Recruiting Next Generation Leaders

November 29, 2021
UR's first director of admission for diversity outreach and partnerships Michael Pina builds new connections

"Our students are part of some hard conversations, and we are being transparent about that and telling high school students that you get the chance to be part of solutions and to think about difficult world problems. I think it excites them. And that's what I've seen on the road this this year." 

Michael Pina, UR’s first director of admission for diversity outreach and partnerships, began his high school visits here in Richmond. He connected with teachers and students at CodeRVA Regional High School and Richmond Public Schools and hosted a writing workshop at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School. He met students who will be drawn to other universities and students who will thrive at UR.

"There are some students that really want to engage with difficult concepts and challenges in computer science and technology," Pina said. "They want to be close to home. They want a place that's going to support them. And I don't know of any place in the country that supports their students better than we do."

Pina has also been reaching out to students and administrators affiliated with the Harlem Children's Zone. Some administrators were initially surprised to hear from the University of Richmond, but quickly began collaborating through virtual calls.

"We have an immense opportunity to have that hands-on touch, but to also benefit from what we built in the virtual world,” Pina said. "We're not traveling internationally this fall, but we've been all over the world at some ungodly hours in the morning, because we still need to meet the students where they are."

Although Pina has been in his role at Richmond for only five months, he’s known the University for a long time as a college counselor.

"It was clear to me that this was a school that was on the move, and I saw a real opportunity to actually direct students to examine this as an option," Pina said. "The University of Richmond was right for a lot of people. There are immense resources with a mission to make a difference in people's lives. This is a different place than the one that I saw back in the 1990s when I was working for another college."

Making a difference in people’s lives is at the root of Pina’s calling to work with students. His first two jobs were with technology companies before he began his career in admission. He pursued a law degree and volunteered with students while practicing before returning to counseling at various national independent schools, including tenure as director of college guidance at Greens Farms Academy in Connecticut. He was drawn to Richmond for many reasons.

"When this opportunity came up, it really touched on all the things that I think are really important in admission," Pina said. "There's humanity and empathy in the admission process. We read holistically. There's the opportunity to look at not just our primary markets to fill the class. We can fill the class in primary markets, but we really look globally to recruit a talented and diverse student body that includes first generation, low-income students, and international students. Because we meet full need for all our students, we can be choosy and take folks that we want. We know that every student we enroll will be supported, and there will be financial investment so that they can have the total Richmond experience, regardless of their socioeconomic status. We're really recruiting students that will be the leaders in the next generation."

The recruitment process, according to Pina, must involve the entire campus, and it’s critical to give an authentic picture of Richmond to prospective students and families.

"Sometimes it's not in the most organized fashion, for more insight can come from organic encounters," Pina said. "I can be walking across Tyler Haynes Commons and see a professor or an administrator that I know, and I see a family and I just connect them. Because if a question needs to be answered, there's nothing more authentic than saying, ‘Hey, you had that question? I think this person can answer it.’ And I have no fear because I feel like people love being a part of this University. And they're going to tell the truth. And that truth is what's going to make us shine the most in the world."

When Pina’s not hosting campus tours, traveling, or signing on to Zoom, he looks for students who he counselled in high schools on the soccer field or in the halls, because he believes that supporting students beyond the admission process is critical to their success.

"For a diverse student population here, I think it has to be a total community effort, and it doesn't stop when we recruited and even enrolled them," Pina said. "This is a place that while we know you'll get a great education, you can get that a lot of places, but you're not going to get a place that's going to care for you or make a stronger effort to create that sense of belonging. And we must do that at every step. We can't just talk the talk. We have to continue to walk the walk."