Students attend Admitted Students Day, which the admissions team under Enrollment Management plans every spring.

Supporting Students from Start to Finish: Meet CU Denver’s Enrollment Management Division

March 26, 2024

This story is part one of a series we will be sharing through the spring semester that highlights the four units within Strategic Enrollment and Student Success.

While graduates leave CU Denver with a diploma, a physical representation of their hard work, there’s an incredible—and sometimes unseen—support network of family, friends, and CU Denver community members that help them achieve their goals. From filling out admissions paperwork to applying for financial aid and finding resources to navigate campus, a lot of things must come together for a student to succeed—which is where CU Denver’s Enrollment Management unit comes in. 

Made up of four areas, including admissions, registrar, financial aid and scholarships, and student success, Enrollment Management sits within CU Denver’s Strategic Enrollment and Student Success (SESS) Division. It’s responsible for not only getting students in the door but also supporting them through graduation.  

“[My team members] rally around what is in the best interest of our students, and that is very motivating,” said Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Pam Toney, who oversees the unit and is a first-generation college graduate. “We are the administrative unit that is really helping set students up for success.” 

Leading from Experience  

During her 20-year higher education career, Toney has gained experience in many different aspects of student success, including financial aid and operations. And, as a former first-generation student, she also relates to the journeys that many CU Denver students are pursuing.  

Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Pam Toney

Toney started her career as a financial aid advisor at Missouri College in St. Louis, Missouri, near where she grew up in Troy, Illinois. Her operational mind, she said, helped bring a different approach to her work. “My goal in that role was to see how we can make the environment and these processes that are required for students to get signed up as easy as possible,” she said. “Really breaking it down for them so that it’s in terms they can understand and relate to.” 

She’s carried that mindset of streamlining processes in support of students throughout her career. When she joined CU Denver in July 2023, one of her first priorities was to focus on the people who directly support students: her team members. She prioritized filling open spots and supporting her department, and Enrollment Management is now nearly fully staffed. In the financial aid office alone, the then team of five people is now at 14, which means less wait times and faster processing for students.  

The unit’s culture has also shifted from working in silos to operating as a collaborative partner with schools and colleges. Their aim is to create a hub of resources for students. “The culture that we’re really building and perpetuating within our team is very student-focused, but it is also being a point of contact for the schools and colleges because our process-specific actions impact them just as much as they impact our students,” Toney said. “We are making progress. Every day is a new day toward improving something.” 

The true measure of progress, Toney said, comes from an important source: students. When she or a member of her unit hears from a student who says that they were able to get into a program or complete their financial aid materials, she knows they are making an impact. “The best days are when, every now and then, a student will reach out and say thank you,” she said. 

Helping Students Meet Their Moments 

Toney supports her team so they can help students. Those milestone moments can make or break whether a student starts at the university, stays at the university, and graduates. A few of those might include going on an exciting campus tour and feeling connected or confidently making it through the admissions process. “All these steps add up to their final destination,” Toney said. “Each one of those opportunities that we have to connect with them shows that we care and support them.” 

This team’s commitment starts even before students arrive on campus. Unlike other universities, which have a commitment day in the spring to encourage prospective students to make their decisions, CU Denver takes applications until July 31 as a part of its rolling admission process. Toney explained that this timeline supports nontraditional students who are considering different pathways, first-generation students who aren’t familiar with admissions deadlines, transfer students who want to learn more about the university, and students who might decide later in the year that they want to pursue college. 

By catering to the individual needs of students, CU Denver is able to help make education work for all. “Here at CU Denver, we have a place for all of the students that want to come here, and we want to make sure we are as accommodating as possible to allow them to come in,” Toney said. “If students are uncertain, CU Denver is here [for them].” 

For Toney, all of the small successes lead to the most rewarding time: commencement.  

“[A leader] I previously worked with always said, ‘If you can’t get excited about graduation, you’re in the wrong business.’ And that just really resonated because it’s so true,” Toney said. “There’s so much that goes into getting a student from signing up for a first class to earning a degree. Graduation is where you get to see all of the students be so proud of what they’ve accomplished and know that they’re going to go off and do great things.” 

Staff Spotlights:  

Get to know some of the Enrollment Management team members, in their own words.  

Sarah Kuklinski, Assistant Director of Financial Aid Operations 

Hometown: Castle Rock, Colorado 

Typical Day: “My workday revolves around answering the myriad student questions, providing them with the guidance they need to navigate their academic journey successfully. Beyond the realm of student support, I extend my expertise to collaborate with various departments, lending a helping hand wherever it’s needed. A significant part of my role involves revamping and rejuvenating financial aid processes, ensuring that students have a positive and smooth experience.” 

Favorite Thing about My Job: “I love that each challenge is different. We’re beholden to a litany of regulations, and I enjoy tackling new questions and processes that require compliant detail but also a creative or unique approach to ensure an excellent student experience. I also really enjoy working with those around me. Everyone is creative, eager to improve, and dedicated.” 

Outside of Work: “I enjoy spending time outdoors, working in my yard and hiking with the dog. I love the opportunities I get to hang out with family and friends. I feel like I am always coming up with new home improvement projects, so I spend a lot of time planning, prepping, and executing on projects at home.” 

Crysta Diaz, Director of Undergraduate Recruitment & Admissions Systems Operations 

Hometown: Miami, Florida 

Typical Day: “My daily responsibilities involve engaging with students, faculty, and staff, staying informed about current industry trends, analyzing data for strategic decision-making, and optimizing processes to remove obstacles and ensure a smoother journey for students.” 

Favorite Thing about My Job: “The most fulfilling aspect of my role is contributing to the realization of students’ dreams. My purpose revolves around guiding students through the process of self-discovery, aiding them in understanding their educational pursuits, exploring their options, and showcasing how CU Denver can be instrumental in their journey. As a first-generation Cuban American, I also consider it a privilege to connect with prospective students, parents, and families in Spanish.” 

Outside of Work: “I enjoy going on adventures and experiencing life’s simple pleasures. I am usually immersed in a good book, exploring new places, or spending quality time with loved ones.” 

Clayton Ann Short, Associate Director of Admissions Visits & Experiences 

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama  

Typical Day: “As the lead of the Visits and Events Programs, my role feels different every day. I manage daily campus tours, virtual exploration opportunities, and programming for admitted student visits. Coordinating with our admissions visits specialist with high school and community groups is a regular part of my routine. Through all of this, I work with our amazing student ambassadors to ensure a seamless experience for all visitors. In addition to these responsibilities, I lead the front desk and customer service operations, handling phones and ensuring a positive experience for everyone who reaches out. The support of my dedicated team is invaluable, making each day in the Office of Admissions both challenging and incredibly rewarding.” 

Favorite Thing about My Job: “My favorite part of the job is undoubtedly the incredible people I have the privilege of working with. Whether it’s my supportive peers, understanding supervisors, or the dedicated student staff I oversee, the camaraderie and teamwork make each day enjoyable. These individuals make our efforts in the Office of Admissions more exciting and fun.” 

Outside of Work: “I love exploring our beautiful chosen home, the state of Colorado. My husband and I love trying new food locations, going to concerts and shows, snow skiing and snowboarding, water skiing and wakeboarding, and spending time with our friends (especially on Trivia Night at Snowpack). I also enjoy working on home improvement projects, working in the yard, and hanging out with our dog, Titus.”