In Conversation with President Keith Ward

Keith Ward

The academic year has its own rhythm and rituals. Either through habit (when professional societies like CMS hold their conferences, for example) or function (when we make hiring decisions, build class schedules, write budgets, etc.), we can expect certain things to happen in particular windows between August and June.

 In April, we complete a process begun months ago: recruiting the next class of students to our institutions. The process is certainly less “clean” than it used to be, now with Early Action added to the mix and, at many institutions, merit financial aid being weighed more carefully against discount rates, projected yields, etc.  

Despite this fluidity, April retains its finality in the recruitment cycle. Institutions have completed their sorting; now incoming students make their decisions. By mid-April graduate students will commit to schools, to be followed by a deadline of May 1 for undergraduate acceptances. With special events on and off campus, overnights, emails, phone calls, letters, sample lessons, and other efforts to yield the next class, all added to an already-packed schedule, April is a demanding month.

Reflecting on this process, I ask a question: who have you recruited? That is, who is enrolling? My question goes beyond the obvious -- of enrolling the future leaders or members of, say, the clarinet section, or of masters or doctoral candidates accepting offers with teaching assistantships, accompanying assignments, fellowships, and the like. Instead, I ask my question along the lines of our common topic: diversity and inclusion.

As I wrote last January, demographic shifts in the United States show that our population, including those going to college, is becoming more ethnically and racially diverse, not less. We also know from work by Peace Bransberger and Demarée K. Michelau  that the number of high school graduates is projected both to drop nationally and simultaneously become more diverse through 2023 (Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates, 9th Edition). After a brief rise, both trends are projected to continue through 2030.  In other words, the issues of diversity and inclusion are not transient; they are becoming central to defining who we recruit and who will be in our classes, seminars, and ensembles.

These demographic changes have ripple effects, starting with the students we recruit. How is it affecting you and your institution? What proactive steps will you take in this transition to a more diverse population, to a politic more attuned to matters of identity through race, ethnicity, national origin, gender identification, or class? How does it affect the way you recruit students? What new thinking does it bring to courses and curricula? How do we structure our work to promote community as we move purposefully toward inclusive excellence?  

Many institutions and professional societies have done impressive work in addressing our unfolding demographic change. Of its many undertakings, CMS is one of those change agents. I hope you will be part of the challenging, complex, and vital discussion by participating in forums, going to the Society’s conferences, and bringing your voice into the fold. I also hope your efforts will both support and influence positively your work in recruiting the student population of today and tomorrow.