Dawna Clarke, who established Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business as the most customer friendly admissions office among the elite MBA programs, is leaving the school as director of admissions. Clarke says she plans to create an MBA admissions consulting firm.
Her departure makes Tuck the third Top 10 school is lose its admissions director this year, following turnovers at Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB. Dee Leopold stepped down from her HBS job in May and now heads the school’s 2+2 deferred admit program, while Stanford’s Derrick Bolton left the GSB in September to become dean of admissions for the university’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program. Stanford has yet to announce a new admissions director, while HBS recruited back an MBA alum in Chad Losee from Bain & Co.
In an email to the Tuck community, Dean Matt Slaughter yesterday (Nov. 9) announced Clarke’s departure and her new firm, Dawna Clarke Consulting at DawnaClarke.com, which will do admissions consulting for both undergraduates and graduate applicants. “After 11 years of stellar performance to the Tuck School as Director of Admissions, Dawna has decided to step down from her position to start her own admissions consulting firm…Among the most important tasks Tuck undertakes each year is crafting our new class of MBA candidates who aspire to better the world through business. Thousands of talented individuals from dozens of countries are contacted, supported, and considered. From this earnest interest, building an MBA class requires deep empathy, sound judgment and creative instinct, as well as indefatigable energy and enthusiasm. During her time at Tuck, Dawna has brought all of these talents and more.”
AT TUCK, SHE ENROLLED NEARLY 3,500 MBA STUDENTS
During her 11-year stint, Clarke enrolled 3,476 MBA students. A year before she arrived at Tuck in 2005, women represented only 25% of incoming class in 2004. This year, Tuck hit a record 44% for women. Meantime, the average GMAT score for the class went from 699 in the Class of 2007–her first enrolled group–to 717 in the crop of students who arrived this fall. Off-campus admissions events exploded to more than 225 from only 59 in 2006-2007.
Beyond the numerical improvements, achieved at a school which has lagged rivals in MBA scholarship support, Clarke’s most notable achievement was to make MBA admissions at Tuck the most transparent and user friendly in the world. When Poets&Quants surveyed 50 leading admissions consulting firms two years ago, no business school got more favorable reviews. They singled out Tuck as the school with the most transparent admissions policies, beating out No. 2 Harvard Business School by a two-to-one margin.
And when it came to knowing the MBA applicant pool best–and therefore being in an ideal position to evaluate and judge prospective students–the Tuck admissions team toppled every other school again. Duke was second, while Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management was third. Those findings have been confirmed by other surveys done by AIGAC, the association of international graduate admissions consultants.
KNOWN FOR HUGGING HER STAFFERS
Most of that good vibe emanated from Clarke, a warm, gregarious and upbeat school official who was known to greet her colleagues with hugs. She has made admissions her life career. Tuck staffers say she often hugged her subordinates. She joined Tuck after serving as the director of admissions at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia where she racked up 15 years evaluating MBA candidates. Clarke arrived at Darden with three years of experience as associate director of admissions at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a year in undergraduate admissions at Allegheny College where she began her career in 1985.
From an open-interview policy, feedback to all waitlisted and some denied applicants, and frequent and helpful communications via social media as well as video and text blogs, Tuck established best practices in MBA admissions. In every contact that applicants make with Tuck’s admissions team, Clarke wanted the school’s close-knit and highly supportive culture reinforced. “The way we talk about it internally is the importance of us embodying Tuck’s culture through every interaction,” she told Poets&Quants in a 2015 interview. “It should be what they can expect from the school if they come here.”
Slaughter said the school will soon launch a search for a successor, but said that Senior Associate Directors Patricia Harrison and Amy Mitson will serve as co-directors of admissions in the meantime.