Kelly Murray’s Excellent Adventure: Around the World With The New School Admissions

Parsons Admissions makes a stop at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, after a portfolio review session in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Kelly Murray and Morgan Ersery.

In the most recent U.S News and World Report college rankings, The New School is listed as the university with the most international student body in the nation, with 25 percent of the degree-seeking undergraduate population coming from outside the United States. So how does The New School manage to attract students from all around the world? It’s through the efforts of The New School’s admissions team traveling the globe to meet with prospective students, no matter where they might be. Eager to hear about their international adventures, the News asked Kelly Murray, assistant director of International Recruitment and Outreach for Parsons The New School for Design, for a peek inside her life on the road.

New School News: Can you describe a typical recruitment trip?

Kelly Murray: I’m in a place 6,000 miles from home, with a 12-hour time difference, after a 14-hour flight and I am meeting with hundreds of ecstatic, hopeful Parsons prospects.

NSN: Do people often think you’re a jet-setter?

KM: My friends and family think my job is just one glamorous globe-trotting experience after another. But when you visit four countries in two weeks, it’s imperative to stay focused and to keep a few things in mind. I focus on what appropriate etiquette is in this culture, what these students are looking for in an institute of higher education, and what is expected of me as an ambassador for The New School.

NS: What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had while traveling as a Parsons recruiter?

KM: I was in Busan, South Korea, visiting Beomeosa, a 1,334-year-old Buddhist temple, on a day off. I took a detour onto what I thought was a small scenic trail in the surrounding forest which, unbeknownst to me, was a legitimate mountain hike. About an hour into my adventure, I ran into a small elderly man in full hiking gear. Sensing I was in over my head, probably from my moccasins, he insisted on showing me the way out while speaking rapidly to me in Korean, pointing excitedly to every tree and hermitage, clearly not understanding me, although once or twice he exclaimed, Number one!, Eventually he led me to a path back to the main road, but not before pointing at my shoes and the slippery rocks I had to scale with a look of reproach. I tried to convey to him I’d be more careful.

NSN: What sorts of events and information sessions does Parsons hold internationally?

KM: During the first few months of the academic year, the Parsons admissions team travels both nationally and internationally to meet with prospective students. We attend college fairs, visit art classes and spend countless hours performing portfolio reviews.

Within the United States, attending Portfolio Review Days is an important step for future art and design applicants. But international students do not always have the luxury of a readily available assemblage of art school representatives for advice and constructive criticism. While abroad, we reach out to high schools and portfolio preparatory centers to aid these students in the admissions process.

NSN: What about students who have the design chops but are still learning English?

KM: Our job often includes advising students of the requirements for English language proficiency. English is of course the language of instruction here at The New School, but for students with lower ESL proficiency scores, we discuss options such as The New School’s ESL + Design, a pre-enrollment program that helps students hone their language skills and develop foundational skills in art and design.

NSN: How else do you reach out to potential Parsons students around the world?

KM: Our work continues well after the fall traveling season. We attend virtual fairs at 2:00 a.m. to chat with students in Africa and are active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Ning. Our WordPress and Tumblr are constantly updated to document our many travels.

NS: How do you handle the extensive traveling?

KM: More often than not, I catch myself continuing to bow or reply Xie xie, to a confused Starbucks barista after a long trip. But for all the flying and jet lag, the students we meet on the road are truly inspiring. Seeing students’ faces light up as they realize that there is a place in the world for their passion and talent, where their convictions and beliefs are encouraged, is a major motivation. But the real advantage of having a strong international population at The New School is the benefit to our whole student body and community.

NS: Why do you think it is so important for The New School to recruit international students?

KM: The digital age calls for creative industry leaders to collaborate on a global scale. How better to create an international community of artists and innovators than to reach out to all corners of our world? The New School was founded with the goal of preparing and inspiring world citizens, individuals whose ideas and innovations forge new paths of progress in the arts, design, humanities, public policy, and the social sciences., Our students, both domestic and international, gain invaluable knowledge, not just in the studio, but also from one another’s unique personal and cultural experiences.