The Admissions Committee process is one of my favorite times of the year. The collaborative nature of the work and the opportunity to spend time with a cross-section of the Fletcher community I might not otherwise get to know all that well makes it one of the most rewarding parts of this job.
As I now find myself noting in nearly every blog post these days, this year is a bit different. When I think of Committee meetings, I think of 20 or so of us gathered in the Murrow Room, a plentiful supply of coffee and various snacks on hand and a pile of application cases for discussion in front of us. The disappointing news is that the Murrow Room will have to gather dust a bit longer this season, and that Committee meetings – like all meetings – will be Zoom-based this year. The good news, though, is that what really makes Admissions Committee such a fun experience will remain. As we do every year, we have a fantastic group of current student Committee members, in addition to several faculty members and other administrators around Fletcher (as well as all of us in the Admissions Office, of course). The reading has already begun with our crop of Early Notification applications, and we’ll have our first meeting of the season this week.
The first Committee meeting of the year is an opportunity for returning members to shake the rust off a bit, and something of a learning-by-doing training opportunity for new members (though we’ve already met once for that purpose, too). It’s the discussions with this group, everyone contributing insights based on their own backgrounds, experiences, institutional and professional knowledge, and yes, gut instincts, that makes these meetings such fun, and the Zoom-based format won’t change that. We’ll need to work in some screen breaks in lieu of being able to get up and wander a bit to stretch our legs, and we’ll surely need to make liberal use of the “raise hand” function to keep the conversations somewhat orderly, but I’m confident that the value of our Committee process will remain. Our late beloved colleague Prof. Bill Martel, a veteran of many years of Admissions Committees, always used to say his favorite moments were when a discussion seemed to be nearing consensus, only for someone to make a new observation or point out a salient detail that would take the conversation in a new direction. This thoroughness and richness of discussion is both fun to be a part of and serves our applicants well, and a remote format can’t take that away.