Growing your SEM Community

August 8, 2022
  • Professional Development and Contributions to the Field
  • ascend
Group of people sitting in a park.

AACRAO Member Kayla St. Clair is no stranger to ensuring diverse and equitable opportunities in admissions; during a recent interview, we had the opportunity to ask about her experience in enrollment management, participation in the AACRAO ASCEND program, and her impression of the ASCEND content modules she's worked through so far. 

Ms. St. Clair is the Senior Associate Director of Operations in Undergraduate Admissions at Virginia Tech. Though she's served in many roles within the Admissions office, one of her first was on the diversity team that led diversity programming and diversity events, a position she relished as a first-generation student herself. Speaking on that experience and its relation to her current role Ms. St. Clair said:

...Having that opportunity to provide a point of access to students and over time, it really evolved naturally to go from being on the ground doing that work and now getting to see what barriers might exist in our daily operations and our application processes and questions that we're asking and making sure that it's a more accessible process altogether.

Ms. St. Clair initially joined AACRAO's ASCEND program through the encouragement of a colleague. As with many of our ASCEND participants, the opportunity to interact and collaborate with professionals from unique backgrounds, positions, and institutions was a significant factor in her decision. Commenting on her experience thus far, Ms. St. Clair said:

Having the opportunity to be a part of a cohort similarly positioned within their institution, and to build on my knowledge and skill set, which I definitely have had that opportunity to do throughout the program.

I'm really enjoying the ASCEND program. I think one of the biggest benefits are the guest speakers that talk with us because they're from many different kinds of institutions and from all areas. And so there are some folks who are very seasoned and well into their careers, some folks who are really first in that leadership position at their institution. So it's been really nice to hear from so many different folks and be a part of that cohort experience going through it together.

In addition to enjoying the overall sense of camaraderie, Ms. St. Clair also appreciates the value her ASCEND Coach, Michelle Brown Nevers, Vice President at Northern Virginia Community College, brings to the experience, describing their relationship as having an "open door policy" for questions and concerns.

Building Knowledge

Next, we spoke with Ms. St. Clair about the specific ASCEND content and modules the cohort works through as part of the program and how it relates to her work at Virginia Tech:

 I would say it definitely applies, especially working in undergraduate admissions, because it's such a key component to enrollment management, bringing in the new class and bringing in a class that can be retained and that graduates, and ensuring it's all in sync. 

It really helps build context on a national landscape because, you know, I know my institution very well and I know what our strengths and weaknesses are as an institution and the kind of areas that we're looking to develop within enrollment management. But knowing what the national landscape looks like and having the ability to put together a strategic enrollment management plan, is really helpful.

AACRAO members interested in learning more about AACRAO’s ASCEND program, want to get involved, or are curious about the process should visit our Signature Initiative page and join the list to stay updated on news about the program.

About the ASCEND Program

The ASCEND Program prepares mid-level professionals in the competencies required to take the next step in enrollment management leadership. The year-long intensive program seeks to:

  • advance the careers of program participants and provide them with important professional development;

  • help AACRAO and regional associations develop a “deep bench” of talented, motivated leaders from diverse backgrounds; and

  • provide individuals from identified under-represented groups in the association community (i.e., people of color, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender people, people with disabilities) with support, access, and leadership opportunities.

The curriculum design incorporates AACRAO Professional Competencies and Proficiencies and leverages AACRAO's existing professional development opportunities.


AACRAO's bi-weekly professional development e-newsletter is open to members and non-members alike.