Holy Cross Students to Examine College Admissions at Public Policy Symposium

Mock process designed to explore wider implications of committee and boardroom voting

January 16th, 2013 by Nikolas Markantonatos


On Jan. 26, more than two dozen Holy Cross students will explore college admissions policies as part of the seventh annual Presidential Scholars Public Policy Symposium on campus.

The annual symposium provides an intellectually challenging forum for Presidential Scholars to explore issues of public policy with their peers. Previous topics have included global warming, U.S. immigration, global health issues, domestic violence, genocide prevention and the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

All Holy Cross Presidential Scholars hold academic merit scholarships, most of which are awarded based on achievement in high school, ranging from music (Brooks Scholar), classics (Bean), and science (Clavius). Presidential Scholars also hold Gates Millennium Scholarships and are Charles A. Dana Scholars, who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, and character. Dana Scholars are selected from applicants who have earned a minimum 3.5 cumulative grade point average and have been recommended by faculty.

This year, the Presidential Scholars will consider a fictional college’s admissions process. Bryan Engelhardt, assistant professor of economics, will facilitate the symposium and says students will consider the objectives of a variety of constituents — alumni, faculty, athletics, etc. — in assembling a class to enroll.

“We’ll be organizing the constituencies’ objectives into two different categories: hard constraints like a minimum number of students per class as well as softer goals like maximizing SAT scores,” he says. “Using the different constituencies’ objectives, the students will get to take on different roles, will read admissions files and then pick a class under a variety of different scenarios.

“For instance, how does a two-tiered process (early decision and regular admission) affect an incoming class? What differences occur when an admissions committee uses a more mathematical/operational approach to picking a class rather than voting by a show of hands?”

Beyond a closer look at the college admission process, this symposium will demonstrate how committees and voting rules, such as those used in corporate or government board rooms, determine important decisions and whether those decisions are optimal, Engelhardt says.

Participants in this year’s symposium come from all four class years and a wide variety of majors, including biology, classics, psychology, Russian and theatre.

The event is sponsored by the Dean’s Office and coordinated by Christina Chen, director of Academic Services and Learning Resources.

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