Focus On... Teresa Duffy
The dean of enrollment managements office sits just inside the front door of the Admissions Building. Teresa Duffy established it there purposely for more direct contact with prospective students.
This is the front door to the university and often seems like its pulse. Where I sit lets me keep tabs on student questions and interests, Duffy says.
Duffy was a corporate executive for more than a decade before coming to Rensselaer, and her experience has translated into top student admissions programs. As dean of undergraduate admissions at Rensselaer for six years, she reversed a 13-year student quality decline, improved student diversity by more than 75 percent, and quintupled outreach programs.
In 2000, Duffys title changed to dean of enrollment management to encompass graduate recruiting as well. She has re-engineered graduate recruitment to include the Web, enhanced targeted outreach across the country, and increased faculty involvement.
Duffy, who grew up in Arizona, graduated with a bachelors degree in English from Mount St. Marys College, an all-womens college in Los Angeles. She returned to her home state to work for American Express. Rising through the ranks in her 13 years with the company, she became vice president of operations for direct marketing in Manhattan.
Duffy moved to upstate New York when Garden Way in Troy offered her a job as vice president for customer satisfaction. There, she met her husband, Stephen.
Rensselaer was impressed with Duffys innovative approaches at Garden Way and offered her a job in 1989 as the director of the universitys Corporate and Foundation Relations (which has since evolved into Corporate, Foundation, and International Advancement).
I knew nothing about university processes, Duffy says. Why would they want me, I wondered.
The answer: the university wanted her marketing expertise to increase corporate fund raising. During the $200 million comprehensive campaign that began in 1989, Duffy and her staff surpassed the goal of corporate funding by more than $10 million.
She eventually would use her corporate strategy to draw the best and brightest undergraduates to Rensselaer when she accepted a new position as dean of undergraduate admissions in 1994. Drawing on her marketing skills, Duffy focused on what students wanted and needed from a university and not the other way around.
Instead of asking, does it make sense to us, we ask, does it make sense to the 17-year-old, or in the case of graduate recruitment, the 24-year-old, Duffy says. Re-evaluation and focus are our mantras: Lets do it smarter, better, and friendlier than anybody else.
Innovation will be ever more important, Duffy says, as demographics become an increasing factor in recruiting undergraduate students. A large number of high school students graduating between now and 2008 live in the lower half of the country.
Convincing a high school student to come to a college 3,000 miles from home is a challenge, Duffy says. Rensselaer needs to leverage the work weve already done, to attract and retain an increased number of students from the Southwest and Southeast.
Duffy remains undaunted. Enrollment plays a very clear, visible role now. We have a strong team effort among our staff, all five schools, and with our volunteersall critical to the universitys success, she says. In the end, attracting students is about relationships.