daughters, Sofia & Ella, live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

2017 Plenary Session Speaker

Kyle Clark
Plenary Session Topic:
Being A Teacher and A Learner: Student Engagement Is Lifelong Learning for Higher Education Professionals

Kyle Clark is the Program Manager for the University Leadership Network (ULN), an incentive based scholarship program for nearly 2,000 undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin. ULN’s primary goal is to help students in the program graduate in four years. Kyle’s role is primarily to manage the day to day operations of the scholarship program and supervise the coordinator staff that work with nearly 500 students in each cohort. Kyle received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Oklahoma State University in 2001 and a master’s degree in Education, form UT Austin in 2004.

Kyle loves working college students and enjoys challenging them to think critically about important issues and focusing on sharing their story. Kyle has served as an advisor and mentor to hundreds of students and has traveled nationally to conduct facilitations, trainings and workshops. One of the most important ways Kyle wants his students to approach life is to understand that each of us are “built for greatness!”

As graduate education swiftly evolves, the “business” of our institutions of higher education continue to focus on bottom lines, data and metrics to drive decisions, and funding. Often, how a graduate student transitions to and through their program can lack focus on student engagement. We will briefly discuss those challenges, turn our focus to solutions and spend time interactively motivating each other to continue to do great work!

2017 Breakout Sessions

Engaging Current Students in Recruitment: Successes of Our Student Ambassador Program

Anna Johnson
College Recruitment Manager
University of Houston – Graduate College of Social Work

Presenting with: Amber Mollhagen, PhD, LMSW

We have experienced incredible benefits from utilizing current students in the recruitment and admissions process. Prospective students value the experience of talking with a current student throughout the recruitment process, and it can be a major factor in deciding to apply or accept an offer. Current students can be your greatest asset in recruiting and retaining highly qualified applicants, but you might be wondering how to even begin utilizing this group. We will share best practices for starting a Student Ambassador group, which can be tailored to almost any size or budget, and our insights from growing the program over the last eight years from 7 volunteers to now almost 30. You can do it, too, and we’re here to help!


Modernizing GEM: An Innovative Approach to Graduate Recruitment & Student Engagement

Jesse Samudio
Associate Director for Graduate SRecruitment & Student Engagement
The University of Texas at San Antonio

Presenting with: Maria Medrano Guillen

This session is a case study of The University Texas at San Antonio’s Graduate School. In the summer of 2015, The Graduate School underwent major restructuring as part of the University’s efforts towards the new strategic plan: Blueprint UTSA. The primary focus is an introspective approach to The Graduate School’s recruitment and engagement team. The expected learning outcomes associated with this presentation will consist of understanding the use of innovative tools, building collaborative partnerships, expanding recruitment outreach for national prospects and creating departmental standards. A secondary rationale for this presentation is to address the scarcity of evidence-based graduate enrollment management standards and techniques. The expected learning outcomes include data driven decision-making and future research recommendations.

Best Practices for International Students

Jessica Smith
Graduate Coordinator II
The University of Texas at Austin

The Jackson School of Geosciences’ Energy and Earth Resources (EER) graduate program serves as a catalyst for improved research studies and policy advising to prepare students to face the energy and environmental challenges of the 21st century. This program is attractive to non-traditional students with experience in the public or private sectors. In the 2016-17 academic year, EER had fifty students from fifteen different countries. How do you help students navigate a new city, a new language, and culture? How do you build bridges and create friendships between domestic and international students? What can you do to empower your new international students with confidence and leadership skills? I will share lessons and best practices from a decade of working with international students in a small program.

Raising an MBA family in Overdrive: Partnership between Admissions, Administration, Faculty, and Staff

Karla Townley-Tilson
Associate Program Director, MBA
University of Houston – Downtown

In 2014 University of Houston Downtown’s two year old MBA program was accepting only 20 students per cohort. Houston Business Journal ranked UHD’s MBA program 13th of the 13 MBA programs in the area. With new leadership the Dean decided to dramatically change the MBA program; the MBA program was redesigned to focus on working professionals in the Houston area. The program sought to appeal to a wide range of potential students by: (1) allowing students the opportunity to gain knowledge in one or more key areas; (2) differentiating itself through the depth of industry involvement in curriculum design; (3) giving students timing options to allow them to tailor their degree to best fit their particular situation; (4) affording students multiple ways to enter the program; (5) placing a strong focus on the student’s understanding of the application of course content; and (6) demonstrating the understanding of desired learning outcomes to industry to support placement/advancement of program graduates. The MBA program redesign helped grown the program from 80 students in 2013 to nearly 1100 students in 2017. The outcome has earned the University notoriety with the Houston Business Journal ranking the program 1st in size out of 13 programs in the area.

Equitable Access to Graduate Education

Dr. Syreeta Greene
Director, Office for Equity, Inclusion & Multicultural Affairs
Midwestern State University

This session will engage participants in identifying ways to attract a diverse pool of candidates for graduate admission programs, as well as things to consider when reviewing applications from traditionally under-represented students. Participants will review and understand practices to ensure they are utilizing equitable practices that give all students a fair chance in the graduate admission process. 

Moving the Pipeline: Using Traditional Undergraduate Recruitment Strategies to Increase Graduate School Prospects

Andrea Yen
Associate Director
University of Texas – Arlington

Presenting with: Dana Mordecai, and Ashton Brown

Does your program have a large number of current undergraduate students applying to your graduate programs? Did you know you can yield those applicants at a higher rate than outside inquires? Three North Texas schools came together to take a look at their undergraduate population and how they arrived at their institution. They began to ask if it is possible to talk to those students before they even begin their bachelor’s degree and create a grad school inquiry. This presentation will discuss the transfer student’s road to grad school and how we created a program to start them on that path earlier.


Grad Orientation: A Cross Department Comparison of Successful Approaches

Gail Rowe
Academic Advisor IV
Texas A&M University

Presenting with: Rafael Almanzar, Rebecca Hapes, and Ashley Henley

A comprehensive and successful graduate orientation is imperative in retention of new graduate students. Using a panel discussion format, multiple departments at Texas A&M University share their different approaches and experiences in implementing their respective new graduate student orientation programs. Strengths, weaknesses, successes, and ways to improve will be discussed, along with audience participation.

Started From The Top, Now We Are Here!

Rebecca Itz
Academic Advisor II
Texas A&M University

The recruitment funnel is a very challenging and rewarding obstacle to overcome. The Master of Financial Management Program is only available to three programs at Texas A&M. The Professional Program in Accounting (PPA), the Trading, Risks, and Investments Program (TRIP), and the Commercial Banking Program. In an effort to grow and serve the non-metro banks of Texas the Commercial Banking Program started to recruit from system schools such as Prairie View A&M, Tarleton State, and Texas A&M Corpus Christi, along with targeted majors in Agriculture Economics and Agriculture Business. This presentation will go from the top of the recruitment funnel in strategies to graduation of our upcoming classes. This presentation will hopefully give admissions professionals, advisors, and faculty new ideas and resources to implement in their recruitment, admissions, advising, and graduation practices.

Advanced Marketing Strategies for SEO, Content Marketing, and Social Media

Tony Fraga
CEO – Direct Development

Presenting with: Zach Busekrus

In today’s digitally-driven marketing world, it’s important to stay up-to-speed on the latest trends for search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and content marketing. This workshop will review what’s working (and what’s not) as well as provide best practices for how implement advanced marketing strategies at your graduate school to generate new leads and nurture existing graduate school prospects. Learning Objectives: Understand the recent changes affecting SEO, social media and content promotion, Learn how to create content specific to the 3 phases of the Applicant Journey, Learn how to increase your graduate school’s SEO (organic search results), Discover the difference between posting content, boosting content, and developing platform-specific ads for social media, Develop new ideas for leveraging content to generate new streams of prospects, inquiries and applicants. This will be a 2-part session.

The Do's and Don’ts of Digital Marketing to Prospective Grad Students

Catie Clark
Digital Marketing Specialist

 CPC, CPM, IP … the list of acronyms goes on and on. There are a lot of great tools for engaging various consumer audiences online. However, not all digital marketing tools work for graduate student recruitment. In fact, pursuing some channels can quickly balloon your marketing budget with very little measurable ROI and impact. This presentation provides an overview of the best solutions for digital marketing … specifically for higher education professionals seeking to connect with and engage prospective graduate students for their institution.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?  Making the right career and job choices for you!

Robert Stephens
Admissions and Recruitment Manager
Baylor College of Medicine, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Looking to change positions or institutions in higher education? Stuck in a job that isn't you? This session is intended for those that are looking for a new job or career change, but have no idea where to start. I will draw on my own experiences of making career changes, including moving to a new location in the process. I will discuss what to look for in your search, the type of questions you should ask during the interview process, how to find the right fit for your skills and personality, and the pros/cons to relocating.

A Failure to Communicate: Are University Websites Readable?

Zachary Taylor
University Communications/Student Services
The University of Texas at Austin

It seems logical to examine the readability of university-authored recruitment, admissions, advising, and financial aid websites and materials to ensure that students from all backgrounds can comprehend what they are reading and successfully apply to our institutions, arrive at our colleges and universities prepared to successfully navigate a postsecondary landscape, and ultimately earn their degrees. Surprisingly, the readability of such documentation is an area wholly unexplored by higher education.

In this session, I will outline my studies examining the readability of college and university websites and how higher education administrators can make their pre-college and college materials more readable--and therefore, accessible--for first-generation students, ESL and ELL students, and students in poverty.

To close, I will discuss Richard Rorty’s notion of neopragmatism and Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory to explain why university idiolect is so time-honored, exclusive, and ultimately, stratifying. To illustrate this stratification, I cite my own related, concurrent studies—which have analyzed the readability university-authored ADHD documentation guidelines, international graduate student admissions instructions, and application fee waiver statements—and connect my findings from these studies to the overarching theme of accessible, equitable university communications for underrepresented, marginalized groups.


Navigating Organizational Change: Combining Undergraduate and Graduate Admissions Departments

Angie Taylor
Director of Admissions
Sam Houston State University

Presenting with: Keith Ahee, and Matt Chastine

As higher education shifts with enrollment trends and legislative oversight, many universities are searching for ways to adjust and thrive. In order to streamline and continuously improve admissions processes, Sam Houston State University has recently chosen to combine undergraduate and graduate admissions departments. This organizational shift included changes to maximize effectiveness both in work flow, communication, and physical space. This session will identify best practices and leadership lessons in times of organizational change.


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