Madeleine Rhyneer, a 36-year veteran in college admission, was appointed Susquehanna’s vice president for enrollment and marketing in March. Since then, she has been refining the university’s admission and financial aid operations to attract the best and brightest to Susquehanna’s doorstep. Susquehanna Currents recently talked with Rhyneer about her new role and how Susquehanna is faring in the competitive world of college admissions.
SC: Whitman, DePauw, Willamette and Albion—you’ve led enrollment efforts or been enrolled at each of these universities. What is it about small liberal arts colleges that’s commanded the attention of your career and education?
MR: I love the liberal arts approach to intellectual skill development, and I have no fear that these skills are not directly applicable to the world of work. They are! I draw upon my critical thinking, writing, analytical and strategic planning skills every day at work. And it is not a difficult stretch to help prospective families interpret that the academic program at Susquehanna will help them develop 21st-century skills that will be applicable throughout their professional lives.
SC: How does Susquehanna stack up to these and the many other national liberal arts colleges you’ve come to know through the years?
MR: The most important piece of any college or university is the value-added—what it is we offer our students that they can’t get in precisely the same way at another place. For SU that’s all about the terrific academic programs, our people, the character of central Pennsylvania, and the many opportunities for personal and social growth. The other thing that I love about SU is our intentional linkage between the life of the mind and the world of work. We really do help our students imagine their future and help them lay the building blocks that enable them to achieve their dreams.
SC: You’ve had a consistent history of admissions success at each of the universities you’ve served. How are you doing the same here at Susquehanna?
MR: The external market conditions are tough; there’s no doubt about that. However, there are many ways we can shape and improve our enrollment program. For starters, my team developed a comprehensive enrollment marketing communication campaign that cultivates students’ interest and affiliation with Susquehanna beginning in their sophomore year of high school. We tell more stories about the great things that happen here on campus and with our alumni. And we are focused on the benefit to the student and family if he or she chooses Susquehanna.
SC: How can Susquehanna alumni and parents help the university reach its enrollment goals?
MR: Alumni and parent involvement in the admission process is very helpful, and the best way they can help is through positive word of mouth. By taking advantage of the opportunities they have to talk about their Susquehanna experiences, alumni and parents can put the university on the map for the prospective families they know. Other options include representing Susquehanna at local college fairs, or calling and writing letters to prospective students.