You can hear him coming from the other side of Brock Commons.
He’s telling a student to call his mom. He’s laughing at a joke. He’s calling out a welcome to a group of prospective students taking a tour of campus.
Every university has an admissions director, but Longwood’s Jason Faulk is singular in his genuine enthusiasm, vitality, pep—and his megawatt smile.
Even so, he knows all that will only take him so far.
Hired 18 months ago as dean of admissions, Faulk was charged with modernizing admissions strategies and outreach. He embarked on a widespread transformation that, as he approaches the conclusion of his ﬁrst full recruitment cycle, has yielded the most accomplished freshman class in recent Longwood history. The Class of 2022, entering this fall, is on track to include the most-ever freshmen who graduated high school with an A average.
To what does Faulk attribute this success? It is telling that he ﬁrst mentions the can-do spirit among staff, faculty and administrators he has gotten to know. Then he talks about Longwood students themselves, who embody the characteristics at the university’s heart and who truly believe in Longwood’s selling points.
What’s the most surprising thing about Longwood students?
They are refreshingly open. It’s interesting—at all the other universities where I’ve worked, students are generally intimidated by administrators or faculty members, but not here. They are quick to open up, talk about issues and share their opinions. And then most importantly, they’re willing to do the work to shape their campus the way they want it to be.
We talk a lot about students being their own advocates in the admissions world—having the tools to make the right choices for themselves when it comes to which college or university they will attend. I think a lot of our students come in with those tools.
What kind of student ﬁnds a home at Longwood?
We’ve worked really hard over the last 18 months to answer that question. We all want to build freshman classes with students who will not only be successful but really ﬁnd a community they can be a part of. What we have found is that the things that we all know and love about Longwood are really shared in each class.
These are students who are willing to help and get involved. We have major campus events each year where thousands of prospective students visit Longwood for the ﬁrst time, and I have to work hard to ﬁnd jobs for all the current students who want to be involved. And I think they are looking for opportunities to grow. There’s a deep desire to work on getting better at the things they aren’t yet great at—whether that’s in the classroom or somewhere else.
For all that, though, they don’t like to be pigeonholed. Our students want a university experience that’s unique to them, no matter what they hope to achieve or what their goals are. That’s why I think some new initiatives on campus like the coaching groups that bring freshmen with similar interests into a mentoring situation with a faculty or staff member are really going to pay dividends. They’re individuals, and they’re being treated as such.
At the same time, the world is changing.
Very much so, and they feel that intensely. Broadly, today’s students are concerned about the environment, concerned about social justice, concerned about their lives 15 years from now. They want to change politics to reﬂect their values, and I don’t think that’s a trend. It’s a culture shift. They will be the leaders of the future, and I’m excited to see where they take us.
You outlined a few goals when you came here, including trying out new ideas. What are some of the things that you have changed, and have they produced dividends?
Change always presents its own challenges, but thankfully the admissions staff has the support of the faculty and administration, who are surprisingly ready to try anything we cook up. I tell the staff: Not every admissions department has that kind of trust and flexibility—so don’t take it for granted.
'We’re being very intentional in bringing in groups of students who in past years likely wouldn’t have visited or considered Longwood. ... And more and more of these students are choosing us, because, when they get here, they feel that incredible sense of community that we all feel every day.'Jason Faulk, Dean of Admissions
We took a look at the application process and have tried to de-stress it as much as possible. I seriously don’t know why the world of higher education makes applying to college so difﬁcult. So we’ve adopted some new communication tools and integrated some new software to streamline the process.
We’ve also really taken a look at the events we put on and whether they are bringing in the type of student who applies, enrolls and is successful at Longwood. We’ve added events, changed ones that weren’t working so well and tried to make sure that every experience prospective students have with us is positive. And ﬁnally we’ve tried to build better bridges with faculty.
In an article about you when you were ﬁrst hired, you said, “I immediately felt the energy of the place. My ﬁrst thought was, if you get people on this campus, Longwood sells itself.” Eighteen months in, do you still feel that way?
It’s even more true. We’re being very intentional in bringing in groups of students who in past years likely wouldn’t have visited or considered Longwood; we’re reaching deeper into communities. And more and more of these students are choosing us, because, when they get here, they feel that incredible sense of community that we all feel every day.
You’re also a mentor to admissions staffers— many of whom are in their ﬁrst professional jobs.
It’s a fulﬁlling role. It goes back to the old cliché: “Pay it forward.” Several people helped me when I was a young professional, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them. The average admissions counselor stays in the job three to ﬁve years before moving on. A lot of them—though not all—are Longwood graduates, which means they get some valuable work experience while being in a unique position to share their own experiences of college with prospective students.
Are alumni part of admissions?
Yes, we’ve gotten alumni involved because I’ve found that anytime you can connect generations with each other, there’s an authenticity there that can’t be replicated. So alumni are involved in several of our regional events, and, through the alumni ofﬁce’s One Hour A Month initiative, we have been able to send prospective students handwritten notes from Longwood graduates, which has been really powerful.