By Abby Weingarten
Promoting a college he believes in and watching it grow is incredibly rewarding work for Damon Wade, Ph.D., who became New College’s vice president for enrollment management this fall.
Wade is relocating from his previous post as associate dean for student services and enrollment management at the University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies, where he has served since 2017. He has been working remotely part-time for New College since September 1 and will begin full-time, in-person employment on October 1.
“I’m a firm believer in the liberal arts model, and I know my experience will help New College grow,” said Wade, who is originally from New York City. “It’s important to the state that New College increases its presence and enrollment, and there are lots of opportunities to really sell New College as a destination.”
Selling an institution is something Wade has already done masterfully. During his three years at UVA, he oversaw a 124 percent increase in student enrollment. Before that, as vice president for institutional effectiveness and enrollment management at Grambling State University, Wade increased the freshman-to-sophomore retention rate from 68 percent to 75 percent (and more than doubled the size of the freshman class).
Wade also served as the director of institutional effectiveness, research and assessment at Elizabeth City State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He holds a master’s degree in urban affairs from Norfolk State University, as well as a master of public administration degree and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Walden University. Wade finds the enrollment management field stimulating because of its ever-evolving, challenging nature.
“It’s always a challenge, term after term, year after year, to maintain the enrollment of an institution because of the competitive nature of the higher education enrollment landscape. But I like the competition,” Wade said. “I like trying to convince students that the institutions I represent are the best.”
To prepare for the task at New College, Wade is currently gathering historical data about enrollment trends, collecting information about vendors that support enrollment growth, and developing a strategy to broaden awareness about the College’s programs. Once he arrives on campus in October, he will schedule meetings with faculty members, department heads and student representatives.
“It will be a listening tour and a data collection exercise so I can build out what I believe should be the vision for how we attract and retain students that are a great fit for New College,” Wade said. “And I’ll be establishing targets for fall 2021.”
Sonia Wu had been serving as the interim dean of enrollment management at New College since April, and Wade looks forward to taking the efforts she and her staff have made to the next level.
“I want to work closely with the student services team to make sure we’re being responsive to students’ needs,” Wade said. “And I’ll work closely with the folks that handle retention, making sure we’re in tune with the value proposition and how we’re delivering on that value proposition—that there’s truth in advertising.”
Wade will have an open-door policy at New College, encouraging the students, staff and faculty to engage with him regularly.
“At a smaller institution, everyone knows pretty much everyone, so I think people can work more harmoniously as a team,” Wade said. “I’m eager to get to work.”
While it may seem especially tricky to increase enrollment during a pandemic, Wade embraces the challenge. Remote instruction is becoming far more typical and necessary, and Wade has been accustomed to showcasing the value of the virtual model for years.
“When I was at UVA, 98 percent of the students were remote over the last three years, so I’m very familiar with articulating that as a value—especially in the COVID-19 era—to both parents and students,” Wade said. “New College has a lot of flexibility, where students have the ability to craft their own learning outcomes. I think COVID gives New College an opportunity to reposition itself, to pivot and to think about new ways of attracting students.”
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.