Purdue Profiles: Dennis Yan

April 7, 2015  

Dan Yan

Dennis Yan, assistant director of admissions. (Photo provided)
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Dennis Yan considers it a blessing to be able to serve Purdue, his alma mater, as a regional admissions representative in the area in which he grew up -- particularly since it's 2,100 miles away from the West Lafayette campus.

An assistant director of admissions, Yan is based in Los Angeles, where he works to recruit the brightest high school students in Southern California. It's all part of Purdue's efforts to assemble diverse undergraduate classes, recruit the top scholars nationwide and grow its national alumni network.

How do you go about recruiting students?

I work with high school counselors, nonprofit education companies and prospective students in the Southern California region. My recruitment activities include going to college fairs, hosting information sessions for prospective students, conducting informational seminars about Purdue for counselors and parents, and hosting Boilermaker Bound events for students who have already been admitted. The region I cover spans four counties: Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Ventura. I've been in this position since January 2014, when it was created.

How does your work help move Purdue forward?

In the past couple of years, Purdue has dedicated resources toward growing our regional admissions team. We now have regional representatives who work in California, Chicago, Hawaii, Georgia, New York, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

Recruiting students from these areas helps us diversify the University's population, and it also helps Purdue grow its national network. As our regional students graduate, many of them return to their home bases and work for a company nearby. As a result, there is a large number of Purdue alumni residing in Southern California. In 2010, California was home to more than 18,000 alumni, which was the largest group after Indiana and Illinois. It's become clear that companies here highly respect a Purdue education.

What are some of the primary considerations when recruiting in Southern California?

There are a lot of eminently qualified high school students in this area, but they often just don't know about the opportunities that Purdue can afford them. Too many times, students think in terms of the two coasts -- East Coast and West Coast -- when considering colleges to attend, and they inadvertently ignore opportunities in the Midwest.

I love the fact that I can educate high school counselors as well as families about the many benefits of a Purdue education. In addition to the University's excellent national reputation, research opportunities and more, I always mention the strong network of Purdue alumni here in California as a major selling point.

What are some trends you've noticed in your recruitment work?

I've seen an increasing amount of interest among high school students and guidance counselors who want to know more about Purdue. With the rising costs of college among California schools, out-of-state colleges and universities are becoming more viable to more people.

Right now, most Southern California students are interested in Purdue's engineering, science and management programs. In the near future, I hope to attract more students who are interested in other majors within the colleges of Liberal Arts, Education, and Health and Human Sciences.

How do you work with other admissions officials who are based on the West Lafayette campus?

We communicate mostly by daily email as well as online planning meetings, and a lot of meetings are recorded and streamed via WebEx. I also travel to the West Lafayette campus twice each year -- August and January -- for a week each time to train and share information from my recruiting efforts.

What was your professional path to this position?

I grew up in the Greater Los Angeles area and graduated from Purdue with a degree in management and communications in 2005. I started my career with Sears Holdings, and then I started my own business in the plastic scrap industry by buying scrap domestically and selling it to manufacturers in China, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

Then, I started an education consulting company that recruited international high school students to study in U.S. private high schools. When I heard about a new Purdue position that would allow me recruit locally full-time for the University, I didn't hesitate. It's an honor to be able to share information about my alma mater with students who grew up in the same region as I did. 

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