Strategy, Access, and Fun: A Q&A with Director of Enrollment Management Yassine Talhaoui

Ask Director of Enrollment Management Yassine Talhaoui about his role, and you’ll certainly hear the word “strategic”—along with the words “magical” and “fun.” Since joining Rivers in July of 2022, Talhaoui, a native of Germany who speaks five languages, has taken up the challenge of strengthening the school’s position in an ever-evolving admission landscape. But, he says, it’s the joy of seeing students thrive at Rivers that keeps the work fresh and exciting. We recently caught up with Talhaoui to ask a few questions about enrollment management at Rivers.

Someone in your role was traditionally called "director of admission," but your title is director of enrollment management. Can you explain the difference and the reason for the shift?
The responsibilities of the director of enrollment management are not limited to attracting and admitting the best possible students. I see enrollment management as a much broader concept that encompasses all aspects of attracting, enrolling, and retaining students. It includes admission, but it also includes financial aid, research, marketing, and student life. It’s a far more holistic approach to the student experience than the historic approach to admission work.
College admission people often talk about "building a class," rather than just admitting individuals. Does that also apply at a school like Rivers?
Absolutely. As I always say, we are an intentionally diverse community, and our students have varied experiences, beliefs, socioeconomic backgrounds, and more. We want our students to be fully prepared for the complex world that awaits them and to be leaders in their respective communities, and that is only possible if they gain the necessary competencies and skills. They do so in part by being inspired by their peers. They ultimately complement one another and bring out the best in one another. 

What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?
The most challenging part of my job is having to select from a pool of many deserving and impressive candidates. At the end of the day, we have limited spots and far more applicants than space available. But it is magical and very rewarding to see students thrive here. Watching students grow, helping them find their authentic voices, and observing the impacts they make is a privilege; it’s the reason I have chosen to commit my professional career to providing access to high-quality education.

What drew you to admission work?
No one grows up dreaming of becoming an admission professional. I started as a classroom teacher at an independent day school after graduate school. I immediately fell in love with the resources, access, and sense of community that independent schools offer. When I was given an opportunity to participate in admission work, I quickly realized how much I enjoyed it. Every student is different, and I enjoy learning their stories and finding out about their interests, goals, and aspirations. In short, it’s fun!
How has that work changed over the time you've spent in the field?
I genuinely appreciate how much more complex the work has become—it’s far more intentional and holistic. To ensure the long-term success of our school, we have to be strategic thinkers in a very complex market and anticipate trends and demographic shifts. At the end of the day, we want to continue to attract and educate the brightest minds and strongest citizens.

This story first appeared in the fall 2023 issue of the Riparian, The Rivers School's alumni magazine.  
333 Winter Street Weston, MA 02493
P: 781.235.9300 F: 781.239.3614