As Assistant Director in the Office of Admissions at UNH, Evan Beals passionately believes in reaching out across cultural landscapes, pushing traditional boundaries, and creating a more inclusive environment by helping students find the right fit for their higher education path.
Evan earned his bachelor’s degree at UNH in Sports Studies and Business Administration, and his early career took him to Duke University’s athletics department. But he returned to his UNH roots five years ago, attracted by an opportunity to work on recruiting students outside the region.
Beals travels five to six months of the year recruiting students he believes will bring something positive to UNH. But recruitment and admissions are more than a job; Evan feels compelled to spend time in his students’ communities. Inspired by these experiences, he decided to enhance his understanding of student behavior and cultural diversity by earning his online Masters Degree in Education (MEd) in May 2019. Evan eloquently describes how study and research crystallized his awareness of the differences within our educational system and how they affect student expression and success.
Traveling to Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Illinois, Evan sees firsthand these contrasts. In places like Chicago, he works with some of the best-funded, well-staffed schools in communities not far from some of the most underfunded schools in the country. Beals ponders questions that have challenged generations: “How can we better spread out our resources so that everyone starts from a more level playing field? What would then happen to the achievement gap historically underrepresented students experience?”
To make a point, Beals talks about an inner-city Chicago student who submitted a high school final writing exam in the form of a rap song. Expecting to see a more traditional essay, his teacher gave him a failing grade, overlooking the student’s creative spirit that met the assignment requirements but used a writing form outside the expected format.
Asked how he credibly relates to diverse student populations; Evan holds up his UNH name tag which has a small rainbow ribbon attached. For many, this simple symbol implies that he is a friendly and open-minded touchpoint. “I never go in with a script,” he declares. Avoiding large information sessions, Evan prefers to speak with students one on one. He asks questions about their lives, their experiences, and their dreams when assessing whether they would be a likely candidate for admission to UNH, trying to understand the internal and external obstacles students have overcome. “Every student brings something different to the table”.
“Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds are resilient,” says Beals. “We just need to understand their life experiences and how they can translate to success in college”.
Earning a master’s degree through UNH Online fit in perfectly with Evan’s work and travel schedule but he was surprised when, rather than receiving a bulk of materials to be read and digested before a distant exam, he found himself vested in a student community. Discussion boards with professors and students mirrored a classroom discussion. Weekly web-based meetings provided platforms for questions and information exchange. Instead of speeding ahead or cramming last minute as individual students, the group moved forward as a class in a well-structured format that encouraged collaboration.
He cites the reading list from Professor Elise Hambacher of books that scour deep-reaching educational issues and enthuses about his research project, an eye-opening exploration into the achievement gap between students who originate from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Evan is passionate about student issues and believes in his own positive contribution to the education community. At UNH he is uniquely positioned not only to seek out potential students but also to counsel those denied admission and figure out how they can conquer factors impeding their progress.
The admissions staff has a long-standing tradition of reviewing applications holistically, but now, they are empowered to take a broader look at academic achievements and student potential. Beginning with the Fall 2020 entering first-year class, UNH has made standardized test scores an optional component of the undergraduate student application [except for NCAA Division I recruited athletes].
As Beals mentions, “standardized test scores have long been a barrier for marginalized groups of students.”
The stakes are high. Even during the December holiday break when most university staff is enjoying their time off, Evan and his colleagues continue reviewing student applications.
Beals sums it up nicely when he says, “I like to help students find the key that opens the door offering opportunity… showing them that they have the potential to succeed”.
Which is precisely what education is supposed to do.