Retirement of Associate Provost Rebecca Dixon
I am writing to inform you that Rebecca Dixon will be retiring from her position as Associate Provost of University Enrollment in June 2005, following 17 years of distinguished service to Northwestern. In Spring 2003, Rebecca advised me of her intention to conclude her career of 43 years in higher education next June. This afternoon she informed her staff of her decision.
As Associate Provost, Rebecca has overseen with energy, grace and professionalism a set of offices which are as important to the University’s success as they are complex. Those offices include Undergraduate Admission, Financial Aid (Undergraduate in Evanston and professional schools in Chicago ), the Registrar’s Office, and the Information Systems Office that serves Undergraduate Admission. In addition, she chairs the University Calendar Committee, is the liaison from the Provost’s Office to the National High School Institute, and is Northwestern’s representative to the Assembly of the Consortium on the Financing of Higher Education (COFHE). Finally, and not least important from my perspective, Rebecca has been a key member of my staff, contributing her wisdom and long experience to discussions of the broad range of issues with which my office is concerned.
The effective functioning of the units for which Rebecca has been responsible is key to the effective functioning of the University: The University would be in a sorry state if insufficient numbers of students were enrolled, if financial aid were not wisely administered to help talented and needy students attend, or if students were unable to register for courses once here.
Rebecca has, of course, not satisfied herself with ensuring that the administrative trains for which she is responsible ran on time. Instead, she has been the agent for constructive – often dramatic – change. Thanks in part to her efforts, the University she will be leaving is a far stronger one than the one she joined in 1987.
During her tenure, and due in no small measure to the outreach efforts of the Office of Admission, we have seen steady growth in the interest in Northwestern among students from the United States and abroad, as well as a significant increase in quality. Freshman applications numbered 11,458 in fall 1988. By fall 2004, they had increased to 15,649, a growth of 37 percent. Selectivity has increased: The admission rate has dropped from 40 percent to 33 percent; and the percentage accepting offers of admission has risen from 38 percent in 1988 to 41 percent for fall 2004. Not least importantly, the quality of entering undergraduate students improved, with average class rank now at the 94 th percentile and SAT scores rising from 1320 in 1993 (the first year for which we have comparable data) to a projected 1396 for the class entering this fall.
As she worked to improve the quality of the undergraduate student body, Rebecca worked tirelessly to ensure that the entering class was diverse as well. Part of the greater diversity achieved during her tenure has been geographic: a greater percentage of entering students now come from states other than Illinois, and international undergraduate students have grown from 2% to 5% of the entering class. She has also made it a priority to ensure the racial and ethnic diversity of Northwestern’s undergraduate community. While the enrollment of African-American students has declined somewhat, during her tenure the percent of Asian-Americans in the entering class has grown from 11% to 16.5% and the percent of Hispanics/Latinos from 1% to 6.4%.
During a period of rising costs for higher education, Rebecca has been a forceful advocate for the need to fund undergraduate financial aid in such a manner that no qualified undergraduate is denied the opportunity of a Northwestern education because of the lack of financial assistance. The University remains “need blind” in admission decisions. The scope of the University’s continuing commitment and Rebecca’s responsibility is implied by the fact that her Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid has responsibility for administering over $112 million annually to undergraduates.
Rebecca also played a key role in the University’s conversion from legacy student information systems to the Student Enterprise System (SES), beginning eight years ago. Like any such conversion (and in some instances more acutely than most) this conversion was not without hic-cups: Rebecca and her staff were forced to work with beta software that was not yet fully developed. But Rebecca never lost sight of the needs of the many users of this critical system and worked continuously to mitigate the disruption of the transition. This software conversion was one of the most difficult and challenging Northwestern has ever encountered. While (generally!) maintaining good cheer and a positive attitude, Rebecca worked closely with the implementation staff, and at the same time, guided and encouraged her own staff through this extended period of preparation and installation.
One could go on nearly indefinitely cataloging Rebecca’s legacy at Northwestern, including but hardly limited to major renovation of spaces used by her units (and visited by many current and prospective students); responsibility for grants from the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Mellon Foundation; providing material to college guide books which would highlight the opportunities available at Northwestern; service on the advisory board for the US News and World Report rankings of colleges and universities; and collaboration in efforts to expand significantly overseas study opportunities for Northwestern undergraduates.
Having accomplished so much and contributed so generously to the University, Rebecca richly desires the rewards of retirement. She tells me that she plans to remain in Evanston and eagerly looks forward to expanding her volunteer work as a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation and for her church (Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago), and to continued service as a member of the board of trustees of her alma mater, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.
Fortunately, we will enjoy yet another year of Rebecca’s colleagueship and tireless work on behalf of Northwestern. A search committee will be formed shortly to conduct a national search for Rebecca’s successor. In the spring we will have an opportunity to pay further tribute to a greatly valued colleague and to wish her well.
Sincerely,Lawrence B. Dumas