Mar 29, 2016

Common App changes leadership

The Common Application Board of Directors announced Monday that Paul Mott would be leaving after nearly two years as the organization’s interim executive director. Referring to a “dynamic and changing application market,” the email message gave no specific reason for Mott’s departure, but carefully thanked him for his service during a “period of crisis,” beginning after his predecessor abruptly left the organization.

“The initially planned six month consulting engagement with Mr. Mott developed into a nearly two-year partnership and we are most grateful for his commitment to the Common Application.”

Mott’s appointment followed a national search conducted by the Common App board for someone to take over from Rob Killion, who ran into serious problems during the flawed launch of new application software in fall of 2013.  While his most visible experience was in professional sports, Mott had some background in college counseling at St. Marks School of Texas and had worked in admissions at both Williams College in Massachusetts and Rollins College in Florida.

Working closely with Censeo Consulting, Mott is credited with bringing “stability to the Common Application while also implementing many access and outreach initiatives” over the past 23 months. Aware of increasing member dissatisfaction, which eventually turned into the formation of the Coalition Application group, Mott made major changes in the organization’s mission statement allowing for greater flexibility in membership standards. 

Under his tenure, Common App membership grew by about 100 colleges and universities, while application numbers continued to break all records. At the same time, Mott made a number of specific operational changes designed to reduce some of the “pointless friction” in the admissions process and increase college access among underrepresented groups.

For example, the requirement for an untimed writing sample or personal statement was dropped as was the requirement for at least one recommendation from a school-based counselor or a teacher.  Under his leadership, customer support was upgraded with the addition of “live chat.” Although he took an unpopular stand defending member rights to ask applicants where else they applied, he willingly changed position once the National Association for College Admission Counseling strengthened its rules against such questions. Mott also oversaw the implementation of a new pricing plan for members based on “level of functionality and service” as opposed to more threatening “exclusivity” agreements.
While moving the organization forward, Mott had to contend with a nagging law suit filed by CollegeNET, the vendor selected to launch the Coalition Application.  In a communication describing pricing for 2016-17, which includes increases for those members not agreeing to multi-year contracts, Mott suggests “these increases will not cover the anticipated expense of the now protracted legal defense against the already twice-dismissed case brought against us by CollegeNET.”

Temporarily taking over as interim executive director will be Chad Massie, who came to the Common App from Hobsons and has served as director of technology. He will continue to work with outside guidance from Censeo.

In the meantime, the Common App board has contracted with the search firm of Witt/Kieffer to “identify candidates for future leadership.” Robin Mamlet, former admissions dean at Stanford, Swarthmore and Sarah Lawrence as well as co-author of a guide to the college admissions process, will be heading the search.

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