June 20, 2024 | Matt Kucinski

Melissa Rousseau accepting the NACCAP Admissions Officer of the Year Award from Anthony Turner, board chair of NACCAP.

Melissa Rousseau, director of undergraduate admissions at Calvin University, was named NACCAP’s 2024 U.S. Admissions Officer of the Year. The award is given each year to one of NACCAP’s (North American Coalition for Christian Admissions Professionals) members in recognition of outstanding service to the admissions/counseling profession.

Rousseau received the award in front of 450 of her peers from institutions across the country during NACCAP’s annual conference in Southern California.

“When Phil Cook (the director of NACCAP) began to read the nomination, I thought ‘that sounds a lot like my experience,’ and it took a minute for me to realize that they were indeed talking about me,” said Rousseau. “I was entirely stunned.”

Strategic Direction

Rousseau joined Calvin during the pandemic in 2020, after nearly two decades of prior experience in higher education. She brought a depth of technical and industry expertise to the admissions team.

“In her four years, she has helped provide stability, improved processes, and led the Admissions team through several impactful strategic initiatives that have helped drive engagement and produce enrollment growth,” wrote Lauren Jensen, vice president for enrollment strategy, in her nomination letter.

One shining example of a strategic initiative that Jensen points out is the revamped visit program, which has led to more prospective students and families visiting campus and ultimately more choosing Calvin as their school. The university has also invested more in the admissions team and in thoughtful development in emerging markets.

The fruit of these labors is back-to-back years of double-digit-percentage enrollment growth for its incoming class, which is something that defies market trends that have and continue to show significant declines in the number of high school graduates in the Midwest.

A Team Effort

For Rousseau, she credits the incredible team she’s part of—from admissions team members to professors, from support staff to coaches.

“As I reflect now, I’m so humbled to recognize that this award was not just for ‘me’ but really for ‘we’ as all that has been accomplished in the last four years is nothing that I did alone; it took this incredible team that surrounds me to accomplish all of it in God’s grace,” said Rousseau.

While Rousseau says the visible investments the university is making in students, from the new business building to the revamped outdoor athletic facilities to the beautiful library spaces, are attractive to prospective students, what remains as their top priority is quite consistent.

“What I find draws students here the most is when they are looking for two things: a college that is academically excellent, which leads to research and other opportunities, and that’s actively Christian—that lives that out on a day-to-day basis, where that’s integrated,” said Rousseau. “When students want those two things, they choose us.”

Recent stories