Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 1, Page 6
Fall 1991
VAST network reaches students

     Ryan Williams had narrowed his college choices to Stanford, Wake
Forest and Emory universities, the University of North Carolina-Chapel
Hill and the University of Delaware. The Charlotte, N.C., resident was
accepted at each school.
     However, Delaware became a leading contender shortly after
Williams, formerly of Springfield, Pa., met Gary Swindell, Delaware
'76, at a college fair in Charlotte. Swindell is not an admissions
counselor. He's a member of the University's nationwide Volunteer
Admissions Support Team (VAST).
     Says Williams, "I got back with him at a later date, and we
really got into a discussion about going to Delaware." Swindell
recalls, "His interest in the University was something that was very
invigorating to me."
     After Williams applied for admission to the University and was
accepted, he received a phone call from another VAST volunteer, a
student. "I was really impressed with her answers, what she had to
say," recalls the psychology major who played lacrosse, ran track and
was in service clubs at East Mecklenburg High School. "That really
made the decision concrete. I was thinking, 'I could go to Delaware, I
think I might like it there.'" Of the schools that accepted Williams,
only Delaware followed up with personal contacts. The VAST volunteers'
caring attitude, accessibility and friendliness had made an important
impression on this member of the Class of 1993.
     At Delaware, Williams is a member of the Black Student Union,
Student Program Association and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He holds a
University Merit Scholarship.
     Created in 1986, VAST's goals are to enhance student recruitment
by personalizing the admissions process and to help students and
parents understand the advantages of a Delaware education, according
to Stirling Miller, assistant dean of admissions and VAST coordinator.

     How big an impact is VAST making at a time when there are fewer
and fewer 18-year-olds? It's difficult to measure with numbers, Miller
says, but he points to anecdotal evidence that VAST is helping.
"Students comment on how impressed they were that someone took the
time to call them. They believe the calls were an indication of the
enthusiasm that these people have for the University," he says.
     In May, the University announced that 3,389 students accepted
admission for this fall, exceeding the target number of 3,000.
Miller's job is to recruit and train VAST volunteers and manage
contact projects, which include telephoning, letter-writing and
     Swindell, a Charlotte attorney, became involved with VAST in
     He says students at college nights first ask about the
University's location. "One of the things we try to point out in
selling the school is that we're pretty close to both the District of
Columbia and New York City. You have easy access to both." Six
students, including Williams, have come to the University from
Charlotte since 1989. Their decision to choose Delaware is a tribute
to Swindell, who concedes that Delaware can be a tough sell because of
the number of fine schools in North Carolina. "I'm very pleased with
the kids we've contacted through VAST, a program that started up so
small. I think we've done okay."
     Mary Lou Lobaccaro Flynn, Delaware '64, and Paula Johnson
Kotowski, Delaware '73, are VAST volunteers in the mid-Atlantic
region. Like Swindell and other program members, they were active
undergraduates who have maintained their involvement with the
University. Flynn, a Wilmington resident, and Kotowski of Warminster,
Pa., near Philadelphia, telephone and write applicants and hold home
receptions. They served together on the 1990-91 VAST Advisory
     Flynn, a VAST member since its creation, has seen the volunteer
ranks grow from 84 to 515. VAST draws a majority of its members from
the alumni ranks, but students, parents and faculty members also are
represented. Flynn likes the flexibility of the program, which allows
members to get as involved as their schedules permit. "Our volunteers
have a choice of activities. From year to year, they can change, and I
think that's a big drawing point," she says.
     VAST volunteers are busiest between January and April, when
accepted students have narrowed their choices to Delaware and one or
two other schools.
     Parents, in particular, like VAST's personal touch, Kotowski
says. She views herself as a liaison between the University and
students and their parents. She points out the advantages of the
University's size and setting: "Delaware certainly offers all the
programs and activities of a large university, but it has been able to
maintain that smaller, more intimate, college idea." A middle school
guidance counselor, Kotowski tells applicants about the variety of
activities at Delaware. "It seems to me that there is some sort of
extra-curricular activity for everyone," she says.
     It's not unusual for students recruited through VAST to become
program volunteers themselves. Patricia O'Neill, Delaware '92, was
introduced to VAST at a reception her senior year at Milford (Del.)
High School. "VAST is great because there are so many ways to reach
students," says O'Neill, who has undertaken telephone projects and has
spoken at a reception. "Parents really like it, and out-of-state
students have a lot of questions."
     VAST coordinator Miller says he enjoys working with student
volunteers and helping them develop their human relations skills.
Often they remain involved after graduation. "I frequently follow them
from the University into their professional lives, which is very
     The alumni members have a common trait, according to Miller,
formerly assistant director of admissions at the University of Texas
at Austin. "What's gratifying to me is that the people are so
enthusiastic and positive about their experiences here," he says.
"It's really great to work in admissions at a place where your alumni
are sincerely promoting the University."
                                   --Bill Clark, Delaware '82
                              and Saskia Brandt, Delaware '92

     Persons interested in becoming VAST volunteers are encouraged to
call Miller at (302) 451-6394.