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Martha Echevarria, Caldwell's Director of Undergraduate Admissions
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Martha Echevarria was recently promoted to Caldwell University’s Director of Undergraduate Admissions from Director of Admissions Information Systems. A first-generation college graduate in her family, Echevarria shares how her experiences allow her to better connect with prospective students and families.

Explain what your role is as Director of Undergraduate Admissions.
The position really encompasses the operational aspects of the admission office. Managing a variety of different staff members and ensuring that prospective students have a strong experience as they’re applying. Basically, the whole cycle of the student at every touchpoint they have as they interact with us—communications via emails sent by our office, the tour experience is managed by our office, the application process, the decisions, the whole cycle of the pre-enrollment process.

How are those decisions made in accepting students? What do you look for in prospective students?
We look for a well-rounded student, one that has a variety of life experiences, spending time volunteering or a sport. We do have GPA requirements that we look for in a student. But really, we’re looking for someone who has a well-rounded experience in high school.

What do you find rewarding about this type of work?
Admissions in general. As a first-generation college student, I know that I’m kind of a walking example of how higher education and going to college can really change the trajectory of your future generations. These were the dreams they [my parents] had for me, and I want to do that for other students. There’s a lot of hopes and dreams of students that come to Caldwell and there’s generations of people behind them cheering them on. When we think about the population we have, these are students who for some of them college wasn’t a thought for their parents, it wasn’t even something that was on the table. To be able to do that is really impactful. It’s bigger than one family, it’s bigger than one class of students, you’re impacting a generation of society.

What do you like about working at Caldwell? Is there something particularly special about the university that you like to share with prospective students and families?
I think there is a culture at Caldwell that whatever it takes to make a student successful, we can’t let them fail kind of thing. Everybody’s working together to make sure students succeed. That type of supportive environment, we’re talking about cross-functional departments, we all work together for a similar goal, that’s what makes Caldwell really special. People know your name. It’s that small tight-knit community.

You have a bachelor’s degree and work experience in early childhood education administration. How did that experience help prepare you for a shift to higher education?
I think there are kind of similarities in that you’re dealing with people in a very vulnerable state. If a prospective parent was looking for a child care center for their child, they have a lot of similar things in their worry box. With higher ed, parents are thinking about safety, they’re thinking about cost, they’re thinking about a well-rounded program. So they’re kind of in similar seasons of life but on the opposite end of the spectrum. I can relate in that way. When I think about managing teams—meeting the needs of teams and trying to find out what their skills are, where their gaps are to help them become more successful in their role or things I did when I worked in enrollment—the experience is similar in lots of ways. Strong operation is always a big part of early childhood too, and having a system and a process for every stage in a student’s progression through the enrollment process, there’s a strong similarity.

Prior to being named Director of Undergraduate Admissions, you served Caldwell University as Director of Admissions Information Systems for more than two years. Can you explain how that role and its responsibilities serve you in your current position?
In that role, my foot was in technology. I always say making the systems do things that only technology can do so it allows people to do what people do, which is make connections. So if I think about how those skills relate to one another, I’m thinking about how we insert cumulative elements into what we’re doing with our prospective students. When I was in that seat, I was asked to learn the process of how something might work, and I use that to tailor the technology to meet those needs. So now I’m kind of in the other seat making the ask for technology to do certain things.  

Who or what inspired you to seek this opportunity to advance your career within Caldwell?
There was always an interest. I felt I had a gravitation toward enrollment because that’s where I came from, there was an operational enrollment background. It was something I had once put in and wanted to put out the whole time I had the other roles.

What is your vision as Director of Undergraduate Admissions?
My goal is to pour into the facts I have, impart any opportunities for professional growth, and help Caldwell exceed numbers we’ve never seen before. I think for us, it’s going to be continuing to focus on every interaction we have to maximize the student experience.

How does the pandemic add an extra challenge to the job?
We’ve had to meet students where they are. I think we’ve had to be a little bit more creative on getting face time with students and their families, creating different online and virtual sessions. We’ve been able to be open most of this year. We’re still having tours and people, but understanding there are specific challenges for certain families and having empathy for those challenges, listening more and speaking less to find out what’s troubling our students and their families.