Education as legacy: A conversation with María Stutsman y Márquez
Published: January 27, 2021 / Author: Carol Elliott
María Stutsman y Márquez joined the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business as the director of Graduate Recruiting & Admissions in early October 2020. Stutsman y Márquez’s career spans more than 20 years in higher education, including serving in admissions roles for Yale and the University of New Mexico. A competitive college volleyball player, she also coached NCAA Division I women’s volleyball at Dartmouth College and the University of Hartford.
At the time of this interview just days into her tenure, Stutsman y Márquez was working from home like most of the Mendoza staff, getting to know her of 50-plus member team in Graduate Recruiting and Admissions while negotiating the COVID-related challenges of mask-wearing and social distancing.
This wasn’t the easiest way to become acquainted with her College colleagues, yet Stutsman y Márquez seemed undaunted. In what she called a “God thing,” the opportunity to serve at Notre Dame aligned exactly with her personal and professional mission.
When asked to tell a little bit about herself, Stutsman y Márquez fittingly starts her story at the very beginning — with the legacy of her family in education and social service.
Tell us about your background.
I always like to start with my family and being raised in New Mexico, because it guides the meaning and purpose in my life and work.
My maternal grandmother, Guadalupe Romero Márquez, was one of the first Hispanic women in northern New Mexico to earn her teaching credentials. She served as both educator and social worker. Her values of education and service were reflected in her children who have since served in higher education, human resources, government and other public service roles. My grandfather, Abraham Márquez, had an eighth-grade education and was a rancher who served in the Army. He was highly involved in the community through the Veterans of Foreign War and St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Tucumcari, New Mexico, where I was born.
My paternal grandparents met during their service in the Navy. My grandmother, Dr. Helene Reid Stutsman, was a meteorologist before going on to earn her Ph.D. in psychology. My grandfather, Dr. Robert Stutsman, was a psychiatrist.
The legacy of service leadership continues in my parents, Roberta Márquez and John Stutsman, a higher education administrator and military professional, respectively. Through all of them, I learned the value of education and service to others.
How did you choose a career in higher ed?
In many ways, it feels as though this career chose me. My career started in collegiate athletics at two small NCAA Division I programs. It was my first foray into the back-office administration within higher education and the many people it requires to recruit and enroll competitive student-athletes, and to ensure their academic success.
Higher education officially became a vocation after serving in an ed tech role at InsideTrack where it became possible to implement a successful tailor-made approach to recruitment and student services across diverse colleges and universities. We conducted pilot studies with our partner institutions and found that student persistence increased by 9%-12 % through coaching and implementing outreach strategies. Our partner schools gained insights into the student experience such that they developed new processes to better support students. Being witness to the positive impact of personalized coaching for students and the organizational change for our partner institutions are what sealed the deal for me.
Why were you interested in coming to Notre Dame?
When the University of Notre Dame first reached out, it reignited my hope to serve at a Catholic university where my values, experience and faith could intersect in a Venn diagram of sorts.
During the interview process, I learned of the organizational change that Mendoza had undergone and the outstanding results garnered from the marketing, recruitment and admissions teams, during a global pandemic no less. The innovation of Tim Bohling [Chief Marketing and Graduate Enrollment Officer] combined with the camaraderie and strength of the team solidified my commitment.
It felt as though there was further room for innovation and continued growth, and I was excited to bring my experience in support of these efforts. I was particularly interested in the focus on cultivating a climate of inclusion and belonging and diversifying the student body by increasing the membership of historically underrepresented groups.
How do you envision your role as director of graduate admissions and enrollment at Mendoza?
To use a sports analogy, I see myself as both a player and a coach. I want to be involved with the day-to-day recruitment and simultaneously provide direction, strategy and encouragement. We have such a strong admissions, recruitment and marketing team. They give new meaning to a personalized approach across the enrollment journey. My role is to remove any obstacles and create efficiencies so the team is able to further engage more prospective students and competitive candidates while maintaining their tailor-made approach and commitment to excellence.
As the director, there is a fine balance to focus on enrollment targets and ensuring the quality and excellence within the classroom dynamic — while being mindful of the entire student journey to graduation and beyond. We have a distinct community and culture; one that inspires mutual advancement, and elevates ethical, servant and inclusive leadership through experiential learning. I envision this role as both protector of this incredible community and culture, and someone who opens doors for further access and opportunity.
It’s evident in your résumé and prior experience that you have a special interest in diversity and inclusion. How will this influence your role as director of admissions?
Earlier, I shared the story about my Grandma Lupe who, in the brave act of earning her teaching certificate, created a legacy for her family and future generations. It has been my personal and professional mission to provide further access and opportunity for underrepresented populations to impact generational legacy through the value of education. This is who I am — and I feel the depth of responsibility to serve in support of equity, inclusion and justice.
It is important that admissions teams and institutions of higher education act on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. We see racial injustices and disparities across the health care, education and justice systems. Acting to address these longstanding issues is critical if we wish to “Grow the Good in Business” across sectors.
Higher education has an opportunity to create further equity and advancement. Business schools have the power to shape the corporate landscape through diverse representation of leadership at the highest levels. We can be a part of the ethical advancement of those historically underrepresented in executive leadership roles and on boards.
What do you see as some of the opportunities or challenging trends facing business schools in general?
Increasingly, business professionals aspire to lead change and implement positive solutions to larger societal issues. Organizational governance and oversight set the bar for companies to respond to issues like climate change and the lack of diversity on boards. Business schools whose mission includes the betterment of society are more important now than ever because candidates are now more attune to the analytic, strategic and leadership skills necessary to have a tangible impact on these issues.
This is an important opportunity for Mendoza, which was founded on these principles as part of the University of Notre Dame and whose mission is to Grow the Good in Business. We also are established as leading business education in analytics with the new STEM-designation and programs exclusively focused on building analytic and strategic decision-making skills. Analytics paired with a focus on mission is relevant and timely — and vital in this new era.
Lastly, while diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is trending, we have a responsibility to our students and the greater global society to establish practices that are timeless. DEI cannot be simply a trend. It is more than meeting metrics; it is about establishing a community and culture that understands equity and inclusion. Mendoza has established intention and, more importantly, action toward these practices and these are the first steps.