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Great Scott! Goplin reflects on long admission career

When Scott Goplin began his career in college and university admission, Jimmy Carter was president, the Cold War was still raging and Pete Rose was still playing for the Cincinnati Reds.

Goplin’s 42 years of recruiting and retaining students will come to an end, at least on a full-time basis, on May 15 when he retires as vice president for enrollment management at Trine University, having overseen the most successful era of enrollment growth in the university’s history.

He did not have such a long tenure in mind when he was offered an entry-level admission counselor position prior to graduating from Carroll College (Wisconsin) in 1978. However, he soon fell in love with admission work, beginning with the first student he “recruited.”

“It was entirely initiated by the student. He had already committed to another school, but kept asking me more questions about the school I was representing,” he said. “I was not at all attempting to dissuade him, but it was clear from his questions he was not confident about his first choice school. He came to his own conclusion that my school was the better option.”

That student ultimately graduated from Carroll.

“He made the choice, but I facilitated the process he went through to make a decision that has clearly impacted the rest of his life,” Goplin said. “I knew from that point on that I had an awesome responsibility in providing clear, accurate and truthful information in the most professional way possible.”

From the initial job at his alma mater, Goplin went on to increasing admission responsibilities at institutions in Texas, Missouri, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The profession changed drastically over time, as educational financing shifted from federal and state grants to self-funding and student loans, students became more career-focused, and parents became more involved in the process.

“The result has been a much more informed student decision-maker,” Goplin said. “Students better research their many options and take more seriously the financial implications of that decision, as well as the importance of value and return on investment.”

He has spent 14 of the last 16 years as vice president for enrollment management at Trine University, with responsibilities including not only admission but retention for traditional and online students. During that time the university has made the shift from being primarily a commuter campus to a residential environment, and has seen extensive growth in not only enrollment — which has nearly tripled — but academic and athletic programs, programming for diverse students and campus facilities.

Trine President Earl D. Brooks II called Goplin’s contribution to the university’s enrollment growth “remarkable.”

“Scott has provided outstanding direction to navigate Trine University’s admission program through multiple and unprecedented changes in the university and in society as a whole,” Brooks said. “We would not be the institution we are today without his leadership.”

“I found a lasting home at Trine,” Goplin said. “We have managed to engage the entire campus community in the new student recruitment effort, including faculty who meet one-on-one with visiting prospective students and their parents, student volunteers who give all campus tours, and coaches who exhaust themselves to visit with student athletes anywhere and everywhere.

“Our campus operations staff go out of their way to make Trine the most impressive campus in Indiana, and campus safety staff provides personal support services to our students that go well beyond their specific responsibilities. Even alumni who routinely, and in ever greater numbers, refer students to their alma mater, support our efforts.”

As he prepares to lessen his direct involvement with the admission profession, he sees many challenges facing its practitioners.

“Successful admission counselors and administrators will have to demonstrate exceptional professionalism, and be of high integrity and true to the mission and values of their institution,” he said. “They will have to be current with national trends and the economy, demographics, available research, best practices, and fully understand available federal and state financial aid resources.”

He won’t be leaving admission entirely, serving as a consultant for Trine University over the next year. Plans for retirement include golf, learning carpentry and re-engaging “with a lot of neglected friends and family.”

“I’m most excited about spending quality time with my wife and grandchildren,” he said.

Trine University expects to announce Goplin’s successor sometime in mid-March.

Photo: Scott Goplin has been at the center of Trine University's transformation into one of Indiana’s fastest-growing private universities during his 14-year tenure as vice president for enrollment management. Goplin, who will retire in May, has impacted the lives of thousands of college students over his 42-year career as a college admission professional. (Photo illustration by Steve Faramelli and Dean Orewiler)