Darius Pardner recently joined the Colorado College admission team as an assistant director. He’s from Aurora, Colo. and graduated from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with a degree in organizational and strategic communication. This week, The Catalyst sat down with Pardner to hear about his impressions of CC and et to know a new member of our community!
The Catalyst: How would you describe your role in the Colorado College Office of Admission?
Darius Pardner: So they brought me in as an assistant director back Aug. 1. Been great, first month, fast-paced, I’m absolutely lovin’ it. The teams, I guess, that I’m on, or comittees, is: Outreach and Access — which is fun ‘cause I’m definitely passionate about that in terms of higher education; or with Athletics as well and help with that peer review process and getting those prospective students, prospective recruits on campus; and also work with the AVP, Admission Volunteer Program. As far as the geographical territory that I cover, it’s the southeastern part of the United States. So pretty much, picture Tennessee and everything below. But I don’t cover Florida. So, yeah, fun part of the country. I’m excited to be here and work with the populations in which I do.
TC: What are your goals for recruiting in the South?
DP: Yeah. Well, my immediate goal is just to grow the population. In recent years, we haven’t had as many students coming from that part of the country — applying, admitting, enrolling here or being admitted and enrolling here. So I really want to grow that. I want to build relationships down there, both with prospective, students, with schools and community -based organizations. And, yeah, really that’s my main goal. I’d like to think they have some valuable things to bring to this campus.
TC: What is your favorite thing about yourself?
DP: Hahahaha; my favorite thing about myself. I enjoy my sense of humor, I do; the way that I can make light of things. I really don’t necessarily feel, like, pressure, pressured situations I’m really good at just making light of things and kind of seeing the bigger picture and not letting too much get to me. But you’ve got to have a sense of humor, right, especially in this thing called life. ‘Cause it can get hectic, it can get hectic, it can get serious, and for you to make it through, I’m a firm believer, you gotta have some sort … you gotta be able to shrug it off and laugh about it.
TC: As a graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, how do you think students at UCCS view CC students?
DP: Yeah. To be honest, none of us really knew much. Like, I grew up in Colorado and I didn’t hear about Colorado College until my senior year of high school. And that’s only because they were recruiting a girl I knew on the volleyball team. But even then, when I moved closer and went to UCCS, I heard even less. ‘Cause it’s kind of this school near downtown, hidden in the trees. And you know it’s private, and you know that there’s wealth here, but I didn’t know the resources until I got here. Like, I had no idea of the resources that this place has. And yeah, it’s, yeah. Nobody really knows much about CC. And I think it’s kind of ironic that in Forbes Magazine they call them a hidden Ivy. Like, kind of a play on words, but like, no no like, legitimately hidden in the trees, don’t know much about it, and you don’t know until you get into it, sort of thing.
TC: So you recently statred working at CC. Is there anything that surprised you about it?
DP: Yeah. Things that surprised me is their reach. Most schools in Colorado don’t have a rep. that visits my part of the country the way that I do; like, I’m going to Nashville, I’m going to New Orleans, I’m going to Atlanta, I’m going to North and South Carolina. There is so much travel in that part of the country that I can’t do it all ‘cause I’ll be busy in certain times and things like that. So the reach surprised me. Like, we have an international team where we send multiple people abroad to recruit that way. Like the reach that CC has for it to be “a hidden Ivy” is crazy. The resources are also crazy. Just realizing that, but not even from, like, a wealth or, like, a money standpoint, but wealth as in resources. And so I think that’s cool. And kind of like, my first impression is that the people here … First all, the students are amazing. Like the conversations that I have with 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-, 22-year-olds is crazy. They are remarkable people. They’re conscious, they’re present, they’re aware of their surroundings, at the least from students that I’ve talked to. Yeah. This is a very interesting place, very close knit community. Yeah, it’s cool — cool first impression, for sure.
TC: If there was one thing you could change about higher education, what would it be?
DP: If there’s one thing that I could change? I don’t know how I would change it, but make college campuses across the United States more diverse — diverse as far as the people of color represented, sexual orientation represented, religion represented. Because it’s really important to be around people that are not like yourself because you do tend to develop a more diverse school of thought when there’s diverse people around you; just because you hear different perspectives. And if there’s something that could change, it would probably be that and the affordability of higher ed. So pretty much access, making higher education, specifically great institutions like this, more accessible to all types of people. Again, once you go here, it’s ridiculous. One hundred percent of people do field study. And they encourage you not only to do block aways, but the Wild Cards that are covered — everything down from, like, The Odyssey — which is crazy — to everyone who hears about it but only a small percentage of people do it. But yeah, a lot of people deserve the resources that come with a well-endowed institution. My god; I couldn’t imagine what my college experience would be like or where I would be if I went to an institution with these types of resources — like anything from Tiger Treks, which is crazy… And, I don’t know, it’s a very, very amazing place that I wish more people had access to.
TC: How does being a Colorado native impact your experience at CC?
DP: I can speak to Denver ‘cause, again, that’s where I’m originally from. And I’ve been in Colorado Springs for a decent amount of time. I’ve seen it grow. And so, more often than not, I’m speaking with someone from a new place. It’s cool because you meet people here — when you’re giving a daily presentation, or — over 80 percent come from a different place, as far as student population goes. It’s always nice when you can talk first-hand experience ‘cause this is all that you know, ‘cause this is where you were born and raised, this is where you grew up. And it’s different just because my childhood was in Denver, but all my adult life has been the majority in Colorado Springs. So I definitely can speak to both respective cities, both the two largest cities in the state. And so it’s kind of cool, it’s kind of a privilege. Colorado all of the sudden has become, like, this hot commodity, you know, with, like, the rankings will come out or where Colorado, for last three or four years, has been one of the best places to live in America. And that’s kind of a place of pride to talk about how great this place is — even though I hate the wintertime; it’s trash.
TC: Can you explain the Colorado Pledge/Initiative?
DP: It’s really cool. I’m actually double-checking ‘cause obviously I’m new and they just sent out some some verbiage on it. But the gist is that Coloradans on this campus are a small population, a small minority. And the gist of it is that we want to support our local students. We definitely want to give them access and opportunities to this amazing place. And so we as an institution, we’re so invested in that that we’ve decided to commit ourselves, I guess, to committing to them, if that makes sense. And so it’s built on, like, an affordability model, if you will, and from my gist of it, pretty much making it affordable comparatively to, like, a CU Boulder. So based on your income, which I believe it’s under 200,000 for the household, if you’re under that, you won’t pay more here than say if your student was to go to Boulder. And there is exact verbiage around that. It’s funny because it’s like a, from my perception, it’s like a really big deal here. So, ‘for students from Colorado families with an adjusted gross income [AGI] of less than $60,000, there will be no parental contribution for tuition, room, and board.’ For $60,000 to $125,000, there will be no parental contribution for tuition at CC; they will only have to pay for room and board’ if the AGI is between 60 and 125. And then for families with AGI within 125 to 200,000, CC pledges that parental contribution will be the same or less than the cost attending a flagship institution. And we’re not targeting CU Boulder by any means, but that’s just kind of what we’re using as the mark of flagship institution in that way. Because it’s definitetly a great institution and we want to give our students another option. And we want them here on our campus because they are bright, they are talented, they are diverse, and that’s what we want in our oncoming class. So it’s basically saying that we want to invest in bringing Coloradans here on our campus. And we’re doing that from an economic affordability standpoint whcih is really cool to see.
TC: If you had to pick one song to play every time you walked into a room, what song would you choose and why?
DP: Like my theme song, huh? Wow, holy cow. That’s funny. I would probably say … that’s a really good question. I’m such a music head, too, I’m like ‘Oh my God there’s so many different ways to go.’ I really like Dreams and Nightmares by Meek Mill — big social justice, correctional — I’m trying to think of the term — like, social justice reform guy. But that song is dope because it talks about the dreams of what he has now, the nightmares of the past. Granted I haven’t seen, like, crazy amounts of adversity, everybody has their own troubles or whatever. But I love that song. It’s like an anthem. Every time I play it with my homies or whatever we go crazy. But, for sure, I probably say, yeah, probably Dreams and Nightmares by Meek Mill.
TC: Do you have a go-to joke, funny story, or crowd-pleaser?
DP: I don’t know if I’m really a joke guy as much, to be honest. ‘Cause a lot of my stuff is, like, free-flow, like, I think I’m kind of quick-witted, like, I’m quick on my feet. And so I can make something there in the moment, but I don’t have, like, dad jokes I can just pull out, you know, at a cocktail party. This is like my mantra which I live by. “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” I have a very interesting background just because, this time last year, I was actually working for UNC, University of Northern Colorado. And I was only at UCCS for 10 or 11 months. And it’s not, in our profession, it’s not common for you to work for three institutions in a year. And so, I wasn’t really even looking for this position, ‘cause I just got to UCCS — back to UCCS ‘cause it was my old stomping grounds. But I’m like, “Assistant director, that sounds kind of cool.” And I just began to work tirelessly over it and obsessed over the job. And crazy hours went into preparation for it. And I’ve never, like, prepped like that for anything in my life. And I’m taking that same preparation and put it into this job. And I think that’s what’s, like, changing my life and the approach. ‘Cause I think that one day I would love to be, like, a president of a university or vice chancellor. And that’s my dream, but my dreams won’t work unless I do. I feel like I made it to, like, the league. This feels like the league. Like you know how they, like at least where I come from, people who like me are always just trying to find, like, a way out of the city, trying to find a way out of the situation, to go and make it to some league — whether that’s the NFL or the NBA or even to college. And from my perspective, for my profession, from where I come from, this feels like the league. I feel like I made to the league. With like, the resources and who the people I talk to, the influential people on this campus, the students, like, I’m like, “Wow.” I can’t believe I’m 26 and I’m here. Like, it’s only going to go up from here. But, yeah, man, it’s crazy, I’m sorry I don’t have any cool dad jokes.