ONWARD AND UPWARD: SHANE CREEPINGBEAR ’08, DEAN OF ADMISSIONS
By Matt Walker ’04
Shane Creepingbear ’08 will serve as Antioch’s new Dean of Admissions beginning October 18th. Shane has been an ever-present member of the admissions team since Antioch began recruiting students for the 2011 entering cohort. He has carried the largest recruitment territory and has personally recruited more students to Antioch College than any other member of the admissions team. As a nationally recognized speaker, Shane lectures frequently on diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice in higher education.
Shane also has strong ties to the Village of Yellow Springs. He is the proud father of 5 children and is raising his family in the village. He sits on the board of directors for the Yellow Springs Federal Credit Union and has volunteered for many diversity-centered task forces and groups in the community. He has also served as the staff member on the Antioch Board of Trustees.
He is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.
We sat down with Shane this week to discuss his work, his vision and, among other things, Hip Hop. Enjoy the interview!
Matt Walker (MW): “You’ve been so successful, going from a student to staff and now Dean. Do you have any thoughts on how to succeed at Antioch?”
Shane Creepingbear (SC): “Yeah, absolutely. It’s complicated because I think it’s not been an easy road. Opening liberal arts institutions in this day and age just doesn’t happen. Nobody’s doing it. There’s no roadmap for it. And so, it’s just been a lot of hard work. And I’m willing to put it in.
Originally, it was because of my commitment as an alumni, as somebody who was educated here, a first generation student, had a good experience of professors, all the friends I met and people I studied with. And so that all sort of made sense. It was really easy for me to go out on the road and talk. At the time when I first started, I didn’t imagine picking up work in admissions. I didn’t imagine that I would still be doing it this far down the road, let alone turn it into a career. And, actually, that’s really common. Now I’ve built a broad network of admissions colleagues, professionals, friends, all across the United States. And there’s just a really common thread of people happening into admissions, it not being an intentional thing. There’s not a lot that you wouldn’t necessarily study to get into this kind of work. It’s very unique in that way – there’s no bachelor’s degrees unless you’re doing marketing and communications, that kind of thing. I just got into it and I stuck with it.
But the thing that really crystallized for me in this work was my opportunity to work with other first-generation students. Once I started learning about this aspect of the work, I really got passionate about it. Through the early Horace Mann fellowship, which was the full tuition scholarships, we utilized and leveraged it. Back then it was accessible. It became suddenly accessible to students who might not otherwise be able to afford/approach a private, liberal arts education or degree. That kind of thing. It was not only that I was able to learn about access and equity and college admissions for first generation students other marginalized student populations. But Antioch was backing you up. They’re paying. They’re fully funding these scholarships. If Antioch wasn’t backing that aspect of my work, I would have gone on to other things or found other work. But because the institutional commitment was strong in that way and we continued on, we’re continuing on today to the Antioch Works Program.”
MW: “What is the Antioch Works Program?”
SC: “It’s not necessarily a program but more of an initiative. There are a couple of major things attached to this. It’s a board initiative. Part of it is that all students are able to work on campus; to be employed part-time for student jobs during their study terms, 10 hours a week, regardless of income level or anything like that. So it’s separate from the federal work study program or FWSPI as we used to call it.
The other component is that students are guaranteed access to an international Co-Op experience. It’s optional but we encourage it. We’ve always encouraged the students to do at least one international Co Op. But this sort of guarantees the opportunity through some funding through the Co Op office or however it needs to happen. The other is that all Pell eligible students receive full tuition, last dollar scholarships. So it’s not just like a full tuition scholarship, like the Horace Mann fellowship. We take the money that they receive, federally, from the Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is a grant that students are offered. When they’re in the low-income section, there’s a range for expected family contribution that the government says the family can pay. If you’re under a threshold, you’re offered these grants which you don’t have to pay back. So a student would choose to use their grant money at Antioch College. Everybody brings something to the table. It’s not like the free tuition Horace Mann fellowship like before. But we cover anything the grant doesn’t cover. Or, if they have other scholarships, they could bring those in. And they also have their housing covered. The only thing that they’re really responsible for is the meal plan, which is awesome. And, again, it just extends the message that we, as an institution, are committed to removing barriers like cost to education.”
MW: “I’m curious to hear you talk about anything you’ve observed about the students: what they’re into and things like that?”
SC: “Yeah – I mean it’s certainly a different generation. We’re talking about students, people who were born in the early aughts. They’ve experienced a lot of pressure. And we’re in this late-stage capitalism, endless war with Iraq, the housing market crash in the late aughts, COVID, student loan debt crisis… I mean they’re living through all of this. And so on their approach to education they’re very smart about shopping for it. And they’re very intentional. But, that being said, people select Antioch for a reason; one reason or another. It’s usually a very intentional decision. They’re bringing that to the table when they come here. But, I always say, I recognize people from when I was going to school here. There’s something about the student body that just sort of, is. You know? I don’t want to say it’s timeless because I can’t really speak for generations before myself. But there’s an aspect to the feel or vibe. It’s just rings true for at least my experience here. It’s really, really cool. Very diverse interests, everybody’s different backgrounds and educational backgrounds and different things like that. Every year it’s a really interesting group of students and I’m always very excited about them.”
MW: “I’m really curious about retention, can you please speak a little about that?”
SC: “It’s really important. It’s the enigma of the college world. Every school is trying to figure out ways to better retain their students. And that often looks like offering better, more extensive support in so many ways, making people feel like they’re at home. And that’s one of the biggest aspects of this conversation from a functional standpoint. From my position at admissions, we work really hard for each student that we bring in here. We want to support them. We want to support their growth. But our relationship with them kind of ends once they get to campus. There’s Student Life and academics and our communication sort of drops off. So we don’t have a lot of involvement in how the retention effort goes. But we obviously don’t want to lose students for whatever reasons. Students change their mind. They change their mind about majors, things happen in their lives. We should absolutely always expect that. But when we’re trying to grow and we’re losing students who aren’t feeling at home or supported it just makes me want to expand and do more and do better and learn and grow.”
MW: “I’m really curious if there are things you might be looking forward to? Or, if you have a vision that you are working toward or are interested in? Is there anything that you’re looking forward to coming up?”
SC: “Yes, absolutely. Articulating it is a little more complicated. But, the first thing I’ll say is, I’ve been involved with the office since it started. When I got my job as part time Admissions Ambassador, when they showed me my office on the third floor of South Hall, it was an empty room with a desk and a phone connected to the desk and that was it. They said “We’ll, try to have your computer by the end of the week”. So really just from nothing to all this. And I just want to say that I think the recruitment efforts, the offers admission can put forth, as long as we’re being supported by the institution, is in probably the best shape it has been, up until this point, to recruit our students.
This is a high-pressure job. The marketplace for admissions in higher education is insanely challenging. Three percent of students are looking at liberal arts colleges, or will go into liberal arts colleges. You can count on 3% generally, year-to-year, of the entire college bound population. Of that 3%, when you start peeling back layers, many want to play a sport, many want to go into something like nursing or criminology, things that we don’t offer. And that number, that 3%, really starts to pare down. And so it’s a high pressure job. I’ve had nine bosses in the office in the last 11 years, for various lengths of time. But obviously not very long. So, we’re just building upon what they have done, what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished in the office. I really look forward to doing the work. Utilizing that, Jane has directed me to staff the office. She’s giving me some positions to work with and build upon. And that’s going to be really helpful in this effort. I have no misconceptions about the pressures; the real, very real challenges that we have here but I really feel optimistic – cautiously optimistic, but optimistic nonetheless.”
MW: “Has the Self Designed Major become the prevailing one?”
SC: “It’s all self-designed. You could approach it more from a more general standpoint, you can always be more general in how you design your major. I think that’s sort of the flexibility of it. But a lot of students, I think for a variety of reasons, just because of the learning environment here, will figure out how to focus within areas that they want to approach it. I mean, think about environmental sustainability. Within that there are places you can go with your career, there’s a lot of things you can focus on or study. Where do you want to go for work? Do you want to go into graduate school programs? If there are grad programs, are there ones that you can identify that are specific to something? And then you can even focus your major on that. I think there’s a lot of variation and variability within that framework of the self-designed major.”
MW: “Any thoughts on hip hop within Antioch? Hip hop and pedagogy? What do you think about all that?”
SC: “Oh absolutely. I started DJing in high school, I got turntables when I was 16 and got really into hip hop. Hip hop was like underground hip hop back then. Now that line’s a lot more blurred with SoundCloud and stuff. But when I got here, I found a vibrant community of people who were interested in hip hop and activism through hip hop. We put on these huge shows called Midwest Hip Hop convergences. I would play hip hop on the stoop every Thursday. The convergences were weekend long events where it would be live acts performing from all around the Midwest. And it would be paired with things like breakdance demonstrations, graffiti -writing demonstrations, poetry or writing workshops. It would be speakers throughout the day. And then in the evening there would be the showcases where the acts would go on. We did that for a few years and they were really big and they got really big. But, towards the end of Antioch’s time… Of course, students move on and things like that so at one point those sort-of petered out a little bit.
But absolutely – I just did a presentation for Antioch Midwest. Their Master of Arts program, asked me to be a guest speaker. My presentation was on liberation and music, liberation movements and music. I put together an awesome playlist. The connections are just intrinsically there – hip hop, music, education, arts, history, writing… Everything sort of can be pulled into that. That’d be phenomenal and really easy to connect to our mission and values.”
MW: “Is there anything else you would like to speak about?”
SC: “Yeah – Coco, Asher and I are organizing a DJ workshop on Monday, October 25. It’ll be in the evening. There will be announcements that come out and stuff but it’s gonna be less on like the functionality of the devices that you use to DJ and more like theory, ways to approach it, ways to think about curating music for crowns and things like that. And it’ll be down at the experimental theater, in The Foundry.”