Senior Assistant Director of
As a student at Purdue, Terry Gilbert joined the minority peer counselors group to get students at his Indianapolis high school thinking about college. Now, as senior assistant director of admissions, Gilbert continues those efforts across the country.
Traveling everywhere from Pennsylvania to Colorado, Gilbert represents Purdue and introduces students and their families to the University. Even with a schedule full of meet-and-greets, college fairs and new initiatives, Gilbert has been able to enjoy the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and the Rocky Mountains of Denver.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Without a doubt, building relationships with prospective students and their families. A big part of my job is to help increase students from underrepresented populations with respect to ethnic, racial, gender and sexual orientation. With underrepresented populations, it is very important to develop relationships with students and their families so they can feel comfortable and confident with the institution and environment they'll be growing and learning in for the next four years.
It is really important to me that parents know there is someone on campus who cares about their child. I am very frank and candid with students. I check in on them, their lives and their grades.
In order to develop these relationships with students and their families, do you travel often?
Yes. I used to recruit in Pennsylvania and Arizona, but currently I manage Purdue's presence in New Jersey, Illinois, Minnesota, Utah, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. I don't go to these states all the time, but I try to keep in touch so I know what's going on in the environment economically, politically and with secondary and post-secondary schools.
I travel for approximately six weeks during both the fall and spring semesters. Establishing relationships in these places is my favorite part, but the traveling and, specifically, being away from my wife, Ebony, and our two young daughters is hard sometimes.
You received your undergraduate degree from Purdue. Why did you decide to return to begin your career?
When I was a minority peer mentor through the admissions office, I thought recruitment is something I might want to do, but after I graduated in 2006, I started working at State Farm insurance in West Lafayette.
In 2008, I found out about an opening in admissions at Purdue, and when I came back to campus for the interview, it felt like I was coming home. It wasn't a feeling I had expected, so I knew I had to take the job if it was offered, and it was.
Have there been any memorable moments from your time working in admissions?
One thing that stands out was the opportunity to coordinate the first Emerging Urban Leaders Scholarship in 2010. This was the first class to receive the scholarship, and the first time I had ever helped put a cohort of scholars together. To be able to affect the first recipients in that way is really memorable for me. The most rewarding part is whenever I can see that I have affected the students I work with in a positive way.
Is the Office of Admissions working on any new initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion?
This year we launched an initiative called Boiler Tracks where Purdue students visit high schools in their hometowns to have informal conversations about the University with high school students. Students speak about all aspects of campus life including academics, social life, professional development and what it's like to be a student at Purdue. Once the opportunity was presented for Purdue students to give back in their home communities, they jumped on the chance. More than 150 students volunteered.
The goals of Boiler Tracks are to create leadership opportunities for undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds, engage current students in the recruitment process and increase Purdue's presence in local communities. This initiative paves the way for Purdue students to help recruit in other ways. Statistics and research both show that underrepresented students want to see and hear from students with similar backgrounds as their own. Boiler Tracks definitely helps provide that perspective.
Why are diversity and inclusion important at Purdue?
Our world is constantly moving to a more global environment, and as a university, one of our goals is to prepare students to be tomorrow's leaders. In order to do that, we need to simulate the global environment they will be living and working in after graduation. Interacting with people with different backgrounds and interests gives our students a broader knowledge base and will make the transition to a global work environment smoother. Also, it just makes everything more fun.