‘MORE CHURN THAN EVER BEFORE’
“The times have changed,” Petia Whitmore writes in the discussion on LinkedIn. “Earlier this month I read with great interest the interview in Poets&Quants with UNC’s Dean Doug Shackelford. When he announced he would be stepping down he said his last day would be in just three days.
“I think these changes are aligned with the overall trend in society where we are all examining how we should be spending our lives and careers,” Whitmore continues. “Working in admissions can be incredibly rewarding but also extremely taxing. Many of us go into that line of work because of the desire and commitment to serve MBA candidates. But as you grow through the ranks, you end up being more removed from that work and you spend a lot more of your time managing stakeholders, including faculty as Diana mentioned.”
Whitmore echoes Johnson in referring to the high-stress world of higher education as a “churn.”
“I remember hearing at one of the last AACSB Deans Conferences that I attended that the average tenure of a B-school dean is now less than three years,” she writes. “Higher ed is transforming into a place with more churn than ever before.”
‘THESE JOBS ARE PRESSURE-COOKERS’
Barbara Coward, founder of the consultancy MBA 360, says the application downturn has certainly played a role in the admissions offices’ turnover.
“I think it does make a statement about the market and these jobs, even at the most prestigious institutions, are pressure-cookers,” Coward writes. “Furthermore, it’s hard to ignore that domestic applications are down. So, I would make an argument that it is challenging to meet numerous strategic objectives and continue to maintain that the industry is not connecting with a segment of the population that would boost application volume.
“I’m sad to see all these amazing and talented people in the industry move on. So enjoyed seeing their friendly faces at our conferences.”
Nupur Gupta, founder of consultancy Crack the MBA, chimed in: “I think Diana, Barbara and Petia have shared excellent perspectives. I second those. Most of these departures are of folks who have been in their roles for sometime. So it’s time for them to do what they were helping MBA students do — reinvent themselves and grow themselves. Will miss these people so much, especially at our AIGAC conference next year.”
‘HEADS SOMETIMES ROLL IN ADMISSIONS’
Linda Abraham, founder of consultancy Accepted, sparks the LinkedIn discussion about the reasons for so many high-profile departures. She tells P&Q that “I think the reasons are many and varied as indicated by the discussion on LI.”
The biggest one? Admissions directors may believe that “greener pastures” await elsewhere.
“Perhaps the pay is better outside academia than inside academia,” Abraham says. “Given that admissions directors work very hard, they may figure that they might as well make more money if they’re going to work hard or can work less.” The resumption of work travel may also be unwelcome after so much time at home with family, she adds.
“In my many years interviewing and meeting with admissions directors, I’ve been impressed with how very hard they work,” Abraham says. “They work many nights and weekends. Due to travel demands and occasional evening presentations/events, they are also frequently away from family during family time. Some, especially after the pandemic, may not want to return to the lives they led before the pandemic.”
Among other possible contributing factors, she says, is the fact that the decline in MBA applications may have prompted some to resign before being fired — even though the drop-off is largely systemic in nature, a result of the strong economy in 2021 and 2022.
“Heads sometimes roll in admissions when application volume goes down,” Abraham says. “Some directors may feel ‘blamed’ for the decline in volume at their school and have decided it’s time to move on before the ax falls.
“Universities are very bureaucratic institutions with lots of stakeholders and bosses that have to be satisfied. Politics exists. It can become tiresome.”
‘WHAT ELSE IS OUT THERE?’
Betsy Massar, founder of Master Admissions, agrees that post-Covid many are reassessing their career trajectories.
“I do think that in the post-pandemic era, a lot of people are rethinking what they are doing,” she says. “Now that this enormous shock to the system is largely behind us, at least for the moment, people are reevaluating where they want to go and what they want to do. Forget the ‘great resignation’ and quiet quitting, it’s more like: what else is out there?
“Also I think there is a sense that people can be more mobile now that we all figured out how to do remote working. That opens up a whole new range of possibilities for people with partners, families, and other attachments. So why not explore and take advantage?”
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