Heather Daniels chosen as new director of admissions for CSU

Samantha Ye

heather daniels portrait photo
New Director of Admissions, Heather Daniels said she feels honored to be chosen for this role. (Natalie Dyer | Collegian)

Heather Daniels is living the dream — or working it, to be more precise.

This school year, Daniels was officially named the director of admissions for Colorado State University.

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“For me, becoming the director of admissions was always this career goal … and I don’t know what there is beyond that,” Daniels said. “I feel really lucky that I’m at that point now in my career that I’ve gotten to a position that I am most excited about and at a place that I love, which is CSU.”

The director role is mainly a leadership role to coordinate the many components of CSU admissions, Daniels said. 

The admissions office is composed of over 50 employees in four units: processing, recruitment and outreach, marketing and communications, and system operations, Daniels said. All four units work in conjunction to deliver consistent messaging to students — ranging from middle schoolers to graduate students — and help them get through application processes smoothly.

“It’s a big team that does a lot of work and I think that my primary focus and responsibility is to provide leadership to this great team, to continue doing the work we have successfully been doing for the last years,” Daniels said.

Danielle Keller, assistant director of campus-based counseling, wrote in an email to The Collegian that having Daniels in the director role feels like a continuation of former director Melissa Trifiletti’s vision. Trifiletti was able to mentor Daniels before passing away from cancer in August 2017.

Daniels was chosen as co-interim director along with Christine Campbell in May 2017, after Trifiletti was promoted to vice president of enrollment and access.

It was supposed to be a short-term role, just over the summer, but it lasted over a year.

The 2017-2018 search for a new director yielded no results. Daniels worked as co-interim director from 2017 through the following school year, ushering in this year’s freshman class of 5,432, the largest freshman class CSU has admitted. 

“When it was time for the search to open back up again, I had to apply,” Daniels said.

Daniels has worked in college admissions for 16 years and at CSU Admissions since 2013. While her previous experience had mainly been working with prospective students, Daniels said she started with overseeing application processing when she first came to CSU. This shift allowed her to gain insight into the operational workings of the admissions process.

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Daniels said a major department reorganization kickstarted her opportunity to move beyond the processing division, as she quickly accumulated more and more responsibilities. Daniels’ has traveled and managed her own recruitment territory within Colorado, overseen admissions decisions, and after a couple of years, was promoted to senior associate director.

Although she had the necessary experience to apply during the first director search, Daniels said it was only after serving as co-interim director that she gained the necessary confidence in both herself and the skill set to know she was ready for the job.

Keller described Daniels as the “most genuine ‘boss’” she has ever had.  

“It takes about (five) minutes of spending time with Heather to see her passion for admissions, for students and for her team,” Keller wrote. “She has an uncanny ability to make you feel like you are the only person she is concerned about, even when you know she has about a million other things on her plate.”

Ruben Nuñez, assistant director of visitor services and supervisor of the Admissions Ambassador program, echoed those thoughts in an email to The Collegian.

“She is always wanting to make the decision that will have the best impact (on) students,” Nuñez wrote. “To be honest, I feel that is her greatest strength, students’ success is and always will be her main priority in whatever role she holds.”

Nuñez wrote that, in the past year, the admissions office has dealt with some serious incidents such as the campus tour incident in which the police were called on two Native American men touring CSU. Throughout this whole time, Daniels remained not just supportive, but empathetic and aware of how this was impacting Nunez outside his role.

“Moving forward, I do see her giving some more insight into the offerings through Visitor Services, and I can already see her increase of engagement for wanting to connect with my students,” Nuñez wrote.

I want to make sure that we stay true to our mission as a land-grant institution in providing access to higher education, especially for our Coloradoans,”-Heather Daniels, director of admissions

CSU has increased the freshman class size every year for the last five years, with an annual goal of a 1-2 percent increase. Daniels said admissions works closely with higher administration goals in setting freshman class projections to meet long-term goals of increasing enrollment.

“It feels great to have met and exceeded our goals,” Daniels wrote in an email to The Collegian. “However, we realize the stress that enrolling so many freshman students has on the campus.”

Larger class sizes put around 100 students into overflow housing earlier this semester

Admissions coordinates with other departments and services on campus to ensure the growth of CSU is well-handled, Daniels said. As previously reported in The Collegian, one such plan to address the growth of CSU’s admitted population is by constructing a 1,400-bed residence hall named Meridian Village, scheduled to open in 2021.

It’s not just about continuing the momentum. Although she has only been director for about a month, Daniels said she is looking forward as far as 2025.

Statistical forecasting from outside sources such as the Hechinger Report and CSU analysts has predicted a significant drop in college student enrollment starting in 2025, aligning with the drop in birth rate caused by the financial crisis 18 years prior.

Admissions is preparing for this dip to ensure CSU gets their “fair slice of the pie” when the prospective student population drops, Daniels said.

Daniels said it is also important to her to grow the native Coloradoan population at CSU because, while 63 percent of students are currently from the Centennial State, colleges are seeing a significant number going out of state.

“I want to make sure that we stay true to our mission as a land-grant institution in providing access to higher education, especially for our Coloradoans,” Daniels said.

Most of all, Daniels said she is thrilled and ready to devote her abilities to the place she considers home.

“I’m honored to be chosen for this position,” Daniels said. “I want to continue doing great work that we’ve done but also see what else there can be done and work with this team to do those things.”

Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.