As half of the team responsible for undergraduate concerns, he will oversee Undergraduate Admissions, Student Financial Services, the Office of the Registrar, Academic Advising for Arts and Sciences, Pre-Professional Advising and the Career Center. His counterpart in what was formerly Homewood Student Affairs is Susan Boswell, dean of student life, who directs nonacademic services.
The two report to Ilene Busch-Vishniac, dean of Engineering, and Daniel Weiss, dean of Arts and Sciences.
Conley, who will join Johns Hopkins on Aug. 8., has been dean of undergraduate admissions at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland since 1990.
"Bill Conley is a superb addition to Johns Hopkins," Weiss said. "He brings to the university substantial experience in admissions and enrollment services as well as a commitment to building on our traditional academic strengths. He will help us to move forward with a new market focus and in enhancing student services to support the academic mission of the Whiting and Krieger schools. We are fortunate to have him joining us."
Conley says the feeling is mutual.
"What really sold me on the position was the quality of the people," Conley said via telephone from Cleveland. "As much as the job is attractive for its responsibilities and that it is at Johns Hopkins, the kind of high-caliber institution I was looking for, the people really energized me, and they are what makes the job for me."
Busch-Vishniac said, "Although not yet here, Bill has already begun to interact with both the staff who will report to him and with friends of HSA. He has shown himself to be a skilled listener and quick learner. I am confident that he will quickly assimilate the unique qualities of Hopkins while bringing Homewood a fresh perspective on what is possible."
Conley will be working closely with the leadership of the Krieger and Whiting schools to enhance Homewood enrollment and academic services and align them more effectively with the academic mission of the two schools.
The addition of Conley completes a restructuring process that began in 2000, when Larry Benedict, dean of Homewood Student Affairs, left Hopkins for a position at MIT. When Boswell was named to her current position in July 2001, the university announced that it would be dividing the responsibilities for student affairs to better serve the undergraduate body.
"Research universities tend to view a student in a very one-dimensional sense, at the academic side rather than the personal side, not educating in a holistic way," Conley said. "That's a disservice to students, who need to have an opportunity to grow as a whole person. And it's hard to have one dean to oversee all of that. Susan and I are partners. And that's where the opportunity lies. Each of us has to focus on our own portfolio, but we need to do it in partnership."
Boswell said she is confident that the search committee, which was chaired by Andrew Douglas and Steven David, associate deans for academic affairs in the Whiting and Krieger schools respectively, has chosen the best person for the position.
"I think that Bill has the right blend of professional and interpersonal skills to make him an exceptional individual for this position," Boswell said. "He impresses me as the type of person who is willing to do whatever it takes to do the job well. He is enthusiastic and people-oriented."
The newly formed partnership format in the Homewood schools drew Conley back to Hopkins after his first introduction to the university 13 years ago, when he was offered the job of director of admissions.
"I felt [then that] I needed to strike out on some adventure, away from the East Coast," said the New Jersey native, who instead accepted the post at Case Western Reserve. "At the time, I said I have a funny feeling I'll be back at Hopkins someday. So I was really excited when this job came along."
Conley's interest in working with college students was sparked during the three years he spent at the private Delbarton School in New Jersey. While teaching economics and advanced placement history to high school students; coaching tennis, swimming and soccer; and talking to seniors looking at competitive colleges, he said he realized that a role as a college administrator would allow him to reach a broader set of people.
So Conley, who had earned his bachelor's degree in history from Colgate, became a student again himself, receiving his master's degree in education in 1980 from Harvard, where he served as assistant dean of students. From 1980 to 1984, he was assistant and then associate director of admissions at Lafayette College. He spent the next six years as director of admissions at Drew University in his hometown of Madison, N.J., before taking his current post at Case Western Reserve.
Anuj Mittal, a 2002 Hopkins graduate and former president of the student council who served on the search committee, said, "Dean Conley impressed me with his breadth of knowledge about the components of the undergraduate experience. [His] experiences have grown through his natural inclination to go beyond the job description." Conley understands, Mittal said, "the intangibles that make for a complete and enjoyable undergraduate education. He will be a tremendous asset to all of the students at Homewood."
Conley will be moving shortly to Baltimore with his wife, Annie, an admissions officer at the Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and their children, Nicholas, 15, and Anna, 11.
Though he doesn't officially start his new job until next month, Conley already has an idea of what he would like the rest of the world to know about Homewood.
"In the marketplace, the brand of Hopkins is tilted toward medicine, pre-med and biomedical engineering. It's also seen as not a place with a vital student-life environment," Conley said. "I've spent a lot of time on campus in the last couple of months, and I see that there is a lot going on. I'd love for students to see that and celebrate that aspect of Hopkins and change the world's perception of Hopkins. We won't lose our gilded academic image, but we do have a lot to gain."