How to handle prospective student visits well?

A reader requested a discussion regarding do’s and don’t’s on how to handle prospective student visits, particularly regarding the recruitment of women. I’m afraid I don’t have much to say here myself beyond the obvious (give prospective women students the opportunity to connect with women in the program so that they can ask about them about the climate if they’d like to, don’t say sexist things that would make them uncomfortable, etc.) so I thought I would rather just open up discussion.

What’s worked well for others? What doesn’t work well? How should these things be handled?

4 thoughts on “How to handle prospective student visits well?

  1. This suggestion is contingent on whether the department actually does have female students who are active in seminars, colloquia, and more generally the philosophical public life of the department. If so, then it is important to show it. I still remember when I was a prospective at Rutgers and Meghan Sullivan gave our prospective grad talk. (Rutgers grad students give talks to each other on the weeks when we do not have colloquia, and we’ve made it a fixture of the prospective visit too.) Meghan is a great public speaker, very confident and clear and enthusiastic. I remember thinking to myself, *I want to be at a department where women are doing philosophy like that*. That talk, and seeing how other women in the department engaged with philosophy, played pretty heavily in my decision to come to Rutgers (and mitigated against its underserved reputation, much more than discussing climate issues). It doesn’t have to be an event like a grad talk, though. (Often a male grad student gives our prospective grad talk, as will happen this year.) But I and many of the other female grad students make sure to be ourselves in seminars and in Q&A settings, to ask questions and show how engaged we are. Showing, and not just telling, goes a long way.

  2. Maybe this goes under the category of don’t act like a jerk. A female undergraduate student of mine a few years ago was deciding among top programs. She went on a number of visits. I encouraged her to ask questions about extra funding or premier scholarships. At one institution where she had already been admitted, and had already received *the* extraordinary scholarship from the program designed to draw top applicants, the answer to her question was (reported): yes, we do that, but probably not for someone like you or someone who is interested in what you are interested in. This also happened during a meal in which she payed for not only herself but the very rushed lone philosopher having lunch with her. My perspective: this time of year is really busy. Programs – make sure you arrange your visit times for prospective students in a way that is calming, welcoming, attractive and informed (i.e., as to what their offers are). Her perspective: it’s a top place but I don’t want to go there.

  3. anonymous, your comment reminds me: On one of my own visits, I was told by a faculty member that the program implemented affirmative action in its admissions procedure. I felt at the time that the implication was not “Here’s evidence that we take women seriously and are concerned about equity…” but rather something like “Did you deserve admission more than those who we picked you over? I’m not sure…” I’m sure the faculty member meant well in retrospect, but it wasn’t a helpful or welcoming comment.

Comments are closed.