October 7, 2014
Recently, David Zutautas, assistant director of Student Recruitment, Enrolment Services, was the first Canadian to receive the Distinguished Service Award given by Overseas Association for College Admission Counselling (OACAC).
“David’s accomplishments and recognition are a testament to his commitment to the international community including students, their families and counsellors who provide invaluable support,” said Ken Withers, director of University Student Recruitment at U of T. “He has provided tremendous leadership in international recruitment across the divisions at the University.”
The OACAC membership is made up of over 2,000 professionals from more than 90 countries worldwide dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing post-secondary education.
Zutautas was recognized for his outstanding contribution to the association over the past 15 years and for setting the standard for customer service to school personnel, applicants and their families.
The Bulletin caught up with Zutautas to ask him about this award, his career at U of T and what advice he has for other U of T employees just beginning their careers at the university.
When did you join U of T?
I started as a student in 1986 at Victoria College. I worked at the college until I completed my bachelor’s degree in 1990. In 1991, I joined the Financial Aid office.
In 1997, when the Office of Student Recruitment was created I moved from Admissions and Awards to Recruitment. I started as a Recruitment Councillor and was promoted to Sr. Recruitment officer and now I’m the Assistant Director of Recruitment.
Tell us a bit about your career trajectory i.e., how did you get from your first position to your current one?
I didn’t really have a career trajectory in mind. I liked what I was doing, so I kept on doing it and the opportunities came as I went along. I really evolved into my current role based on my experiences doing front desk service as an undergraduate.
I was also very fortunate to have excellent mentors. My colleagues in financial aid, the admissions office and student recruitment had a lot of experience working at U of T and they were very supportive.
Also, as part of my role I attend professional conferences and I am involved in various professional organizations, for example OACAC and the National Association for College Admission Counseling. So, a lot of my professional development happens off campus which I bring back and share with my colleagues.
What is student recruitment?
We advise students about their options so that they can make informed decisions about their post-secondary education. Ultimately, we want the students who come to U of T to be successful; we want them to have the best information about the University.
As representatives of the entire University, we are constantly learning about programs on all three campuses and keep current with what future students expect. We also build relationships with high school counselors and meet with future university students and their parents. Annually, we see more than 30,000 people through the Nona MacDonald Visitors Centre, and the undergraduate recruiters across all three campuses will talk to more than 100, 000 people through high school visits and at university fairs.
There is also a sales element to recruitment. U of T competes with other excellent institutions for the same students, so our office has to provide accurate advice and make that advice sound enticing at the same time. If you’re not constantly learning about who your competitors are, what they are doing, the best practices in the field and what students are interested in, then you can’t do the job effectively.
What don’t people know about recruiting?
The scope and complexity of the University is something I think people don’t appreciate enough. There are so many different points of entry and so many different options for students which is a great benefit because they can do what they want. Our student retention and success rates are far above many universities in North America, not just Canada. In the 2013 Global Employability University Ranking U of T graduates are ranked 14th out of 150 for employability.
There is also a certain amount of audience education involved. For example, there is an assumption that we’re U of T so naturally, people want to come here. However, the post-secondary market is a very noisy market and some regions are not aware of Toronto beyond the Blue Jays or Raptors; and when we make recruitment presentations we have to take these perceptions into consideration.
Often, we spend a significant portion of our presentation time introducing an audience of high school students to the city of Toronto.
Travel is not that sexy. We each visit more than 100 schools per year; sometimes having as many as 20 visits in a week. Spending 40 to 50 hours a week in a car, being away from family, is taxing.
What is about U of T that makes it a place where people want to come build careers?
For me, it has been a great place for on the job training because I had a lot of mentors. U of T is also a place that encourages and appreciates professional development, and it offers the flexibility to become involved in professional organizations. My advice would simply be to step up and get involved. You can’t learn if you aren’t present and the extra effort can be a lot of fun.
Article by Kelly Rankin, with files from Liz Dunlop.