Yvonne Romero Da Silva named vice president for enrollment at Rice

Yvonne Romero Da Silva, vice dean and director of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, has been named vice president for enrollment at Rice University.

Photo of Yvonne Romero Da Silva, new vice president for enrollment

Yvonne Romero Da Silva

With nearly 25 years of experience in college admissions and recruitment, Romero Da Silva has gained national attention for her successful strategic planning efforts at UPenn. She has also impacted higher education initiatives through leadership roles with the College Board and numerous presentations and engagements for the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

“I’m thrilled that Yvonne will be leading our enrollment efforts and be part of our leadership team at Rice,” said Rice President David Leebron. “Her demonstrated record of strategic thinking and innovation will serve us well in a very dynamic environment. It’s clear she has a lifelong commitment to academic excellence and to the critical role of universities in providing life-changing opportunities to students from diverse backgrounds.”

When Romero Da Silva joined the UPenn staff in late 2012 as vice dean of admissions and director of strategic planning, she developed a comprehensive five-year strategic plan that set the office on a new course to build a foundation for enrollment success for the next 20 years. She became director of admissions in 2014 with continued oversight of the strategic plan, and in five years UPenn increased applications by 29 percent, resulting in a record high of 40,400 applications. These increases came from all sectors of UPenn’s applicant pool, including a 48 percent increase in African-American applicants, a 55 percent increase in Latino applicants and significant increases in low-income and first-generation applicants over five years.

Her strategic plan led to the development of a new holistic application evaluation method called committee-based evaluation that involves having admissions officers work in pairs to review and rate college applications simultaneously. Approximately 15 colleges and universities have adopted committee-based evaluation so far, and another 30 universities from around the country attended a summit at UPenn to learn more about this new model with the intent to incorporate it into their admissions practice in the coming year. The innovation has received attention in the national higher education media.

Romero Da Silva wrote a dissertation on the impact of committee-based evaluation on the admissions process for her doctorate in higher education management, which she completed this summer at UPenn. She earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), her master’s in education from Harvard and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“I was one of the few admissions professionals who sought to pursue a career in admissions immediately after graduating from college,” Romero Da Silva said. “I grew up in Southern California near Riverside and assumed I would go to college in California. I didn’t know much about private universities.” She said that when she was accepted to MIT, which offered her grants, she moved to the east coast to study. “I realized there were hidden opportunities that so many high school students in America don’t know about. They could be taking advantage of these ‘national treasures’ — private American institutions of higher ed that are pushing the envelope on research and learning.”

Romero Da Silva joined the admissions team at her undergraduate alma mater as an admission counselor and rose through the ranks. She led the recruitment of Latino students and designed and implemented a comprehensive recruitment database that made it easier for MIT to customize recruitment mailings. She eventually became associate director of admission and coordinator of minority recruitment. Her initiatives resulted in a 20 percent year-over-year increase in applications from underrepresented minorities and a yield for that group that was on par or higher than the overall yield for MIT during her leadership.

Between her roles at MIT and UPenn, Romero Da Silva spent eight years working for the College Board, a nonprofit organization created to expand access to higher education. She served as an enrollment manager for the Southwest Regional Office in Austin, Texas, as a corporate strategist in New York and as senior director for SAT higher education outreach and services. In the latter role, she developed a strategy to better support enrollment officers with their recruitment, admission and enrollment goals and managed the development of a new electronic reporting tool for colleges and universities.

Romero Da Silva considers Rice to be one of the “national treasures” that she wants more students of all backgrounds to know about. “Rice is such an excellent university in terms of faculty and research under amazing leadership,” she said. “Over the last decade, Rice has grown in a positive direction in every metric for enrollment, which is quite outstanding. Rankings have shown how happy Rice students are and that they feel supported and connected to the community. Rice is already the pre-eminent institution of higher education in the Southwest. Students around the country have a lot of great choices, and I want to help even more of them see Rice as another great choice with incredibly positive features, including its location. I think it’s important for students to experience a city or area that is unfamiliar to them and develop a broader sense of our country.”

Romero Da Silva, who will begin her role at Rice in mid-August, said she is excited about moving to Houston with her 13-year-old son, who will be entering the eighth grade. “I have been to Texas a number of times to recruit students, and the area around Rice is my favorite part of Houston,” she said. “I was impressed by how nice the people are that I met.”

In addition to enjoying traveling and gardening, Romero Da Silva said that now she has finished her doctorate degree, she is “looking forward to reading a book for leisure.”

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.