"Admissions Legend" Robert Massa Retires After 45 Years in Higher Ed

February 8, 2019

Drew University’s Senior VP of Enrollment and Institutional Planning, Dr. Robert Massa, is retiring after a 45-year career in higher education. At Drew, he oversees undergrad and grad admissions, financial aid, institutional research and athletics. Most of his work is done at the planning and implementation levels, helping students find their way to Drew.

 COURTESY OF ROBERT MASSA

 

Massa did his undergraduate and masters studies in psychology at the University of Rochester. His plan was to be a school psychologist, but after an internship in a school counseling center fell through he wound up interning at the admissions office and discovered his true calling.

 

“My work in admissions has been framed by a passion for helping well qualified students, particularly those from modest financial means, to find a great collegiate match,” Massa said. “The most rewarding experiences I have had have been with students who never dreamed of attending a great private college and were able to do so with our help.”

 

After completing his doctoral degree in higher education at Columbia University, Massa worked in the financial aid or admissions departments at several liberal arts colleges before arriving at Drew. “I knew President Baenninger professionally prior to agreeing to serve as her enrollment consultant,” Massa stated. In February of 2015, Massa accepted a three-year appointment as Senior Vice President. However, due to the tuition reset implementation plan in 2018, Massa agreed to extend his contract for another year.

 

“He has an uncanny, almanac-like knowledge of admissions such that he is able to cite numbers and statistics extemporaneously during faculty and committee meetings,” said Christopher Andrews, an Associate Professor in the Sociology Department that has worked closely with Massa. Andrews was most impressed by Massa’s willingness to put off his retirement to come to Drew and help at a time when it faced declining enrollments and increasing budget deficits. “He took a risk - he'd say a "challenge" - when he came here,” continued Andrews. “Today, enrollments are up and we're financially heading in the right direction, thanks in part to [Massa]'s efforts.”

 

Because Massa’s trajectory consists mostly of liberal arts colleges, he understands Drew’s situation from a different perspective. “This is a very challenging time for small liberal arts colleges,” Massa said. “I believe Drew, with its financial challenges, is positioning itself well to not only survive but to thrive in the '20s.” Massa described liberal arts colleges as “distinctly American institutions” that challenge undergraduate students to connect the dots among disciplines, think critically and to see connections where others don’t. “Liberal arts colleges are the backbone of American higher education at the undergraduate level,” he affirmed.

 

Massa said his greatest joy at Drew is working with extraordinary colleagues and an engaged and motivated group of students. Heather Robinson, the Director of Campus Experience, has been working with Massa since she joined Drew. “[Massa] is an admissions legend in higher education,” Robinson said. “He has taught me so much these last four years but most importantly, he has shown me the importance of listening, working hard and caring deeply about the impact we all have on the students who come through the doors of Wesley House every day.”

 

Even though his title as Senior VP of Enrollment and Institutional Planning may not suggest it, one of the unique aspects of Massa’s position places responsibility with him in working directly with the Athletics Department at Drew. Christa Racine, Director of Athletics, therefore, reports directly to Massa as she handles the day to day running of the department. Regarding Massa’s retirement Racine said, “In the short year and a half that I have spent working directly with Bob, he has helped me develop professionally to better serve our student athletes and Drew community. His knowledge, commitment to success, and passion, have been an inspiration to me and it is evident that he has had a tremendous and positive impact on Drew.”

 

Another one of Massa’s colleagues, Jim Skiff, the Executive Director of Admissions said, “It has been a true privilege working with and learning from one of the most respected spokespersons in higher education for the past four decades.” Sunita Bhargava, Director of Transfer and Continuing Education, added, “His knowledge of the enrollment management arena is vast. It has been an honor to serve as a member of Dr. Massa's team.”

 

Massa will be missed at Drew University, however, he has grand plans for retiring. He will be teaching an online summer course in higher education marketing for the University of Southern California starting in May. After that, he has several plans to do part-time consulting, volunteer work at a community college to help students find the right transfer institution, serve on one or two educational boards and “finding more time to ride [his] bike on the great bike paths we have in New Jersey.”

 

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