William M. Shain's application to become the new dean of admissions and financial aid has been placed in the "yes" pile, the College announced this week. He will begin July 1.

"I don't come in with an agenda that I will impose," Shain said in a phone interview from his office in Tennessee when asked if he plans any significant changes in Bowdoin's admissions philosophy.

Shain said his "commitment to diversity is profound" and that he would not come to a college that did not share that commitment.

The decision comes after a long search process by a committee of members from the College community. Shain, now the dean of undergraduate admissions at Vanderbilt University, will replace the current dean of admissions at Bowdoin, Dick Steele.

"My wife and I are very pleased," said Shain. He said he is "very much looking forward to coming to Bowdoin" and working with the admissions staff.

President Barry Mills announced the selection of Shain to the campus Wednesday in an email to all students and faculty, noting that "Bill's admissions career spans four decades." Shain, a graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law, has served as a regional director in Princeton's admissions office, as dean of admissions at Macalaster College for 17 years, and as dean at Vanderbilt since 1998.

In the email, Mills said, "[Shain] is committed to liberal arts education, to providing opportunity through financial aid, and has a proven track record of building and sustaining regional, racial, socioeconomic, and other forms of diversity in a student body. I couldn't be more pleased with his appointment to this vital position at Bowdoin."

"During his tenure, Vanderbilt became increasingly more selective, admitting 35 percent of its applicants last year, compared with 61 percent when he arrived," said Mills.

One of the first items addressed by Mills in his convocation speech at the beginning of the academic year was the potential of having a new dean of admissions this year.

"This time of transition in the leadership of our admissions office does not indicate nor will it result in a change in admissions policy for this college," Mills said in the speech.

Shain said he is "drawn to students with interesting minds," and that he looks forward to spending time doing different things.

Shain will replace Steele, who was asked to step in from retirement and return to Bowdoin as dean of admissions and financial aid by Mills when former dean Jim Miller left to work for his alma mater, Brown University, last August.

Shain is "extremely well qualified, well known nationally, and has a terrific reputation," said Steele. He also noted Shain's "nice sense of humor," and outstanding ability to remember students he had admitted years before.

Steele and Shain were once competitors, in fact.

"At one point, I was dean of admissions at Carleton when Bill was dean of admissions at Macalaster," Steele said. Both colleges are competitive liberal arts schools in Minnesota.

Asked if he knows of any new directions Shain might take as head of admissions, Steele said that while he is sure Shain will bring in a lot of fresh ideas to the operation, he did not know of any specifics yet.

"Though not most important overall, but still extremely useful," Steele said, was that Shain "would bring some real innovations in terms of the use of technology to help efficiency...and we need it."

Shain will likely come to campus briefly this spring to witness the Bowdoin admissions process in action.

Shain said he had a "lovely experience" with the search committee.

"I was impressed with the intelligence, sensitivity, and warmth of people" at Bowdoin, he said. "I felt very welcome."

The committee, headed by Mills, consisted of a group of individuals from across campus, including professors, a student, a coach, and other officials from various departments.

According to Vice President for Planning and Institutional Advancement Scott Meiklejohn, the identities of the candidates were kept secret so the colleges that the candidates were working at would not know that they were job hunting. Thus, only members of the search committee, members of the admissions staff, and other important officials were included in the process. Shain, for example, had an interview with the committee by videoconference, and many other interviews were held in Portland.

The committee also used Isaacson Miller, a search firm based in Boston, to assist in the process.

Members of the search committee highlighted several characteristics that made Shain stand out from the applicant pool.

Women's Basketball Coach Stefanie Pemper said, "It was apparent Bill loves admissions work and sees Bowdoin as a great fit. He seems thrilled to be back on a small liberal arts campus and eager to be an active member of our community."

"What stood out to me most about Mr. Shain was the importance he placed on maintaining a strong relationship with the student body in relation to his work in admissions. As a current student, this struck me as a very important asset to have in a dean of admissions," said Leslie Wittenbraker '06, the only current student on the committee.

Associate Professor of Chemistry Rick Broene said he liked Shain's desire "to engage the faculty in conversations that would lead him to a better understanding of the people the faculty would hope to have as Bowdoin students and match applicant interests to faculty strengths."

In his email to campus, Mills thanked Miller and Steele for their successes building "a program that has seen remarkable and sustained success throughout the 1990s and into this new century."

Mills noted the 5,400 applications received for the Class of 2010?a seven percent increase over last year's record number of applications.

"Bowdoin continues to attract interest from across America and around the world, allowing us to build a first-year class of high-achieving young men and women who will be society's future leaders," said Mills.

Steele said he is looking forward to returning to retirement. A week before Mills asked him to step in last summer, Steele had just published his first spy novel. He has now written two chapters of a new "detective novel with an admissions twist." He said the novel involves a mafia member's daughter applying to college, and said "when she gets turned down it isn't going to be pretty."

Steele said he has loved his work, but looks forward to having time to go to concerts and athletic events on campus, and perhaps throwing some parties for the admissions staff. He will also teach two workshops this July at Yale for high school students who do not have the opportunity to receive significant college counseling.

As for the transition process ahead, Steele has few concerns.

"I will share as much as I can with him so it will be a nice, smooth handoff," said Steele. "But, I don't need to advise [Shain]. He's a real pro."