E26 Creating a Positive University Experience Through Student Admissions, with Dr. Steve Maples

Episode Description

In this episode, we chat with Dr. Steve Maples, the Director of Admissions at the University of Nevada, Reno. We discuss how/why he stays in touch with his students even after they’ve been admitted, the ambassador program at UNR and why it’s unique, the importance of a positive student experience during a tour, and much more. See below for a full list of topics covered in this episode and tune in to hear more!

Key Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • Steve’s background and credentials as the Director of Admissions at UNR
  • How he stays in touch with the students once they are admitted
  • Why it’s important to connect with the students and parents
  • How his experience with his own daughter changed his perspective on admissions
  • A concern with the challenges students are facing today
  • Steve’s ambassador program and how it’s unique
  • The difference between a parent experience and a student experience on a campus tour
  • How to keep a high retention rate at a university
  • The differences now that covid restrictions are being lifted
  • How to pivot in your degree/career path
  • Staying current with the trends & communicating with students
  • What Steve does to keep a work-life balance
  • Defining true success

Connect with the hosts:

Allison’s Instagram
Sandy’s Instagram

AdvantagesDLS Instagram


LR – E26


This podcast is brought to you by our friends at Advantages Digital Learning Solutions, where learning is reimagined. 

Allison Dampier: Hello, and welcome to Learning Reimagined I’m Alison Dampier and with me as always is Sandy Gamba. Hello Sandy!

Sandy Gamba: Hi, how are you now?

Allison Dampier: I am doing great. How are you doing? You’ve been a whirlwind of travel.

Sandy Gamba: I have, I have, but there’s no place like home, I’m so excited. I’m so excited. And I, you know, I just, I’ve been looking forward to some of this folks that we’re interviewing and today he is on the top of my list. I am so excited to meet him. 

Allison Dampier: We have with us today, Dr. Steve Maples, he is the director of admissions from UNR, which is the university here in Nevada Reno.

It is a tier one university and it’s a research level one university. So it’s such a gem and our small little town here. And it’s. And Dr. Maples has done amazing things with the university. So we’re, we’re so excited to have him with us. 

Sandy Gamba: Yeah, it’s a jump state-wide. I have a lot of students that are eager to get up and to visit the campus.

So I just am looking forward to this. 

Allison Dampier: I am too. I knew Steve personally, both of our kids played soccer together many, many years ago. And I didn’t even know he was with the university at that point. Um, and then as our school developed and grew into a partnership with you and our, his name kept popping up, I’m like, I can’t possibly be the same, Steve Maples and lo and behold, that.

So to see him in a professional setting, that just it’s. So he’s just such a great human and, um, we’re just honored to have him here on learning re-imagined so I really hope you all enjoy our conversation. 

Well, again, Steve, and it’s so great to see you. How are you? 

Steve Maples: Thank you Allison, first of all, for the opportunity, um, I’m doing great, doing great.

Uh, you know, it’s things are, things are going well, uh, adjusting kind of what we talked a little bit beforehand, uh, everything’s perspective now, right? And so where we are now is better than where we were a month ago and a year ago and all that kind of stuff. So, so doing. Oh, 

Allison Dampier: that’s so it’s so great to see you here.

Um, Dr. Steve Maples is the director of admissions from UNR. And now Steve has been with you in our, for 25 plus years, right 


Steve Maples: Yep. Actually just celebrate my 30th year, so, oh my 

Sandy Gamba: gosh. Yeah. 

Allison Dampier: Well, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your journey? Tell us how, how did you get to be the director of admissions?

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Sure. 

Steve Maples: So I start off at the university after getting my bachelor’s degree from the university of Oregon, where my brother and father went and all that kind of stuff. Um, and trying to figure out what exactly it is. I want to do maybe law school or something like that.

And I had a friend the year before who graduated a year before me and he said, You ought to be, and he was a recruiter for the university for a year. He goes, you ought to, you ought to just try it. I think he’d be good. I think you’d enjoy it. And so I did, I start off at the university as a recruiter. The university was a much different place back then.

Um, we were kind of happy with where we were at growing slowly and everything like that, but a lot of things changed over the university and things like that. So. I got a number of opportunities. And what was going to start off is kind of a one-year gig became something much bigger. And part of it has for sure.

Yeah, exactly. And part of that was because it became so much more than that. I loved being on a college campus. I loved working with students and every year that I was on the campus, To work more with students and have the opportunity to kind of see them grow and develop. And that’s something that I was really interested in.

So that led me to get a master’s degree in counseling. Um, and then go on to get my PhD in psychology with an emphasis on college student development. Um, just because I like to tell people, I feel like I became a human being in college and what I mean by that. Uh, pretty quickly I found out my freshman year that I was a lot more product of my parents’ values, attitudes and beliefs than I ever thought I was.

Um, but th but it was in college and I kind of figured it out for myself. And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could be one of those people that were just around students when they’re, when they’re becoming human beings and kind of establishing their own values, attitudes, and beliefs. I got many opportunities over the years to not just, uh, market the university or recruit students, but work on student development, work on different events and programs and all kinds of other things that just allowed me to continue to grow.

And, and, and I just really enjoyed those opportunities. 

Allison Dampier: Yeah. That’s, it’s interesting that you still are involved with student development and face face-to-face with students in that you were part of the admissions department in my head admissions, you’re really focusing on recruiting and getting the.

There. And once they’re there, you kind of move on to the next group to get them there, but you actually still stay very much involved and in touch with the kids even once they are admitted students. 

Steve Maples: Absolutely. So one of the things that I get to do is I get to be the advisor. To the student orientation or the student ambassadors.

Um, and that, well, the pre pandemic was about 120 students at the university. That again, to kind of watch grow, develop, make mistakes over the years. Um, but I also serve as advisor to the men’s club volleyball team. I’ve been an advisor of the past. So the women’s club, our soccer team. So I, I find other different ways to kind of be involved with students again, just because I see those experiences for myself and I want, I want to be there for opportunities for other students to have that growth and development as well.

Allison Dampier: That is that’s really neat. Cause I don’t think that’s typical of a director of admissions, a very level to still be involved and to be advisors, to clubs and whatnot. That’s not 

Steve Maples: typical.

I like to do it all. I mean that, in the sense that, um, I still do high school presentations. I still like to go to college fairs again, not things that a lot of directors missions do, but I do it because if I’m the guy who’s supposed to be making the decisions on what’s important, then I better have that connection that conduit to parents and students and find out what, what it is that they’re thinking about.

And actually, I still have a passion for that. I mean, we do. We talked to all kinds of students and parents. And what we do at the university is we often have opportunities. And what I mean by that is sometimes I’ll be in front of, um, a first-generation student. And I have this one opportunity to talk with mothers and fathers who might not have had the chance to attend college and tell them about the benefits and how that conversation can be.

Transformational for that family. Um, and, and, and have those kinds of opportunities is, is just real important and still, uh, an important part of my, my life, I guess, and what I do, uh, 

Allison Dampier: it’s me and I just, for our listeners to let you know, um, My daughter attends UNR, um, w with, with, uh, Steve Maples and she was part of the class of 2020.

And so that was the pandemic, the pandemic really hit. And so, um, Steve actually has gotten out of the same age as my daughter. That’s actually how I knew him a million years ago in the soccer world. But, um, when, when the class of 2020 was applying to colleges and trying, you know, Predict their future. It was such a hard time because they weren’t even in-person in school any longer.

You know, they had March, they had, you know, left school and they were doing everything from home and trying to figure out where to go to college and what to pursue. We weren’t able to go do school visits. We weren’t able to really talk to people. And, um, Dr. Maples began a Facebook live seminar and it honestly changed everything for us.

It made the parents feel a connection to the university. It made all of the. I have someone they can go to, to ask questions during the Facebook live, he would always open up the chat. He would had plenty of representatives there with him to make sure that they could answer questions for us. And so it was very comforting.

We knew that our kids were going to be in good hands, you know, going, going to UNR. And it made the decision very easy for my daughter because she actually felt a connection. And that’s just one way that you have pivoted throughout this whole process. And it’s just, it’s super 

Steve Maples: impressive. Well, thank you very much.

I really do appreciate it. Um, it was therapeutic for me as well. Uh, I’d have to say that what made the experience so much different is going through that exact same experience with my own daughter, my first child, going to college and watching that and, and having. You know, and, and this, this kind of continues today.

And maybe we’ll talk a little bit about this, but my, one of my biggest concerns for parents and students out there is that with all this pivot and shift to everything that’s going on, um, what’s lost is okay. We’ve got to make sure that we’re establishing the ways that we communicate with students and remote learning and everything else.

But the piece that I feel like is lost is that guidance, um, is the opportunity to sit down with counselors and talk about. You know, where is it that you want to go? If you looked at the requirements, affording college on many different things that I feel like the parents that I talk with now, especially for this year’s class, you know, they haven’t had those experiences.

They haven’t had the college nights at college are at high school. They haven’t had a lot of different opportunities to go visit schools in person. And so. Um, it’s really tough because they’re still expected to make the same decisions at the end of this journey and try best schools. They can, but they’re doing it with a lot less information than they’ve had in the past.

And, and that’s kind of one of the biggest challenges we see right now with a lot of students and families. So Steve, 

Allison Dampier: why don’t you tell us a little bit more about the ambassador program? I believe, um, you headed that up prior to your role with orientation and ambitions. What, what did you do differently with the ambassador?

Steve Maples: Okay. Spoiler alert. I’m I’m, I’m definitely completely biased. Um, but let me open with, uh, they’re the best students at the campus. And why do I say that? Because, um, the student ambassadors are students that have chosen to, uh, give their time and energy to the university for nothing. Now I say that because nationally, you know, every school in the campus is a tour guides and have students, they, they give tours, but what makes ours unique?

Less than 10% of campuses have tour guides that are volunteer. Um, they, you know, they are, it’s a paid position on most campuses, but it’s not with us. We have a student run organization. I have four direct student directors that every year we recruit students, they train them to become ambassadors. Um, and then the organization does a lot more than just campus tours.

Heavy community service component to it, professionalism that we try and help out and teach them in many different aspects of it and a social component to it too. So they’re more than just a student, you know, guides because anybody can do that, but it’s, it’s really kind of their experiences that they get to share, uh, with each.

And there are, they’ve got to be one of the most diverse groups on campus. I mean that in every, every sense of the word from their, their interests and their backgrounds and everything like that, because the really the one con the one feature, the one commonality between them is they just have a passion for the campus.

And, and many of them will tell a story about how. I came on in bad about, and I went on a campus tour and that’s when I knew the campus was mine. And I want to be able to do that same experience for other students and things. So that gives me the opportunity to kind of watch them come in as freshmen or sophomores and kind of go through their college experience and, and, uh, and, and progress to the point where they graduated.

And then watch them write letters back later when they’re doctors and lawyers and everything else and say about how their conflict resolution skills that they learn in a master’s or public speaking. I have one student that, uh, is a rocket scientist truly is. Um, and she says that, uh, and she was, uh, very introverted.

But the one thing that she said was is that her campus tour, that her weekly tour that she did, um, was her time to just kind of. Figure out who she was and, and figure out how to communicate with people. And it’s one of the things that she loved. So you would think that, oh, all the campus guides, they must be just the big extroverts.

We all talk and everything like that. And I’d say right now, I think we’re a little more majority introverts and it’s because, you know, they get that opportunity to give those tourists, but it’s, it’s, it’s them sharing that information and how they, how they do it. 

Sandy Gamba: And there’s no greater testimony than those voices.

And that is such a powerful piece of it. I that’s to have those ambassadors and truly to have such so many personalities reflect. 

Steve Maples: Yeah, absolutely. 

Allison Dampier: Yeah. And I’ve been on plenty of college tours and my time and touring through UNR really is different. There is a different vibe with the students and they are just, they are very much engaged with you and it’s, it’s pretty cool to see.

I had no idea they weren’t paying. Yeah, 

Steve Maples: well, that, that is one of the things that always kind of gets me when I go to national conferences and they say, oh, we were thinking about doing that, but we wanted them to do re we want them to do real, uh, good tours, good professional tours. So we paid them and it’s like, well, you know, I, I will question that on any day.

And what I always tell people is that, um, in my staff I have about 60 student employees, uh, that work in admissions that work in our different offices. And I’ve had many, many student ambassadors who, since it’s a volunteer opportunity that at the, um, come up and say, Steve, I just, uh, I don’t have the time this semester, or I’m not feeling it or whatever, or I’m burnout.

I need to take time away from it. Um, I’ve never had a student employee who’s paid a salary, say I’m going to stop working. Um, and so I feel like because it’s volunteer, it gives students the opportunity to, at any point vote with your feet and, and hopefully, and most of them stay all four years, but if it’s not right for them, they get a kind of walk away because the three, the three components that we talk about are like the information.

Um, is important, but of course, if w if it were just information, we could train anybody off the street, um, to, to do that. But it’s really the stories that they tell about their experiences that really resonate with people. And then the third component is how they make people feel on the tours. And they’re certainly not perfect.

Um, and a lot of them learn a great deal over there. From their first tour to the last tour that they give on the campus. But, uh, it is, it’s a great opportunity for students just kind of grow into their own voice. 

Sandy Gamba: You said three, and I think I missed it. So one their stories and how they make people feel.

What was the other one? 

Steve Maples: The first one was. One that everybody has. And that’s the information so that, um, you know, you have, you have to know those things about the campus, but the second one is the stories. Um, and, and, you know, making that campus come to life through their experiences. And then the third component, like you said, is how you make them feel.

Um, often the. The most neglected on that. It’s you just trying to remember what, what to tell them about everything. Um, and yeah, I too have gone on a lot of different campus tours and, um, you can kind of tell when this is something that they really enjoy and it’s, it’s not a job. It’s, it’s something that they live, um, and they experience and they, they get to share that with other people.

Sandy Gamba: And also you’ve seen it now through the eyes of your girls, your kids, and it’s just such a different perspective, too. 

Steve Maples: It’s so vital. Yeah, 

Allison Dampier: it is. It makes you look at things very, very differently. Um, it went my daughter’s junior year prior to everything shutting down, we were able to tour campuses and we went to college two separate times because it, it was my Alma mater, Chico state, shout out Wildcats.

It’s where I love my campus. I love my college and, um, my daughter. Really really liked it, but she said, you know what, let’s go back again. And so we went back a second time and, and Steve, the tour was exactly the same. The stories were the same. It was almost like they all had their own script and it was very rote.

It was not personal. And I honestly feel that was a huge turnoff for her because when we did it at UNR, it was completely different. She met people in her own department, people that other students that are in her. Uh, professors in her department, it just much, I was a much more personalized experience for her.

Um, whereas the Chico state really let me down on that one.

Steve Maples: It is, and it’s, you know what I’m, and that’s a big thing is, you know, um, I, a lot of, a lot of campuses like to control to a point like. We don’t want to let people out of a box too much. So we want to make sure this is all kind of covered and everything, but there’s also the experience kind of to your point.

There’s what a parent experiences on a campus tour. And then there’s what a student experiences and what their goals are, are often quite different. Um, and you know, you want to cater to both, but at the end of the day, the most important is, is the, is the student in that experience 

Sandy Gamba: generally as. Director of enrollment for university of Denver and managing students is so difficult, but see you, it so beautifully dialed in, as Alison said, I got to experience that on your campus.

And I was in awe as your campus campuses. That number three, I felt like I’m at. And would pen and I’m just walking around and I’m like, oh my God, I want to be here. This isn’t, this was you conveyed that all the way through to your team, to your students. I felt that magic and I was, I loved it. I was, I am.

I couldn’t wait until today because I was just so excited to me, you know, because I think you lead that way and it was just, it was definitely, definitely 

Steve Maples: found. Well, thank you very much. You’re very kind of, 

Allison Dampier: I want to know Steve, I want to know the magic. I want to know your secret. You’ve been now at UNR for 30 years.

Um, how do you stay motivated and. And happy about your position and just passionate. 

Steve Maples: Well, I’ll tell you it’s real simple. It’s a students. So I have a, I have a, a deal with my boss. I’ve been real fortunate. Um, and maybe that’s another big chunk of it. I worked for the same person, Dr. Melissa Shirazi for the last 30 years.

And she told me something when I started. And it’s, it’s something that I try and do with my own staff. And that includes the students and everything like that. She was she’s I’ll never forget when I started, she says, listen, okay, you gotta be the innovative, creative, all out of the kind of staff. We’ve got to figure out new ways to recruit students because it’s going to constantly change.

She said, but I understand to do that. You’re not going to do everything right. So failure is an option. Uh, you need to try new things. You need to have the courage to do that, and you need to know this. There’s nothing you can screw up that I can’t fix. And fortunately, I’d say over the years there hasn’t been too many of those opportunities, but I have had a few and you know, she’s always been there to have my back and I feel kind of the same way about students too, is that they, they need to have those opportunities.

I love to tell. Uh, people that in this profession, what I love, it’s easiest, what I love most, and that is watching the student come in, watching them make mistakes, watching them learn, watching them grow into these amazing people. But I also say the worst thing about my job, worse than budget cuts or, uh, having to fire somebody or boring meetings or that kind of stuff.

The worst thing, the worst thing is finding a student that comes in. It’s given all these opportunities and doesn’t take advantage of it, any of them. And doesn’t really grow in the environment that is the most perfect environment for a person to grow. And I haven’t had many of those, but I can, I can tell you those stories, cause they’re still fresh in my head.

It’s like, what did we do wrong? What, how could we have done this better? That to me is, is the worst part of the job. And fortunately, there’s, um, an exponential amount, more of the students that come in and they grow. Um, but yeah, that, that’s, that’s the other side of it, but the deal I made with my bosses, you don’t have to fire me.

All you have to do is just say, okay, so looking at your job responsibilities and we really need to take a adviser out, um, and we’ll just have somebody else be the. So, um, you know, in, in my office and I’ve got this wonderful backdrop, but in my office, uh, two doors down is where the ambassador offices, uh, where they have their own office.

They can come, they can print papers for free. We have snacks for them, just all these kinds of things, just to try and support them, whatever. But, um, yeah, and, and I’ve got nice windows. I can see people walk by and they can drop in and, and that kind of stuff. And we do two retreats, one in the winter. Um, I’ll pick the four H camp and then one in the summertime.

And we really try and work on, on a lot of different things. I learned in my psychology class and everything, so that they get opportunities for growth and, and value and understanding kind of where, where they are and where their feet are right now and how that’s going. How that’s going to change later on in life too.

So we try and do a lot of those different exercises because they do so much for the university. And, and again, um, volunteering all of that. Uh, we, we also want to try and give back to them as well. 

Allison Dampier: Have you gotten your daughter to be an ambassador? 

Steve Maples: She’s uh, she’s contemplating it. Uh, she’s she’s looking at the process and how it fits in with a pre-nursing major.

But yeah, she’s, she’s knows many of the ambassadors, so I’ve got 

Sandy Gamba: to say she’s probably already. And I’m facet without the name, right. Training for a whole life. 

Steve Maples: Exactly. Exactly. 

Sandy Gamba: That’s fantastic. So Nate, your retention level, I think I would love to hear, like, I know you touched on that your retention, not just on their ambassadors, but also in your employees and also.

University-wide how do you keep, how do you keep those numbers high? Because for a school like UNR, You keep them extremely high. 

Steve Maples: Well, thank you. Uh, first of all, it is quite a challenge. Most people don’t realize, um, the average, uh, public university has 75% of its students come from with, uh, within 150 mile radius.

Um, we, on the other hand are quite opposite of that and if we weren’t would dry up and blow away for 80% of the state’s K-12 population. And the state of Nevada is 422 miles away in Clark county or Southern Nevada. So, um, we, we kind of turned that figure about a public university on its head. Um, we only get about 25 to 30% of our students from 150 mile race.

And so the vast majority, almost 70% of our students come from, uh, they, they beat that trend and they, they come from much farther away. So it is a challenge, um, because having, you know, the vast majority of the high school graduates that if we were in the east coast would be two or three states over if they were 400 miles away.

Um, so we do have to treat that the audience down there because they don’t know Reno. Um, as we have to treat them. This is an out-of-state market really. Right. And so one of the most important things that we do is we do, uh, try and bring them up to campus. We do all these visits and we fly students up from Las Vegas because it’s, it’s not what they expected.

The other piece is, um, although we’re growing as an institution, we don’t have the brand that some schools have. And, uh, what we like to say is that, um, if you haven’t seen the campus. Then when you come every coup every school in the country says the same thing. Well, one student comes to the campus. It makes them, you know, love, love the campus more.

And although that’s true, when students come, especially from like outside the state and they come, they all say the same thing, um, unexpected. So you get an 18 year old to come to your campus and you they’re Bulletproof. And they have all the answers before the questions around. But for them to say that they, I, I, this is not what I expected.

So when you have university of Oregon or certain other, you know, Arizona state, and then you have, um, university of Nevada on your list, when you go to those other schools, you reaffirm what you already thought. They’re nice, still beautiful campuses and everything like that. But when you have come to arena, You don’t expect to see $850 million in new construction and a beautiful treeline, quad and everything.

So you do say unexpected and, and that really is transforming. So it’s not reinforcing it’s it’s transformational. Um, that, that experience that students have. So for us, It is that challenge. It’s, it’s that challenge because we’re what we like to call a conversation school. We’re not, you don’t just walk up and immediately, you know, come up to the campus.

But once you start hearing about the different things to kind of make the campus unique, that that’s the kind of things that I think kind of take over. 

Allison Dampier: Yeah, it’s, it’s very true. We, um, we are local. We do live here in Reno and, um, it was the day that she spent, um, at Nevada doing the full, the day long tour and whatnot.

She was even surprised. And she’s been on that campus before, but having that full tour where you got to go into the buildings and meet with professors and meet with other students, it really was, it was surprising to her. She said, She was really had her heart set on going away to college. And she said, I’m actually really mad because it’s so amazing.

How can I not go here? And that was a direct quote. So, so Steve, you made my daughter mad, but you welcome to where there. 

Steve Maples: Well, yeah, that the Nevada bound program, you know, when I talk with my counterparts at other schools, they do about six or seven visitation days a year. We do about 20 of those. Um, and then we have smaller ones too, because it is so important.

And as. Uh, people, you know, my, my daughter kind of the same way. Um, I tried to bring her up because you don’t see the quad from any of the streets as you drive by the campus. And so yes, you see some of the new construction, but say a campus that, um, you know, is, has pre 1800 buildings on it. Um, you know, kind of tucked away.

And then you have, of course the bright, shiny new buildings as well, too. But being able to kind of see that, that’s why, that’s why we do what we do and why we fly so many students up from Las Vegas. So they actually get to experience it. 

Allison Dampier: And now with my, at the end of, oh, sorry. 

Sandy Gamba: I’m so sorry. But from the perspective of an Las Vegas person, I’m, I’m housed down here and.

It is vital because these students don’t know what they don’t know. And as pretty, as it looks on paper, your ambassadors bring it to life. You bring it to life. And I got to see that firsthand, my daughter and I, we traveled up there on one of your days and it just is so incredible. The job that you all do, and I know budget wise from your position.

But you can’t get rid of that little program because of all of these numbers that you stated, and you’re able to sustain it and keep growing that because they inevitably fall in love and come back and share it with all their friends. YouTube must go. You too. Let’s do this program. It’s hailed us so uniquely.

And like Alison said, just the way you break it down by major and it’s you have it down to a science and it’s incredibly well done. So I love that you do that and you are able to sustain those retention numbers because. 

Steve Maples: Well, thank you. I mean, you know, one of the things I would say is I’m very excited.

We kind of talked. So my daughters up here, and my son who is a junior in high school, is getting ready to kind of go through this. And I kind of watched my daughter when she went, she went on the Nevada bound program and I had to, I had to drag her kicking and screaming cause like, well, I already know. I already know I’ve been up there a million times.

So it was really kind of neat for her to have that experience and just, I let her go with her mom and just kind of look from afar for most of the day. But, but having her have that experience, just watching her and I’m looking forward to that, I’m doing the same thing with my son, trying to find a day that he can come, you know, but, uh, looking forward to having that.

But one of my great stories about the Las Vegas group is. I like to try and talk with as many people at lunchtime to just get their perspective and their, what they’re experiencing. And I walk up to these three boys were sitting down at lunch and they immediately start looking at each other kind of like very nervously.

And I’d ask them some questions about halfway through it. I finally just say, okay, what did you guys do? Or what’s going on? Why, why are you looking at me? Like, like that? And they said, Okay. Honestly, we just came up here to get out of school for a day. Cause we figured we already, uh, what the university was and everything like that.

And just figured it’s just going to be a smaller version of schools where I seen and everything. So, but, but now that we’re up here and we see it, we’re totally. We’re totally common. Um, we just didn’t know if this even existed or was there anything like that? And so I talk with them, I got their names and they did actually come and, and, and it started as a way to get out of school for a day because they kind of thought they knew what it was.

So then when they came up, they were really blown away by the campus. So it takes all types to.

Allison Dampier: Well, and now that we are really releasing a lot of, or reducing a lot of the, um, uh, COVID restrictions and whatnot, what is that looking like on your campus now and for your, your job? I would imagine has gotten tremendously easier in the sense that you can go back to what you 

Steve Maples: were doing. Oh my gosh. So last year, We had not been in a single school in Clark county, um, because none of the students had been in a school at CU in Clark and, and the seniors had been in school in Clark county.

Um, we hadn’t flown a single person up. We had our Nevada bound programs and so we had all three ballrooms, like we normally have capacity of about, uh, uh, I think it’s about 1500 students and parents would be there. Um, and we could have. Total, um, the boardrooms to five, do we add to have all three ballrooms open because of the spacing that we were really proud, I’ll tell you that I’m really proud of, of our staff and our students, everything, because we actually offered campus tours.

Through everything, uh, all last year and through the pandemic, but we took extreme caution and made sure everybody was, is separated as possible. And of course, mass mandates and everything else like that. But having 25 people as opposed to what you were used to having about 400, it’s quite a different experience.

Um, and you know, a lot of them felt. It’s like overkill. We had as many staff there is this 

Allison Dampier: right, right. Overwhelming for some people. 

Steve Maples: Yeah. So having said all that and watching things lift, um, we can now get back up to kind of normal, more normal numbers. Cause one of the things that we like for students from Nevada to see is I always usually ask how I start the program.

How many from the Northern Nevada, how many are from Southern Nevada and how many are. Have you traveled from outside the state of Nevada to be at this today? And that’s usually about 40 and sometimes 50% of the students are from outside the state. And so children like ours that, uh, have, think that if they come to.

The university and the state of Nevada, that’s all, that’s going to be there as people. They’re all going to be Washoe county, or they’re all gonna be Washoe and Clark and that’s it. And so having them kind of see that and look around the room, it’s the first time they kind of see, so what’s that about this, a tier one school and a research one school.

And I guess some other people are kind of interested in too. So I think part of that. Validation. We didn’t get that last year because it was such small groups, but for students to see that. Yeah. And it’s not just California, it’s all 50 states and 75 different countries and things like that. But it’s kind of that first new perspective for, for what they thought it was going to be to what, to what it really is.

Allison Dampier: Yeah, they think it’s going to be just high school, 2.0, that’s one of the things I heard. I hear a lot and it’s, uh, my daughter now is in her sophomore year and she’ll call me. Oh, I saw somebody someone’s a friend from ninth grade school. I know, but I haven’t seen him in two years. You know, they don’t, there are 20,000 plus kids there, so they don’t really.

I see that. So that’s neat. So now going into promote for your class of 26, but these incoming freshmen now, are they able to do Nevada bound just like prior years? Are they able to come onto campus and do the real deal 

Steve Maples: they are? And here’s kind of the interesting thing. So students are taking. Part of this is because of the restrictions of other states and things like that.

But, um, a lot of that, a lot of states have restrictions, but when you look at the number of tours, so the average student in previous years, probably when, on between seven and nine campus visits before they made their final determinations, that’s dropped to like two or three. Um, and so. You know, we have this.

If you ever go to our website and go to our visit page, we have all these different ways for you to engage in the campus virtually, including you can actually go on a campus tour with one of our student ambassadors to take you through a series of pictures, but they’ll answer your questions in real time because they’re right there with you.

Um, so we have a number of those things that we’ve kind of developed over the years and we see that. If you’re in Hawaii, if you’re in another country, that’s still really convenient. But, um, the, the big talk about colleges is you have to convince people that come on a campus tour now because it’s like, well, we can only go on so many things and, you know, costs and, and trying to make it work.

You really have to entice them more with what you have and why they should even go on a campus to, rather than just put it on the list of the nine schools who are going to run all over the campus and visit, so are all over the country and visit. So, um, it has been a big part, but yes, um, being able to have the events, um, and be able to fly up, students be able to open it up, especially for out-of-state people.

It’s one of the reasons why we have the Nevada bound program because. That’s an awful lot of commitment to just go on a campus tour. So being able to come on a Nevada bound in which you get to meet with your college and then your major, you get to eat lunch there in, in, on the campus where the students eat lunch and, and of course get the campus tour and everything.

Give him more of an experience and like, how do you fit in to this? And how do you feel about that? I think makes a big difference. 

Sandy Gamba: It absolutely does. And with your daughter through the lens of her eyes, she always knows she was going to be pre-nursing. 

Steve Maples: No, she’s, uh, she’s, she’s run the whole gamut for all kinds of different things.

She came to school wanting to be, um, uh, and, uh, Physician’s assistant and then kind of looked at kinesiology and some different paths and looked at that. But now she’s kind of looking at nursing and, and, um, eventually, um, being, becoming a nurse practitioner, that seems to just, and part of that’s, you know, just the growth of what you think a job’s going to be.

And of course you don’t want to listen to your parents or anything like that, but great for her to talk with her professors and other students, and then also people in the medical field, like we’ve kind of recommended for her to do less several years. Um, she’s now doing, but, uh, but you know, and then she’ll come back at you with like, did you know this about that?

No, but it’s, it’s great. I mean, It’s it’s her exploring and, and kind of figuring it out on her own. And she’s fortunate enough that, that there wa regardless of which way she goes, we have both, uh, you know, nursing and nurse practitioner, but we also have physician’s assistant so she can continue, but it’s nice to go to a school where she can follow up these questions and find out what is the difference between a nurse practitioner.

And a physician’s assistant and all these other different types of things. So, so yeah, it’s been kind of neat, as you’ve mentioned through her lens, watching her and her experiences and the conversations she has. 

Sandy Gamba: And does your son know exactly what he wants to do 

Steve Maples: and that these young. Yeah, he’s kind of funny he’s he knows what he wants to major in, which is, which is odd because usually it’s the other way they know what they want to do.

What’s the right, uh, path, but he’s always been interested in the brain. Um, and so he’s, he watches a million YouTube videos, uh, Uh, actually educational, um, on hon brain on brain surgery and all this kind of stuff. So he’s really interested kind of in neuroscience. So, so that’s what he study. Um, and he’s really like set on that.

I mean, he’s looked at, but then the nice thing is having the older sister. So he’s got more of a context of school watching her take these classes. He’s actually looked up in our catalog to see what exactly the classes you take. Wow. Okay. So I can handle through calc and this, and that’s a lot of psychology classes and it’s a lot of biology class.

So at least he’s getting kind of an idea. Of all that kind of stuff long before he comes up here, which is a totally different approach than having the first child and watching her just kind of like sort out her career and then matching that up to a major. 

Allison Dampier: Right. 

Sandy Gamba: And yet you and are being able to offer.

Answers both of the 

Steve Maples: accident. And, and, and I’ll tell you that, that one of the best things is that Nevada program. Cause you get to go back and meet with the colleges. So it’s not just the general overview of a university it’s kind of, well, what would it mean to study in that? Um, I think that’s just one of the nice little con components that, um, that makes that kind of a special day is being able to, like, I could see myself studying this and now I got a better idea about what kind of classes that really mean.

Sandy Gamba: Yeah, your professors definitely do that. They just, they show up just like everyone else. It’s so powerful. 

Steve Maples: I loved it. I tell you that one. Great story about that is, um, I, I had, uh, the chair this several years ago, the chair of the biochemistry department come up to me one day. He goes, you got. Renzo’s that about programs.

Let me tell you something. I used to complain about those, like, okay. So it means every Friday I’ve got to have this time and how are we going to fit that in my schedule? And I’ll tell you, it’s my third week doing it. I’m talking to this whole group and it’s. I just realized, just had like this out of body experience here is my chance to either complain that we’re not getting the kind of students that I want are here’s a chance for me to actually do something about it and tell them what I’m passionate about and get them passionate about it.

And I’m like, oh my God, can I, can I just get you? Can I record that? And like, they’re not coming from me, but coming from a faculty member. And, and to your point, I feel like a lot of the faculty embraced that, knowing that. This is their chance. This is their chance to make that connection with these, these students, um, and, and why their program is, is such a great option.

And, you know, it’s not like we’re asking them to talk about something. They don’t want to talk about it. They have doctorates in this subject. So you’d like to think that this is something that they want. 

Sandy Gamba: But I think you just mentioned it, it reignites every money on campus. And when do we ever get to do that in our personal life?

Like you truly do that and do these eyes of these young people, you get energized all over again. Absolutely fall in 


Allison Dampier: all over again. Exactly.

Steve Maples: Yeah, well, I get goosebumps all the time. They get new, uh, listen to people, but let’s listen to the students or reading their evaluations of the day, you know? Um, because I think a lot of the college search process, um, we, we think about it’s trying to narrow down schools, but I think one of the most basic pieces of it that students don’t want to have this conversation too many people is.

Can I even do this. And I feel like that’s the even bigger question now with so much less guidance and so much less information that while they’re looking at the beautiful treeline campus and everything like that, they’re trying to kind of determine for themselves, since we all have imposter syndrome, to a, to an extent it’s like, is this something that I can.

I can really do. And I feel like that as much as anything at the end of the day, uh, is one of the most important things we used to be able to have students spend the night, um, do an overnight program, which they spent the night in the residence halls, but with a lot of safety concerns and of course COVID now and everything else, it’s not something we can offer.

But to me, that was the biggest takeaway from it is when would read the evaluations. It wasn’t. I found out everything about the biology program in this biology program is better than other schools. The one thing they said over and over again was that, uh, I can see myself doing college now, cause I just spent a night away from their family away from their friends.

Um, and they are able to do it and get up and they can do this college thing now. And, and, and that. You know, so powerful it, and back to that whole retention of not, not just coming to school, but staying at that school because you feel like it’s a part of who you are and getting the point of graduating and Steve, 

Sandy Gamba: you touch a lot of first-generation.

Yeah, the students and that’s a huge pieces. Can I really do this? I don’t have somebody. I don’t have an older sister or a mom or a dad, like I was first gen. And just to be able to say, oh my gosh, I can see myself here. And I can see myself with. Yup. And feeling the support that they’re 

Steve Maples: not alone. It’s true.

We’re real fortunate. So we have an office in Las Vegas and I have five recruiters down there and four of them are first-generation students who grew up in Las Vegas, um, and came to the university. And one of my great stories with one of my ambassadors. Rocio is Rosio sales sells a story about, um, coming up on it about, about falling in love with the campus and then trying to talk her parents.

It’s like, you know, in my household, you don’t leave until you’re married. Um, And here they I’m trying to talk them into going away for college. Um, and so she just came into the office one day and brought her parents, said I need somebody who can speak Spanish and somebody who can tell, um, my parents, why I should go to the university.

Wow. We having a couple of people down there can speak Spanish. And not only that. Having lived that experience themselves and what they went through with their own families. So to your point, you know, the state of Nevada, we’re one of the highest, as far as first-generation college students. So we need people who understand that, um, and, and can, can talk with families about their own experience.

So that’s one of the nice things is, um, with, with maybe one exception, I believe pretty much everybody. Who is the recruiter for the university, um, got their degree from here. And so it has lived their experience. And so it’s, it’s more than just the information, like a camp, like a campus tour. It’s, it’s their stories and their experiences to help people understand.


Allison Dampier: That’s, that’s, that’s great. That is so inspiring. And you make a difference, you know, what you guys are doing there. It just really, truly makes sense. And now, as I’ve stated, my daughter is spent the fall going through the hole, looking at colleges and applications and whatnot. And, um, I’m really kind of embarrassed to admit her chief source of research was Tik TOK.

I am Lord, but she said she made her list of where she wanted to apply. I’m like, where’d you get all this information will tick tock. Like, can’t be right. That can’t be right. So she pulled them up and showed me these videos. I’m like,

it’s not just silly dance videos. It’s like, it’s a thing. How, I mean, being where you are for 30 years, the landscape has completely changed. How do you stay current and, or have you stayed current with all of that? 

Steve Maples: Well, first of all, I hire people much younger than me, but second. Um, you know, our ambassadors, it’s, it’s great talking with them and, and listening to them and you know, this it’s kind of coming into this next generation.

Um, we were at one of the ambassador meetings and we’re talking about how, how best to communicate with everybody. And they’re throwing out all these different platforms. And before it was just like, well, they had a Facebook account, but it’s like most of the, most of the freshmen now don’t have Facebook accounts.

But, but trying to find that one platform and in many cases there isn’t, there isn’t one. And so, you know, one of the things that we found out, so we started a parrot Facebook account. We started a student Facebook account. We no longer have a student Facebook account. Um, but even that first year we knew because what we were told, um, we have an Instagram account for the students.

So the incoming students can post their pictures. Um, can, you know, learn about the university and we’ve got. Uh, several different Instagram accounts. We have a Tik TOK we have in Nevada admissions, Tik TOK.

Yeah. So, um, one of our youngest recruiters, Julio, by the way, I’ll tell you a quick story about Julio. Julio has a video it’s so cute of him and his little pug. Um, and he has a, um, Spanish, uh, um, Uh, telling a novella story in the background playing and, um, and he, he acts it out with his dog. He’s got 7 million views on it.


so, so, but yeah, so, so we’ve got every, every year, you know, everything out there, but always trying to figure out what, what the latest areas are for information. So with students, we know, um, they swim in the Instagram. Pool a lot more as far as for information and kind of the subtle way. There’s, if you want more information, you can kind of go deeper, but if you just want to meet people, it’s neat because one of my daughters, uh, best friends, this guy, he met, um, a guy from Maryland who was coming to the university.

And so they roamed as freshmen. Now they’re best friends and they’re rooming again as sophomore. So it’s, so it’s really cool just to, they make the connections. So, yeah, so it is so important to look at all kinds of different platforms and, and yes, they’re changing, uh, on a, on a pretty, pretty quick basis.


Allison Dampier: it’s crazy. 

Sandy Gamba: Yeah. I have a freshman and a sophomore in college and my freshmen on his campus. There’s some influencers. And when I thought about that, I’m like, he doesn’t even go on his social media, like ever, but it was. It was her classes. It was how she saw the eyes of this campus and he loved it and it was just, it was very intellectual.

And I think I, I just kind of overrode that piece of it. I was like, what are you seeing this? How are you doing this? But yes, that’s, it’s keeping a pulse on, on how our young kids are 

Steve Maples: finding it. Yeah, absolutely. 

Allison Dampier: Steve I’m changing tunes here a little bit. You’ve talked a lot. Great deal about what you do on campus and what keeps you current and fresh with your students and being involved with, um, the students that are UNR.

What do you do personally to like fill your cup? We are really big on life balance and we always ask our guests, what do you do to make sure that you’re keeping that work-life balance? 

Steve Maples: Biggest thing for me is, is fitness. Um, and so, and I love, I love to now, uh, for the last, uh, year and a half, uh, I work out at the same place that our students work out.

And so, um, I give my own campus tours from time to time, and I always tell people when I finish up, um, the two buildings I finished with or the knowledge center or library. And the weekend fitness center. And, and I, I say this, um, I show the knowledge center first, and I say, now I want to show you my favorite building on campus, because my favorite building used to be, um, the knowledge center, because it is it’s, it’s a magnificent building, um, with so much state of the R um, things, but there’s also great places for students to engage there and do so many things.

Having said all that through the pandemic and having a freshmen here two years ago that had. Uh, all remote classes and everything like that. The one place on our campus that looked most like a college campus and where you engage and where you meet people and everything like that was not the student union because of the limitations and restrictions on everything.

There was not the library. The cordoned off areas and things like that. The one place that looked like a college campus was, was the fitness center. And it was the one place that gave me kind of like is I’m stressed about not just working time. Talk about the work balanced life. I have a freshmen in college has got all these remote classes, you know, what, what is she doing for engagement?

What is she doing for meeting people? And I know it’s, it’s a big deal to her. So that always just gave me that sense, walking in there, watching people laugh, smile, because it’s such a large building. They could have things, you know, they, they had their own structure and, um, and, and that kind of stuff, but being able to see students, you know, laughing and enjoying themselves, um, do a mask.

Uh, but, but having that, having that college experience, um, that really kind of turned me into that. That’s now my favorite building on campus. So, um, I love it. I love to go there. I love to see. Uh, the students that the parents posted on the Facebook that were incoming freshmen now watching them, you know, is going and getting ready to go into their junior years.

Um, you know, on, on the, on my Facebook count, we, we, we will go through the fitness center, but the one thing I’m gonna tell every parent is they’ve got to have their kid there. They’re they’re not gonna want to do this. They have to have their kids. Take a picture, what they look like the first time they go into the fitness center because I’ve watched these students transform.

And just like, because they really take their, it’s such an incredible building. Um, they offer 255 classes a week, um, for students engage in, in every type of, of, um, physical fitness that you never imagined and every different level. And so it’s so neat to see so many different things. Types of students, everything that you can imagine under the sun in, in that enjoying it, I’m enjoying the wellness piece.

So, um, I used to think that it was important to get away from the campus, but to me, it’s, it’s great to find ways to engage the campus in a completely different way. Yeah. That’s why I get to do with those classes and have people come up to me and be able to talk with the students. It’s great. Even seeing my daughter from time to time, uh, there too, but.

But being able to watch that encouragement and that just connection and just that engagement and building up community is, is so cool. So that’s, that’s like my big thing to try and do. 

Allison Dampier: I love it. And I, I was reading an interview, um, with one of your students and they were discussing you and UNR, and one of your quotes and correct me if, if this was misprinted or if I’m incorrect here.

But one of the things that you say is one of the most important things in this world is to matter. And Dr. Maples, I want to say you matter, you make a really big difference on campus. You were making a big difference with UNR and we’re just, we’re so honored to have you here today. 

Steve Maples: Well, thank you. Thank you so much.

Yes, that is the thing that I tell my students. I tell them 15 years from now on. No, if you’re successful in life by asking you one question and it’s not about money. It’s not about this, not about that. I’m just going to ask you, do you feel like you matter in what you do because if you answer yes, then you are successful.

Then I know that it answers all the other most important boxes, but thank you very much. I really appreciate it. Really appreciate being a part of this show and thank you for what you both do. 

Sandy Gamba: Such an honor. 

Allison Dampier: Thank you so much for listening to learning. Re-imagined. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please help us spread the word by clicking the subscribe button or share your favorite episodes with families and friends and leave us a five star review wherever you get your podcasts.