A sideways look at how to haul in the student catch

December 4, 2008

Crab fishing and university admissions work may sound like strange bedfellows, but for one senior administrator in the US there are countless similarities.

Kent Barnds, vice-president of enrolment at Augustana College in Illinois, made the connection while watching the Discovery Channel documentary series Deadliest Catch, which follows fishermen during the dangerous crab season in the Bering Sea.

Writing for InsideHigherEd.com, he said similarities between the professions included the truth that, too many or too few, hauling in the wrong numbers of crabs or students was bad for business.

Fishermen may feel anxious while pulling in their pots, but admissions staff have similar fears when waiting to see whether students have enrolled.

Both professions are watched closely by "voyeurs", Mr Barnds said, with "countless people offering advice about what could be done differently".

Other parallels include the truth that "dirty work is not glamorous, but very necessary", whether it is baiting crab pots or long evenings of administrative work.

"You can't make a class without doing the travel, making the phone calls and reading the files," he said.

For both fisherman and admissions officer, an overreliance on technology is to be avoided, last year's strategies rarely work as well a second time, and "luck is preferable to being good".

Mr Barnds said: "Everything depends on strategy. Have you searched for the right kids, have the right kids applied, have you offered enough financial aid?"

He added: "Although I don't know that many admissions officers would make good crab-boat captains, I am certain that crab-boat captains have what it takes to be successful admissions officers.

"If you are seeking a new vice-president for admissions, you might want to look to the crab boats for someone with backbone and good humour. But if you do, be ready for a more colourful language at meetings and colleagues who do not suffer fools as we often do in higher education."

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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