Spalding University is spotlighting members of its campus community every Friday during Black History Month, including, this week, Director of Admissions Paul Bolton.
The man leading Spalding University’s efforts to recruit new students into its diverse community of learners is someone who can speak from personal experience about what the institution has to offer.
Since last April, Spalding alum Paul Bolton has served as Director of Admissions at his alma mater, carrying out his passion for working to improve systems and processes in higher education while also introducing students to a university that he believes put him on a path to professional success.
Bolton, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Spalding in 2001, was a basketball and soccer player in college who enjoyed his time as an athlete, but when he reflects on his Spalding experience, what stands out most is how the faculty made him realize he was first and foremost, a learner.
“I enjoyed that,” he said. “I look back on my life, and there have been instances in my life that the safety net was provided by Spalding, my degree at this institution,” said Bolton, who has worked in different roles at Spalding since 2014. “… It wasn’t hard to come back to something like that.”
LEARN MORE | Office of Admissions at Spalding
Bolton said having a person of color as the Director of Admissions sends an important message to prospective students who are considering Spalding. Being a Spalding grad, he added, bolsters his recruiting message that the university values and seeks a diverse student body.
“It’s very important to represent internally what you’re also trying to attract and what you’re about,” he said. “We talk about diversity and inclusion, but I think when students can see that (diversity) within the staff that they’re working with while getting acclimated to Spalding, it gives those students the familiarity to say, ‘They really are what they say they’re about.'”
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*Black Student Alliance provides supportive space for students
Bolton recalls that when he was growing up, he paid close attention when he would see or interact with individuals of color who were in leadership positions. Seeing those leaders inspired him.
“I said, ‘I want to be like that,'” Bolton said.
Now Bolton is in a position to have those kinds of meaningful interactions with young people, and he believes his Spalding education helped set him on the course to succeed.
Bolton said he is proud of the diversity of the students that Spalding recruits because, ultimately, when they graduate, it leads to diversity in the workplace across Louisville.
“We’ve brought diversity to Humana, Norton, JCPS,” he said. “We’re part of that. That is another thing that makes me want to be a part of Spalding. That’s what I like to share with students. I say, ‘We’re not just talking about your freshman year. We’re talking about your career.’ This is a pathway to that.”
Bolton, who also holds a master’s degree in management from Sullivan University, returned to work at Spalding in 2014, serving in the Office of Advancement for two years.
He then served as Director of Transfer and Graduate Admissions for four years, before earning the title of overall Director of Admissions in April 2020.
Bolton is passionate about higher education admissions and enrollment, especially relating to streamlining processes and eliminating barriers for students. He has been a presenter at conferences and hosts a podcast called, “Reboot Higher Ed.”
“(Higher education) is an intangible product that can change the trajectory of a person’s life,” Bolton said. “Higher ed is also always in a constant state of flux, and always evolving, and that’s what interests me. It’s never same, and I like being involved in the restorative pieces to help it grow and adapt.”
Bolton describes himself as a “higher education disruptor” who is comfortable evaluating, modifying or even breaking down systems and processes, then articulating how they should operate instead in order to make college more attractive and accessible.
“I do think by doing that it’s going to indirectly increase the diversity (of students) across race, age and financial means,” he said.
Bolton took on the role of Director of Admissions at an unusual time, to say the least, about a month into the pandemic.
Spalding’s admissions team has adjusted to a temporary world without college fairs and with few on-campus recruiting events. Bolton praised the counselors and admissions staff for how they continued to recruit and build relationships with students and schools, and he said Dean of Enrollment Management and Strategic Initiatives Melissa Chastain has foster a strong synergy among admissions, financial aid, marketing and other departments.
“We have hit the ground running,” he said.
As for Black History Month, Bolton said he said he is inspired by African-American motivational speaker Les Brown, and he has always looked up to Louisville boxing great and humanitarian Muhammad Ali. Ali famously was introduced to boxing as a young boy at the Columbia Gym, which is now Spalding’s athletic building. A young Ali also worked across the street from the gym at what was then the Spalding Library, and he struck up a lifelong friendship with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who ran the university.
Bolton has enjoyed perusing some of Ali’s letters to the Sisters that are now part of the Spalding Library archives.
“What I love about him isn’t his boxing, but it was that he utilized his platform for something he believed in and was a voice at a much-needed time,” Bolton said.