A Conversation with Sadia Khan
| by Jason Warburg
Admissions Director Sadia Khan has lived in her native Pakistan, Germany, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and the United States and considers herself a true citizen of the world. Since Khan arrived at the Institute in 2015, she and her team have reviewed and revamped the admissions process. We asked her to share six things you might not know about the admissions process.
The main goal of the Admissions Office is to make sure those admitted will get maximum benefit from the investment they’re making in graduate school. We are the gatekeepers. That means our office is always working closely with faculty to identify candidates who are going to do well in our programs. We’re not here to put roadblocks in their path; we’re here to ensure that they have a high likelihood of succeeding at the Institute and feeling good about their investment of time, effort, and money.
Khan and her team have thoroughly reviewed and fine-tuned the admissions process. My goal over the past four years has been to build a very efficient, fair, and standardized admissions process that takes a holistic approach to reviewing each candidate. We look at their undergraduate transcripts, professional experience, internship opportunities, language skills, international experience, and more. We set up admission committees to make sure we’re assessing everyone in the same manner. We introduced the interview process and made changes to the way the language plan and language skills test are reviewed.
One key addition to the admissions process is scoring all applicants on a standard rubric, which staff then test against outcomes. We’ve worked with faculty and staff to develop an extensive rubric that we use to try to identify ideal candidates. We rate elements of each application and record all of this data. After a student graduates, we go back and look at their initial rubric score and how well they did in the program to make sure we are making the best decisions we can for both the applicants and the school.
Interviews—typically conducted over video chat—are now an integral part of the Institute’s admissions process. As part of our assessment process, we interview every single eligible candidate, looking in particular at their professionalism and employability. Assistant Director Isabelle Dubrana and I usually conduct eight to 10 interviews a day, each running 30–45 minutes, depending on the number of questions the candidates have for us.
Admissions interviews don’t always go according to plan. I’ve interviewed people who have never used Skype, or are using it from their phone, and they don’t realize all I can see on my screen is part of their eye or nose. One applicant who was doing Peace Corps did her interview outside, and because of the mosquitoes she kept slapping herself all through the interview.
Admissions staff love their jobs! The other day I interviewed five candidates—from Pakistan, Madagascar, Burma, Ghana, and Russia—and I did them all sitting in my office here in Monterey. And when students write back after they’ve graduated and say, “Thank you for helping me really understand what I was looking for, and for believing in me,” that’s the absolute best part of my job.
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