Compass Club

Chelsea-BrodheadWhen Chelsea Brodhead ’13 got word that Paul Smith’s was looking for people to sing the praises of the College of the Adirondacks to prospective students, she was all over it.

“As a recent graduate, I obviously can’t give huge amounts of money,” says Brodhead, who is now an event planner at Sky Armory in Syracuse. “I think this is a great opportunity for anybody to get involved because you can go out and actually talk to people and tell them about your experience instead of just giving money.”

Chelsea is one of the first members of Compass Club, an initiative that is looking to link eager alums, friends and others with ties to Paul Smith’s with high schoolers on the college hunt.

Keith Braun, the college’s assistant director of admissions, says the club has been a great way to harness the energy of people who want to help the college with a program that addresses an immediate goal: Boosting enrollment. “Now we’ve added more than 50 people to our team,” Braun says.

That kind of reinforcement is a big help. The college’s team of six admissions representatives spends months on the road every year, getting to as many as 100 high schools each. If they land one student every other visit, that’s 300 students—still not enough students to field a full incoming class, Braun points out.

Word-of-mouth has always been one of the most effective ways for Paul Smith’s to market itself. This year, a third of incoming students had contact with a Smitty before enrolling. Compass Club, Braun says, is a way to ensure eager-to-help volunteers have the latest marketing materials and the most up-to-date information while they make their pitches.

Steve-SchifleySteve Schifley, the director of sales at the Albany (N.Y.) Marriott, says he wants to steer good students interested in the hotel business to the college.  “I’ve always been a big supporter of Paul Smith’s. I thought they gave me a really good foundation for my career,” he says.

He recently spoke at a career day at his daughter’s school, leaving behind materials for interested students. What he can tell those students is that Paul Smith’s will not only give them hands-on experience but also imbue a solid work ethic. “If we’re looking for positions and I see somebody from Paul Smith’s, they go to the top of the pile because you know what they’re coming from,” he says.

The extra feet on the ground are especially welcome at a time when the college is trying to attract students from a larger geographic area than it typically has. While most Compass Club members are from New York state and the Northeast—where most Paul Smith’s students are from—Braun says that some have checked in from the Midwest, and far-off places including Kentucky and North Carolina.

And if you live in a place where locals really get into their outdoor activities and enjoy a high quality of life—think Boulder, Colo., or Asheville, N.C.—don’t be surprised if the Compass Club comes calling. Places like that could be fertile ground to find students who would take well to the Adirondacks, and the college hopes to penetrate those and other similar markets.

Brodhead, who came to Paul Smith’s as a transfer student, says she felt embraced instantly by campus even though she wound up on crutches shortly after she arrived in the middle of an Adirondack winter. “I had such an amazing experience there,” she says. “It’s really like my second home. They’re like my family. So I just like having the opportunity to, you know, go out and have prospective students hear all about it and about my experience there.”

For more information about joining Compass Club, contact Keith Braun at