ALEX POSECZNICK, then a student at Columbia University, New York, New York, received funding in April 2008 to aid research on Recruiting through Open Doors: On the (Im-)Possibility of College Admission in America,' supervised by Dr. Herve Varenne. This project examined the ways that college policies, practices, and talk about college admission shapes the admission at a non-elite post-secondary institution. Although elite universities are clearly involved in the construction of meritocracy, this research examined how it is mediated through neoliberal bureaucracies at all levels of life in America. Having survived a series of enrollment 'crises' that led to the layoffs of over 100 staff, the college in which this research took place was instructive in the examination of enrollment trends in competitive landscapes. The grantee spent twelve months in participant observation in recruitment, open houses, interviewing, application reviews, marketing meetings, and event management at a small, non-elite, private college's Office of Admission, and drew upon archival and visual methods in the analysis of nearly 3500 pages of documents. The grantee interviewed great numbers of informants, including Admission staff, executives, Board members, faculty, Deans, program directors, and stakeholders about the many and various interpretations of the college, its history, and its current state. Ethnographic examination of an office of admission demonstrated the ways that massive and powerful bureaucracies, policies, and institutions hegemonically interpret, evaluate, and act upon persons in America, producing and reproducing measurable differences that reinforce neoliberal, meritocratic models of the individual. The research emphasized the complex and contested understandings of students and bureaucratic processes. As the students at the college in which this research took place were overwhelmingly people of color, this study further reveals how kinds of diversity were displayed in order to be meaningful to a bureaucracy and with what consequences.
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Posecznick, Alex, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Recruiting Through Open Doors: On the (Im-)Possibility of College Admission in America,' supervised by Dr. Herve Varenne