Marcel Hite knows firsthand that an effective college admissions process requires more than just attracting a diverse, talented student body. Universities also have a duty to support students throughout their educational journey to help them reach their full potential.
“Coming from a first-generation, low-income background, I understand the value of making sure you provide students with the aid they need,” said Hite, who is now associate director of admissions for Stanford University.
Hite began his career in admissions while still enrolled at Claremont McKenna College, working his way up the ladder from student intern to tour guide to senior interviewer. Then, an interim full-time position opened up as he was finishing his degree.
Next, Hite took a post at a small college in the Bay Area that didn’t have the student-oriented resources he knew were essential. That’s when he applied for a job at the USC Office of Undergraduate Admission.
“I knew about USC from my own college search process,” Hite told USC Online. “I knew USC offered a world-class education, robust financial aid and support services, and space for students to build community, such as the LGBTQ+ Student Center and La CASA [the Latinx Chicanx Center for Advocacy and Student Affairs]. And I knew that USC was also giving back to the community it was in, South L.A.”
Although Hite left USC for another position, ultimately making his way to Stanford, he was still interested in pursuing an advanced degree in the field. He considered USC’s Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership (OCL) online program as well as the Master of Education in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA).
Both programs are offered through the top-ranked USC Rossier School of Education — as is the degree he ultimately chose: the Master of Education in Enrollment Management and Policy (EMP) online.
“It really fit with what I’m currently doing — and what I hope to do in the future,” explained Hite, who graduated from the program this past spring.
Placing an Emphasis on Inclusivity
USC Rossier’s EMP online master’s degree provides thorough preparation in all aspects of educational enrollment — from admissions and institutional leadership to outreach, financial aid and student orientation.
While Hite’s professional experience in the field had already informed him about the importance of those aspects, he found the EMP online’s focus on inclusiveness and student retention to be especially compelling. This extends to support for such underrepresented groups as Black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC).
“It’s one thing to recruit them. It’s another thing to make sure you can support them after they arrive on campus. You need to have those systems in place. The pandemic has forced a lot of colleges and universities to think about equity and how they’re serving those students,” he said, citing the move toward more holistic applicant reviews and away from an emphasis on standardized test scores.
Another population with needs that have historically gone unmet is LGBTQ+ students.
“We need to be better about allowing space in the application for students to self-identify,” he explained.
Hite advocates for increased training and sensitivity in addressing the concerns of these students, adding that admissions professionals should consider “what the experience might have been like for them in high school — especially given the environment they may be coming from.
“Not everyplace is like New York, Seattle or Los Angeles,” he said. “Can they change their name and gender identity when they get to our institutions, and not inform their parents if they’re not out to them yet? Do we have gender-neutral housing and bathrooms?”
Working Toward a More Diverse College Admissions Process
Growing up in Detroit, Hite always felt he had been born in the wrong state. Part of the reason, he admitted, was Michigan winters, but another, more compelling motivation led Hite to the West Coast.
“For the first 10 years of my life, we lived in a more well-resourced area. The neighborhood was both safe and diverse,” he remembered.
Following his parents’ separation, however, Hite moved to a predominantly white suburb, where his academic acumen had earned him a scholarship to attend a well-regarded private high school.
“I was one of the only folks who looked like me in the area and was one of the few Black kids in my high school,” Hite said.
California, he thought, offered an atmosphere of diversity along with its pleasant weather.
While Hite will “always claim Detroit as home,” he didn’t see a lot of forward movement. “I enjoy being in California, where I feel like things are always changing,” he explained.
Hite’s own academic journey involved a fair amount of change. As an undergraduate, he originally intended to study neuroscience with the goal of going to medical school and becoming a psychiatrist. Instead, his interests shifted to literature and psychology, and he earned a dual degree in those majors.
One professor, Hite recalled, “instilled a love for literature, reading and writing that I didn’t have in high school. She really pushed me to explore my creativity outside of just a traditional analytical essay.” When that same faculty member later served as Hite’s academic adviser, she also helped him realize the field’s importance to burgeoning minds.
Today, both disciplines augment his master’s degree in engaging and serving students.
Finding Flexibility with USC’s EMP Online Program
The USC Rossier EMP online program was Hite’s first experience with a virtual curriculum, and he found that remote learning enabled him to connect with his fellow students in ways that might not be possible in a standard classroom setting.
“I loved the flexibility of the program,” he said. “That’s part of what drew me to it. … Because of our forced interaction through weekly assignments, I got to know how my peers thought and what motivated them through the ways they talked about their assignments. I don’t know if I would have gotten that in person.”
Among his favorite courses were those relating to diversity and admissions, institutional positioning and marketing, and financial aid. The latter helped him think about budgeting and aid from the institutional perspective.
“It really gave me the tools to advocate for financial aid policy in a different way,” he explained. “Previously, I only thought about it from my own personal experience. It’s important to consider financial aid models that work for students and that also serve the institution.”
Meanwhile, the institutional positioning course was immediately relevant to his current role at Stanford, where his extensive duties include overseeing public presentations, events, publications and other communications relating to how the university presents and markets itself to potential students. He also trains the readers of student applications to ensure holistic review that examines more than grades and tests.
While happy in his current position, Hite remains ambitious.
“I hope to be a dean or director of admissions or vice president of enrollment one day,” he said. “And, depending on where my path takes me, potentially being president of a college.”
He knows that’s a big goal, but he is confident he can fulfill it — just as he helps students from all backgrounds achieve their own dreams.
Learn more about the Master of Education in Enrollment Management and Policy online today.