Yale Dean Finds a New Haven

Head of admissions plans to emphasize outreach.

September/October 2005

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Yale Dean Finds a New Haven

Photo: Linda A. Cicero

In November 2002, Yale University announced it was scrapping its early decision program and replacing it with a single-choice early-action program. Students could apply to as many schools as they wanted, but could apply early only to one. Part of Yale’s rationale: early decision could hurt economically disadvantaged applicants who needed to compare financial aid offers before selecting a college. Six hours later, Stanford announced it had independently reached the same conclusion.

“That policy is really a reflection of a national concern about access to higher education,” says Richard H. Shaw, who recently became Stanford’s dean of admissions and financial aid after 13 years in that post at Yale. “Any number of university presidents have said that we care deeply about socioeconomic representation—that it’s a big issue and a big challenge. There are still lots of kids who don’t know about the opportunities, and part of the objective for a diverse school is to have the desire to have a beautifully representative class across a lot of dimensions.” At Stanford, 47 percent of undergraduates are students of color and 46 percent receive need-based financial aid.

Shaw, who succeeds Robin Mamlet, sees diversity as a continuing challenge. “Outreach is going to be an area I take a look at,” he says. “One of my hopes is that we will put together some programs that will spread our wings in a much broader way.” Financial aid “will continue to be an important discussion,” he adds; University President John Hennessy announced on March 31 that Stanford would like to eliminate parental contributions for those earning less than $45,000 per year and extend its need-blind policy to international students.

Before Yale, Shaw served as director of admissions at the University of Michigan (1988-1993), as associate director of admissions and records at the University of California-Berkeley (1983-1988) and in various admissions and residence positions at the University of Colorado-Boulder (1972-1981). He earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth and a master’s degree in college student personnel, guidance and counseling from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Shaw’s wife, Delphine Red Shirt, and his two younger children, Megan and Kirsten, will live in Tucson, Ariz., while Red Shirt completes a doctoral program in Native American studies at the University of Arizona. The author of two books about her experience as a member of the Oglala Lakota nation, Red Shirt was an adviser to Native American students at Yale, and has taught American studies and English at Yale and at Connecticut College. The couple’s grown son, Justin, lives in Connecticut.

On his own at Stanford, Shaw is preparing for Big Game week. A friend of former admissions deans Jim Montoya, ’75, MA ’78, and Fred Hargadon, he is aware of the unwritten theatrical expectations of his office. “If I have to come with talent, I’m in trouble,” he says about his impending participation in Gaieties. “But I’ll do the best I can.”

As for Shaw’s history as a Cal administrator? “I’m doing the best I can to defray concerns,” he says. “Some think I’m a spy, but I will convince them that I’m ready to steal the bear, or whatever they want me to do. And I’ll wear Cardinal colors.”

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