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‘Admissions Geek’ Talks USM Enrollment

Susan Broadbridge
Richard Mullin has been selected as Southern Miss’ associate vice president of enrollment management and dean of admissions.- Susan Broadbridge
Richard Mullin has been selected as Southern Miss’ associate vice president of enrollment management and dean of admissions.- Susan Broadbridge

Denis Wiesenburg, provost and vice president of academic affairs, announced Friday that Richard Mullin has been selected as The University of Southern Mississippi’s associate vice president of enrollment management and dean of admissions.

One of two finalists for the position, Mullin was selected due to his vision for the university and also for his substantial experience, having worked 27 years in enrollment-related functions at several institutions.

Mullin has been working in an interim capacity since November 2014. A self-proclaimed “admissions geek,” Mullin discussed both the admissions strategy he intends to implement at USM, as well as his passion for admissions and college in general.

While still considering candidates for the position, the university held an open forum Feb. 25 in which Mullin outlined his plans for admissions at USM: formulation of departmental goals, greater out-of-state recruitment and the creation of an enrollment indicator.

As of now, Mullin and his department are working on what they call “the funnel,” a term for the multitude of statistics with which to gauge USM’s enrollment. But he seeks to implement his earlier strategy, primarily focusing on out-of-state recruitment.

Since 2011, USM’s enrollment has dropped 10 percent, a drop of 1,759 students.

The primary reason for declining enrollment — a problem that has resulted in budget cuts for the university — is the shrinking number of graduating high school seniors in Mississippi. Mullin said this is no secret, but simultaneously, he is not worried.

Mullin said that of all Mississippi’s graduating high school students, USM garners about 28 percent, which some may argue is more than USM’s share considering there are about eight institutions vying for these students.

However,” Mulllin said, “28 percent of a shrinking pool still means we’re getting (fewer) students.”

The key to success, according to an optimistic Mullin, is to recruit students in Texas and Florida, whose student populations, unlike those of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, are growing.

In essence, we’re going to have a sort of symbiotic relationship with Texas and Florida in particular,” Mullin said. “Texas and Florida are the flip side of our coin. Texas and Florida are growing by 24 and 22 percent, respectively, over the next eight to 10 years in the number of high school graduates.”

And these states’ education systems, Mullin said, are not in shape to catch up to this vast number of students. Mullin wants USM to tap into this out-of-state market and bring in Texas and Florida students.

We’ve got brand new dormitories, a brand new business building, a brand new nursing building that’s being built, big-time athletics, a beautiful campus, we’re very price-valued —compared to other schools like Alabama and LSU, we’re only asking for $24,000 and that’s before any scholarships,” Mullin said. “There’s so much opportunity for USM.”

Mullin pointed out that USM provides a lot of opportunity, is a fantastic regional school, is based in a national top-10 college town and much more.

It’s hard to think of anything that’s not opportunistic around here,” Mullin said.

Mullin was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, where he received his degree in economics. But after a short stint with an airfare regulatory agency in Washington, D.C., he decided to work in student life at universities. Told he would need a master’s degree to pursue this career, Mullin attended Northeastern University.

During his time at Northeastern, Mullin acquired admissions experience working as a graduate assistant for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as nearby Wentworth. Combining the counseling aspect of student life as well as economics, the job helped Mullin realize what kind of career
he wanted.

None of us ever dream of going into admissions,” Mullin said. “That just doesn’t happen.”

Not long after receiving his master’s degree in counseling and student services administration, Mullin went to work at the University of Miami as a senior assistant director of admissions. Since then, he has worked at several institutions and still has a passion for his work.

Some guys like robots and some guys like to play with cars and other guys like to follow baseball really intently,” Mullin said. But unlike most guys, Mullin enjoys visiting other college campuses.

In the past, Mullin’s family would travel from their home in Dallas to Miami for summer vacations.

Instead of stopping at restaurants or rest stops whenever someone had to go to the bathroom or it was time for lunch, I’d pull off at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, or I’d pull off at Millsaps,” Mullin said. “The kids got tired of stopping between Florida State and UF in Gainesville because we’d go (on this trip) twice a year.”

But he does not do this simply to appreciate the grandeur of other campuses.

I want to know every single thing about my competitor,” Mullin said. “So if someone is recruiting a student that I’m after, then I want to know what I’m up against.

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‘Admissions Geek’ Talks USM Enrollment