With more than 3.5 million square miles to cover and more than 1 million college-bound students to reach, the University of Arizona admissions team has more than its fair share of work to recruit the nation's top students.
To meet this need, the UA has developed a parents and alumni national recruitment effort.
More than 30 recruiters and admissions counselors work full-time for the UA to spark the interest of in-state and out-of-state students, transfer students and students who meet equity, access and inclusion markers. Recruiters also work in customer service, programs and events.
The team members have a strong recruitment or admission-advisor background and at least five years of experience.
Marc Acuña, assistant director for non-resident recruitment, manages a recruitment effort that builds upon Wildcat pride and the volunteer commitment of UA alumni and family members throughout the nation.
The effort is called Parents and Alumni Working With Students, better known as PAWS, and helps cover areas where UA admissions recruiters cannot reach. In a joint effort, alumni and the Office of Admissions have worked together to expand the program.
PAWS works closely with the Parents and Family Association to expand the UA's recruitment reach to parents of current Wildcats.
Acuña said the goal of PAWS is to advance the University's stature by recruiting the best and brightest students from across the country.
"Prospective students and family members have the chance to gain insight from the personal experiences of the PAWS recruiters or through their experience as a UA parent."
The one-on-one interaction, Acuña said, has proven to be the difference between students choosing the UA over another institution.
"We are building on the connection between alumni and parents and their strong ties to the UA," said Acuña.
The program has been in effect for longer than three years and currently is in 26 out of 50 states.
Nearly 200 PAWS recruiters officially have been trained. They have flexibility in their recruiting methods – adopting a high school, partnering with a UA out-of-state regional recruiter, attending recruitment fairs or making recruiting phone calls.
Volunteering is easy to do thanks to a link on the Office of Admissions website that directs potential PAWS recruiters on the process and how to sign up.
New PAWS recruiter Laurie Laychak signed up for the program when she was asked to volunteer and take on Alan Stein's position as co-chair of the UA Parent and Family Association, Student Recruitment and Retention Committee. Stein was vacating the role to begin serving as the co-chair of the UA Parent and Family Association.
Her ties to Tucson and the UA had been established long before her son was accepted to the University. Laychak fell in love with Tucson the minute she arrived and over time has talked about retiring to the community.
"My son applied to many schools but ever since he could remember, he always said he wanted to attend the UA," Laychak said.
Laychak's role as a PAWS recruiter allows her to share her experiences in Tucson and with the University.
"I find that it is helpful to speak to other families about having students so far away. I'm here to tell them it will be OK. The UA is an amazing school because it has so much to offer and the school doesn't feel as big as it is. Plus, my son calls all the time and every time you turn around he is home to visit," she added.
Her experience as a recruiter included working an event where 30,000 parents and students came seeking information from a variety of universities – an event during which she started losing her voice speaking with so many families.
"The regional UA recruiter is only one person. We, the PAWS volunteers, can supplement and help during large fairs and smaller fairs where we can help answer questions with a personal twist," she added. "I have gone to several college fairs and met other alumni volunteers and have realized what a great supplement PAWS can be for the regional recruiters. It's nice to provide the visibility and awareness for UA."
Laychak and her family look forward to the coming recruitment season and the addition of another Wildcat in her family as her daughter, now a senior, awaits a response from the UA Admissions Office.