Mary Beth Marks and Robert Hogeda Make their Mark on the Southwest Region
Mary Beth Marks and Robert Hogeda Make their Mark on the Southwest RegionAbby Hexter, Associate Director, Member Communications
Separately, Mary Beth Marks is the assistant vice president for enrollment management at Sul Ross State University, and Robert Hogeda Jr. is the educational manager for Higher Education in the Southwestern Regional Office of the College Board. Together, they’re a dream team that is quietly shaping the future of the Southwestern Region. Intrigued? So were we. All Access chatted with Robert and Mary Beth to see what exactly makes their working relationship so special, and why it’s good for Sul Ross State, the College Board and, most important, students.
All Access: First, talk a bit about your day job.
Mary Beth Marks: A basic day for me is talking to recruiters, looking at enrollment trends, finding prospective students, setting up communications campaigns, and working with other university stakeholders to set goals.
Robert Hogeda: My daily routine is anything but routine — I think of myself as a dream enabler.
AA: That sounds like the best job ever. Can you expand on that a bit?
RH: My goal is to match up students who want to pursue postsecondary education with colleges and universities that meet their needs.
AA: Mary Beth, how often do you interact with the College Board in general?
MBM: I didn’t really interact with the College Board until I met Robert at a TACRAO conference. We didn’t know anything about each other. We just had to meet in the crowd, blind.
RH: It was cryptic — we agreed to “meet in the hallway.” I knew she was a woman; that was about it.
MBM: At the time, Sul Ross really wasn’t doing any prospecting with the College Board, so the vice president set it up for me to meet with Robert, and I got the chance to ask him questions about trends and tips on recruitment.
From there we had some phone calls about recruiting strategies. Robert gave me feedback. It wasn’t just prospective name buying, but more about getting his expertise on what would work for Sul Ross because I wasn’t familiar with this type of recruitment.
AA: And that’s how you got involved on the Southwestern Regional Council?
MBM: Not really. First I was nominated — by Robert — for the College Board Enrollment Leadership Academy. That year I met with reps from the College Board at least once a quarter, did College Board webinars, and attended the College Board Forum. I approached Robert about how I could get involved with the regional council, and he helped with that process. I interacted with regional members at the Forum to enhance my prospects for being nominated.
In March, Robert came out to do presentations for our staff and regional high school counselors.
RH: It was a Redesigned SAT®/PSAT/NMSQT® workshop — the first collaboration between
K–12 and higher ed in the region regarding the rSAT. It turned out really well. The rural high school counselors and university TRIO staff who attended reacted very positively to the enhancements for the exams. The turnout at the workshop was remarkable in and of itself because the morning of the event there was an ice storm, so many districts opened late. Yet most everyone still drove in, some from as far as 3 hours away. We only had three school districts not participate out of 10.
AA: What were the results of that meeting? What did you learn?
RH: We got really wonderful questions, many indicating a renewed interest in the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT. Mary Beth sincerely cared about making sure the high schools were informed, and we’re looking to do more of these events to truly promote our initiatives in that rural area.
MBM: From my perspective, having the College Board come out and talk to counselors. — getting their buy-in — was really important. The Khan Academy test-prep information was great, as was getting the counselors to talk to College Board representatives.
AA: Mary Beth, did this meeting change the nature of your relationship with Robert?
MBM: I feel now like I can contact anybody, but I always start with Robert because he’s not just College Board, he’s my friend. That was sweet, wasn’t it?
RH: It was. It’s a genuine relationship that I believe really fosters itself because we bounce ideas off each other, and we can be frank with each other if the situation requires that. Mary Beth holds her own in meetings with regional council members and senior staff, so she’s able to speak up for her institution.
This is one of the reasons I nominated her for the regional council; she’s not just going to be an attendee, she’s an active participant, which is what we need — folks that are going to make a change for the better, not just a “yes” person. Mary Beth is definitely the former.
MBM: That’s a nice way of putting it — he tells me I’m bossy. It’s interesting: If the College Board hadn’t been talking about redesigning the SAT, I probably wouldn’t be as interested. I don’t know that the current test appropriately represents our students, who are first generation, low income, ESL. That was my impression. The redesign of the SAT really seems geared to help our students succeed. Whether these students pick Sul Ross or not, I want these students to be set up for success, and I think the College Board is doing work to make that happen.
AA: Is there any specific work — besides the redesign of the SAT — that you plan to focus on as part of the regional council?
MBM: The biggest thing I’m really impressed with is Khan Academy. Besides admission and recruiting, I have three TRIO grants that I supervise. Part of the goal for those grants is to get students test-ready. Now that they have the option of Khan Academy for test prep, it will make a really big difference.
RH: What was really enlightening to me and Joshua [Romberg — Robert’s K–12 counterpart] after our presentation, as we took questions and comments from Mary Beth’s staff, was that some folks talked about using their TRIO grant money to offset the cost of the PSAT/NMSQT. This is pertinent — that these people are so excited they are talking about rearranging their budgets to accommodate the PSAT/NMSQT — was a reward in itself. They got it. They see how it’s good for kids, giving them more access to more opportunities, quite frankly.
AA: What advice would you have for your colleagues in higher education to establish or improve their relationship with their College Board educational manager?
MBM: If we’re talking about the university-to-College Board relationship, I wonder how many universities even know who their rep is.
RH: That’s true. I think it’s about the efforts made on both sides. We’re all so busy that we may not be thinking about picking up the phone or sending a quick text. It takes a lot of effort.
MBM: It’s not hard effort, like “ugh, I have to call Robert.”
RH: I hope not! You have to be intentional and responsive toward each other.
MBM: I would have never known that College Board reps are more than just people you get student names from. You can run ideas by them; you can talk about trends; you can talk about ideas. They’re more than just people that are going to help you with your recruitment needs.
RH: From our perspective, we all share the same goal: truly developing the relationship and coming together to do what’s right and what’s best for students and their families.
MBM: That’s a good way to put it.