By Curtis Morisaki
Blowing out your knee as an athlete in college may seem like the end of the world, but for Becky Konowicz the injury opened the door for new opportunities. After her injury, Konowicz decided she was done playing competitive sports and looked for a new passion.
While completing her degree in English Literature at DePauw University, Konowicz explored the world via studying abroad. During this trip, she found a love for international travel and work. After earning her graduate degree in College Student Affairs Leadership from Grand Valley State University, Konowicz embarked on her international admissions voyage.
Coming full circle, Konowicz started working in admissions at her alma mater, DePauw University. “For me, I had a great mentor who guided me and gave me the opportunity to do international,” said Konowicz. She will never forget her first international trip to Asia.
“My first international trip was to Asia and India with a back to back trip. I ended up staying in India on a special project and that’s when I realized culture shock in a whole new way.” Konowicz presented on the liberal arts to a group of business professionals, who thought she was finger painting while giving them insights on the topic. She admits that a mentor cautioned not to get sucked in to one area of admissions, but the trip solidified her passion for international recruitment.
Following five years at DePauw, Konowicz moved to Chapman University to fill the role of Associate Director of International Admissions. She credits those around her for helping her advance during her admissions career.
“I think people above you and people on the road with you who are encouraging you to get involved or challenging you to think differently is how I’ve gotten to where I am today. For me it’s always been about people.”
Konowicz became the Director of International Admission at Santa Clara University in 2013. She is thankful for her enrollment management leadership’s support for international recruitment and encouraging her involvement with the Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling (OACAC).
Watching students grow and flourish at the university is one of the most rewarding aspects of Konowicz’s position. She works with current international students at Santa Clara University through an international student volunteer program.
“I was in China when he (a current international student) was home and he drove me to all of my visits and helped explain what his first year was like,” said Konowicz. Strong connections with international students on her campus have helped Konowicz during international travel.
Konowicz’s group also helps recruitment efforts by meeting with on-campus international students visiting and connecting with future students via email and online chat. “It’s very authentic and unscripted way of one student helping another student in the process,” said Konowicz. Using international students is one way Konowicz has enhanced international recruitment at Santa Clara University, but she also recognizes we need to understand student needs.
The need to advocate for international students in the admissions process is one of the challenges Konowicz believes admission professionals need to meet. She reminds us that we need to make sure international students are included in marketing, given the proper information, and understand policies and procedures specific to our schools.
“An international student at a school in San Francisco has different needs compared to the international student in China. They also need help understanding the differences in applying to different institutional types and systems.”
Konowicz realizes the schools need to provide equal access and attention to all of the student populations they recruit. Though she is the only person in her office with an international recruitment title, Konowicz trains and informs her Santa Clara colleagues with information they can pass along if they meet an international student during their travel. At the same time, Konowicz is also has information she can share with domestic students during her recruitment trips.
Colleagues on the road and in the office are what keep Konowicz motivated to keep working in international admission. She says they remind her why she does the work and how special the profession is. Working with families also keeps Konowicz charged because they appreciate the help and information given to them during the application and recruitment process.
Odds & Ends
International admission is a continually evolving and growing piece of enrollment management. Konowicz states that one of the biggest changes in admission is that international students affect everyone and that is why the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) now has an international division. More people are interested in international admission and Konowicz jokes that international admission counselors used to be the “odd balls” in the office.
Technology and data-driven marketing and communication have increased over the course of Konowicz’s time working in international admission. “I think technology will continue. Does data driven admission drive everything? Some of it is on the ground and relationship-building,” said Konowicz. While we can get carried away with the demands of the profession, life outside the office is also important.
Konowicz skis, bikes to and from work, hikes, and completes other outdoor activities in her free time. She reminds everyone that we need to take time to enjoy what we are passionate about outside of the work environment and take a step back from the stress work may cause.
“Yes!” She uses her personal example of saying yes to an international assignment and finding her true passion in college admission. Konowicz recommends new admission staff take on new opportunities and projects within the office when they become available. “You’ll figure out what you want to do from all of those experiences.”
The admission process is complicated and Konowicz reaffirms that the role is to help others understand the process. “In the end, if you just change one student’s life or make one family understand the system better, you should go to bed happy!”