UMSL welcomes Dixie Williams as director of admissions
As an undergraduate at Missouri Western State University, Dixie Williams was absorbed in student life.
Some days she would run from her on-campus job to a sorority meeting and then end the evening by working on student government initiatives. She deeply enjoyed the collegiate experience and didn’t want to leave the university setting.
So she hasn’t.
In her career, Williams has made stops on campuses across the state, including Missouri Southern State University, Missouri State University and back to MWSU in Saint Joseph. She’s now navigating a new landscape at the University of Missouri–St. Louis as the director of admissions.
“I’m really excited to be a part of the University of Missouri–St. Louis,” said Williams, who started her position Feb. 4. “We have an excellent team in admissions and enrollment management that does great work to be the first resource for students. We work every day to ensure that the students who want to be here have that opportunity.”
UMSL Daily recently spoke with Williams about her new role and passion for higher education.
Why are you passionate about working in higher ed?
I, like many students, was very engaged in college. I loved my student experience, but when it came time to graduate, I was not super interested in my degree field.
I tried to figure out what I liked, and I liked being involved on a college campus. Little did I know – even though I saw people every day who worked in higher ed – that it was a career option. Someone said, “You could do this for a living.” It just sparked my interest at that point. I love the excitement, the ever-changing world of higher education and the different options that students have.
What interested you in the position at UMSL?
My goal in higher education and admissions was to be a director of admissions. By taking the job at UMSL, I’ve reached that goal. It was the perfect storm for me. UMSL is unique because of where it’s located and because of the opportunities that it provides to all students. UMSL is in a vibrant community. St. Louis can’t get any more vibrant in my opinion, particularly in the Midwest. It’s also not your traditional large school where the average age of a student is 19. One of my passions is providing access to education for all who want it. At UMSL, I can really explore that passion.
The day I interviewed I also felt really connected to the people I met. The campus community is excited right now. I think we are in a time of growth and a time of opportunity. I could feel that when I was on campus. My family is also from this area, so it’s a benefit for me to be near my parents and brothers and get to raise my children in those conditions. Everything lined up, which makes it a perfect fit for me.
What are some of your goals for your first year here?
In admissions, our goal is always to increase the number of students coming to a university. That’s my initial goal, but we must do that strategically. Our goal is to make sure students first choose UMSL, want to stay here and then persist to graduation.
I also have a young recruitment staff. I’m excited to help them identify if higher education is the career path for them and help shape their futures.
You’re only two months in, but what have you learned about UMSL during that time?
Probably the biggest thing I have learned about this campus is that the people here genuinely care about student success. Conversations happen on that topic every day, and I don’t know if that exists everywhere in higher education. We really approach decisions with student success in mind.
I wish that I could get every student who considers UMSL to understand the kind of care they would get as a student here. Even though we are a middle-to-large-size institution, somebody is working toward your success with you. I feel like we are hidden almost – hidden in plain sight. We are right here, but not everybody knows about us or has experienced what UMSL can do for them. My job is for students to know about us, so I’m going to work on that and make sure that students really consider what UMSL can provide to them now and after they’ve earned their degrees.
How can UMSL improve its visibility?
I think we’re already doing a lot of that with strategic marketing. We just need to make sure we are in the right places and talking to the right people about how the University of Missouri–St. Louis is a place where students can achieve great things and that 100,000 have gone on before them to do it. It’s tested, tried and true.
Why should prospective students choose UMSL?
I have been at several institutions in the state, and this is a place where you can really connect, you can really find the support you need to be successful – even with 17,000 other students.
More than 100,000 alumni have paved a way for students at UMSL. There are opportunities that you can’t find at other institutions, particularly through our internship programs. Many corporations and companies are invested in UMSL, so students have lots of options. We’re also adding programs, so that’s a sign of growth and progression. It’s a good place to be.
With recent news about widespread fraud and bribery in college admissions, how can universities nationwide improve integrity in the admissions process?
I think it starts with transparency in admissions. You can tell before you even apply to UMSL if you are admissible or not. There is no need to ask someone for a special favor. I think it’s also creating a culture of integrity and holding not only ourselves accountable but also families and those who are interested in higher education. I think we do it very well here at UMSL.
Are there changes you would like to make to UMSL’s admissions process?
I don’t think I’ve had enough time to identify those yet. It could just be shoring-up processes, being as efficient as possible and providing decisions to students in a timely manner. That will help students make the best decisions for themselves, which I of course think is UMSL. But we are partners in the process, and I want to make sure we are holding up our end.
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