Shaffer Caps Off a Transformative Career in Student Services

Barb Shaffer, second from left, with Admissions staff Liz Woodward, Andrew Goolsby, and Hysha Nesmith, and Dean Morphew in Fall 2017

With her motto of “If you can think it, it can be done,” devotion to Johns Hopkins, and hearty sense of humor, Barb Shaffer, senior director of enrollment management services and registrar for the Johns Hopkins School of Education, has helped to usher in a new era for student services. Not bad for a career she never expected.

“Who grows up wanting to be a director of enrollment services?” she says, laughing about her French elementary education major at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College). A job as a chemistry typist at Marquette University, where her first husband taught in the 1970s, led to a similar position at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, when her family returned to Maryland. Soon, she was a UMBC admissions clerk. (Her French has come in handy on trips and when she later married a Frenchman.)

In 1986, Johns Hopkins plucked her to be associate registrar for data management. “I worked in the Garland basement, where we had a huge mainframe computer,” Shaffer recalls. “We carried around boxes of IBM cards, each card representing a seat in a course.”

Today, of course, students have 24/7 access to course registration and other services through an app. “The automation and ease of ability today is incredible,” she adds. “It’s true for the other side of the counter, too. We can keep track of anything we need.”

She left Hopkins for a few years to be registrar at McDaniel College, only to return to Homewood in 1996 as senior director of enrollment management services for the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, precursor to the Carey School of Business and the School of Education. In 2003, she was tapped to lead the Internet Student Information System (ISIS) project and a 300-member team tasked with unifying 11 different admissions, financial aid, registration, and student account databases in nine different schools. ISIS, completed in 2007, remains a career highlight. “My background is not in IT management, but I am really proud of what we accomplished,” Shaffer says.   

Tom McDermott, JHU’s assistant vice provost for financial aid and executive director of student financial services, concurs. “Barb has an uncanny ability to sense problems,” says Tom, who oversaw ISIS’s financial aid module. “She knows if she gets the right people in the room, we’ll get to the right answer.”

“Barb understands that an enrollment management division is the intersection of key administrative processes that are vital for student success,” adds Liz Woodward, SOE’s director of admissions. “She consistently reminds me that to be a leader in this field, you need to be well-rounded and constantly evolving.”

Shaffer, who hopes to travel more in retirement and rediscover her love of singing, reflects that she always thought of Hopkins as home. “I’ve always tried my best to ensure that we were offering the best student services possible. I’ve tried to be open-minded and learn new things. Plus, I’ve had a little bit of luck. But the truth is, I have been very fortunate to work with the best people in the world. Without them, I couldn’t have accomplished anything.”