Overcoming Challenges and Building Confidence

February 7, 2022
  • 2021 SIGNATURE INITIATIVES
  • Professional Development and Contributions to the Field
  • AACRAO LEAD
  • AM22 New to the Profession
  • ascend
tiny sapling growing in the space between two brick paving stones

As part of our ongoing series highlighting AACRAO's ASCEND program, we spoke with AACRAO Member Sherry Phillips, Director of Records and Registration at Montgomery County Community College, to discuss her participation in the ASCEND program her background, and what she's looking forward to in the coming year. 

About the ASCEND Program

The ASCEND Program is designed to prepare 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 opportunities for leadership.

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

As with so many AACRAO Members, Sherry's path to her current position was not a straight line. Beginning as a student worker, moving into the registrar's office, then over to admissions, back into the registrar's office as Associate Director, and finally into her current role as Director of Records and Registration. Ms. Phillips reflected on her time, saying:

 "...I found it (the work) to be fascinating because this is before you had higher ed programs. You couldn't get a degree in higher education at that time, at least not on the enrollment services or management side... Most people, either worked in the office and then learned more about the job. My undergraduate degree is in business."

Ms. Phillips discovered the ASCEND program through her AACRAO membership and through her former supervisor, who had served as an ASCEND mentor. When speaking on her decision to eventually apply to join the ASCEND program, Ms. Phillips said:

"I'm at the top of my career... So the only other place to go for me at this point will be an executive director of enrollment management or a vice president of enrollment management... I wanted to expand. Also, I tend to be a little bit of an introvert, so I thought it was another way for me to push myself and network more, and meet other people in the field."

As both a first-generation student and an immigrant Ms. Phillips sees the ASCEND program as an opportunity to build her confidence, network, and equip herself with the tools she needs to foster improvement in her office. Speaking on her expectations, Ms. Phillips said:

"...One of my goals through this project is to figure out what I can bring back to my institution and give possible solutions, or even start a conversation about what true strategic enrollment management is... Oftentimes we use the term, but we are not really following the principles.

"...We are all reacting to what is happening and the environment in that time. And sometimes, we may not be responding to the bigger goals for our students. I want to bring something tangible that we can really start a conversation and have us all be committed and to be on the same pathway..."

As we wrapped up our interview Ms. Phillips encouraged others interested in joining the ASCEND program, saying:

"Come with openness, to learn, to network, and to learn about other areas of the college, and of the organization. I think one of the most valuable things is meeting others... Speaking with leaders at other institutions and hearing about their experiences. I believe in doing so, it only helps you to grow as an individual, whether you want to stay in your position or you want to expand. 

Learn more about AACRAO's signature LEAD (Leaders in Enrollment Advancing Diversity) initiative and explore opportunities to get involved.