Founded in 1941, Eastern Michigan University’s (EMU) Occupational Therapy (OT) program has a long-standing tradition of excellence. With consistently high pass rates on the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) examination — averaging over 99% across the past five years — and a strong history of successful alumni, the program showcases all the right numbers.
But for EMU’s OT program, excellence goes beyond the metrics.
“Our students most often comment on the sense of community within our program,” shared Sharon Holt, Professor and Head of the Admissions Committee at Eastern Michigan OT. “We all work forward together.”
Wanting to continue fostering that tight-knit atmosphere drove Holt and her team to transition to a holistic admission process in 2018. The most efficient and effective way Holt found to do that was with Kira Talent.
Being proactive about diversity
As the first Occupational Therapy program in the United States to partner with Kira, EMU redefined convenience and accessibility for OT admissions.
“Our greatest challenge in Occupational Therapy is trying to reach populations that don’t know what OT is,” Holt shared.
“So what we’re trying to do with Kira is to modernize the admissions process and make it more engaging and accessible to new audiences.”
After all, having an equitable admissions process is only one part of increasing diversity in your program. If diverse applicants aren’t applying, those efforts are for naught. By making the admissions process more accessible, Eastern Michigan OT is able to reach a broader applicant pool.
“We can do a lot to ensure that we’re levelling the playing field for diverse applicants in the admissions process, but we have to actually get the applicants there first,” Holt explained. “Kira is part of our efforts to go upstream and be proactive about how we’re reaching diverse applicants.”
Eliminating bias without losing insights
Prior to Kira, Eastern Michigan OT conducted on-campus interviews where applicants would sit down with two members of the faculty. Stretching across several weeks, the process was a strain on EMU’s faculty and admissions team. But for Holt, the bigger concern was the vulnerability of the interviews to admissions bias.
“It’s extremely difficult to guard against implicit biases within that kind of interview format,” she explained. “The smallest things, from what shoes the applicant is wearing, to how the reviewer poses the question, can impact both the applicant’s response as well as how it gets scored.”
In order to reduce the impact on their admissions process, Eastern Michigan OT took the interviewing component out of their admissions process.
“We quickly realized that, while we were mitigating bias, we were losing important insights into our applicants in the process,” Holt shared.
“By moving our interviews to Kira, we found a way that we could regain those insights, mitigate bias, and get our whole faculty involved in the admissions process.”
“With in-person interviews, there was no way to know if something external had impacted the scores,” Holt continued. “With Kira, we can easily bring in another reviewer and get a second opinion.”
Identifying the right applicants for your classroom
“We are a growth mindset program,” shared Holt. “We certainly don’t expect candidates to come in knowing everything. Everybody has the ability to grow and learn. But once in a while, you have an applicant where you know that this just isn’t the right program for them.”
“If we can identify those applicants at the beginning of the process, we save both the applicant and the university a significant amount of time, money, and effort. That alone more than justifies the cost of Kira.”
Link sharing in Kira makes it easy for the admissions team to share a single response or an entire assessment with a new reviewer. EMU’s Occupational Therapy program uses this feature to give applicants a built-in second chance by sending any low-scoring responses for additional review. If there’s a discrepancy in scores, those get sent out for another opinion as well.
“We want to get as many eyes on each applicant as possible, to make sure that no applicants are getting lost under one bad review,” shared Holt.
“Because the reviewing process is so convenient in Kira, we’re able to be very thorough without it overwhelming their workload.”
Small team? Small budget? No problem!
“We’re a small university and a small program with a limited budget and no in-house IT support to fall back on,” Holt shared. “We not only had to be smart about how we were spending, we also had to make sure that any processes we added weren’t going to overwhelm our admissions team.”
Joining forces with some of EMU’s other health sciences programs, including dietetics, orthotics and prosthetics, allowed the admissions teams to share the cost of the platform.
“Since then, our Physician’s Assistant (PA) program has joined as well,” Holt shared. “PA programs are inundated with applicants right now. I was watching them run their admissions process and couldn’t believe how much time it took them.”
“I encouraged them to move to Kira and it changed their workload from days to hours. They can’t believe how much better it is.”
With Kira, EMU’s reviewers spend only four hours per cycle reviewing applicants.
“We tell faculty to reserve around four hours to complete their entire review. Our old process would take multiple days out of their schedules,” Holt explained. “And whether it’s at home or in the office, when they choose to schedule in their reviewing time is completely up to them.”
Holistic admissions without the hassle
“Kira has changed our perspective on the admissions process,” shared Holt. “It removes the hassle and headache for our team, it allows an applicant to really have a voice in the process, and it opens the decision up to more than just grades.”
“Kira makes holistic review possible for our small team.”
“When we first started with Kira, I worked with our faculty to create a general outline of holistic elements and practices that we wanted to incorporate and came to Kira with that list,” Holt shared. “Kira gave us a blueprint, and helped us define what we’re looking for, and create questions to identify those competencies.”
Over the following years, Eastern Michigan OT has worked with their dedicated Client Success Manager to continuously tweak, enhance, and strengthen their interview process.
“Every few years we go in and tweak our assessment,” Holt shared. “I’ll reach out to the whole faculty to ask if they feel like we’re getting to the heart of what it is we want to bring into the program. Do we need a change of competency? Do we need to change the rubric definitions? Do we need to change anything else?”
“Having a point person at Kira means that we have a direct line to someone whenever we have questions or issues,” she added. “At the end of the day, nobody wants more work added to their plate, and Kira ensures we don’t ever have to worry about that.”
“I love our process,” she continued. “We’re able to get a full picture of our applicants with more efficiency and more ease than ever before, helping us more confidently build diverse classes.”
At Kira Talent, we know that data security is an essential part of a fair and effective admissions process.
From our initial architectural plans through testing and production, we continuously monitor and enhance our security processes to go beyond industry standards. It's a big reason why more than 700 programs worldwide trust us to help them engage, assess, and evaluate their applicants.
As the latest measure of this commitment to data security, we’re proud to announce that Kira Talent is now certified compliant with SOC 2 Type II standards for data security, availability, and confidentiality.
What is SOC 2 Type II?
Developed by the American Institute of CPA’s (AICPA), SOC 2 is a certified auditing measure that verifies whether a vendor’s systems are appropriately designed to securely manage client data, as well as the operational effectiveness of those systems.
SOC 2 is based on five ‘trust service principles’ including security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy.
With the SOC 2 Type II certification, independent auditor Sensiba San Filippo (SSF) has verified that Kira’s internal processes, control systems, applications, and infrastructure are designed and functioning in line with the rigorous standards set by the AICPA.
Why this matters
While SOC 2 compliance is not required for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies, it’s something you should be looking for when partnering with any digital vendor.
The rise of online admissions processes means that schools are working with more vendors than ever before. When you entrust your data to these partners, you need to know that they have the right processes and procedures in place to keep it safe.
Kira’s SOC 2 Type II certification reinforces our ongoing mission to uphold the highest standard of data security. It’s one of the ways we can demonstrate our commitment to keeping your data safe.
What’s next for security at Kira?
The SOC 2 report represents our commitment to security, but it’s more than just a checkbox.
We’ve enlisted Vanta, an automated compliance platform, to help us make sure that Kira’s employees adhere to security standards as they go about their day-to-day work. As part of our commitment to both security and transparency, Kira will continue to engage in full system audits and obtain periodic SOC 2 Type II reports, ensuring our systems and processes are handling the sensitive data that our clients entrust us with every day.
If you would like to learn more about data security at Kira Talent, please connect with us.
Admitting one of the largest Veterinary Medicine classes in the country each year, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS) relies on an efficient interviewing process to strike a balance between scale and scope.
In past years, the program hosted applicants on campus for a traditional in-person MMI. Stretching across three days, this process, while placing a significant burden on organizers, helped Texas A&M dig deeper into applicants’ soft skills and personality traits.
But when they transitioned their admissions process online in 2021, the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences discovered a new way to deliver their beloved interview — one that ticked all the boxes without burning out staff — and they haven’t looked back.
The power of the right admissions partner
“The admissions interview has always been a core piece of our assessment process,” shared Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Associate Dean Karen Cornell.
Ten years ago, the school transitioned from a traditional interview format to a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI). The new six-station process took place across three days, with nearly 300 applicants rotating through six-minute stations.
“We were essentially going non-stop for three days,” shared Cornell. “The wear-and-tear on our teams was significant, but we felt that the benefits of the MMI warranted the extra work.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to host students on campus, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences experienced firsthand how critical their interviewing process was in identifying their best-fit students.
“We made our admissions decisions that year based strictly on academics and the file assessment,” Cornell explained. “For the following year, we knew we needed to bring the MMI back.”
“Veterinary medicine education is a fairly small field so we very often find service providers by word of mouth,” Cornell continued.
“A peer school told us about Kira and how well it’s working for them and we decided to explore it ourselves.”
Moving their interviews online with Kira, Texas A&M is able to maintain the intricacies of their tried-and-true interview while bringing critical flexibility and stability to their admissions process.
“We went into it thinking that this might just be a pandemic solution,” explained Cornell. “But after that first year using the platform, we saw what benefits, in addition to flexibility and time savings, Kira could bring to our process.”
Spotlighting objectivity in admissions
“We believe that the virtual process actually results in a stronger assessment.”
“It’s not uncommon to hear that programs want to interview in person so that they can get an overall feel of the applicant,” Cornell observed.
“Thinking about it more deeply though, that kind of subjective evaluation shouldn’t be incorporated into admissions assessments at all.”
“We value our process precisely because reviewers are instructed to use clearly defined rubrics that are designed to eliminate that kind of subjectivity,” she continued. “If you’re sticking to those standards of equitable review, it makes no difference whether you’re assessing the applicant in person or online.”
Revitalizing a tried-and-true interview
Accounting for around 20% of an applicant’s overall admissions score, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences now conducts their MMI asynchronously with Kira Talent.
“Applicants are offered interviews based on an academic review,” explained Cornell. “They receive an invitation to interview, giving them a date and time when the on-demand interview will be open for a 4-hour window. During that time, applicants move through each of the six stations, just as they would in an in-person setting.”
Using a horizontal reviewing method, each response is then viewed and scored independently by two reviewers.
“This structure reflects the way stations were conducted and scored in our in-person MMI,” Cornell explained. “There were always two reviewers that assessed each question across candidates. Now we simply have two reviewers reviewing each video response.”
Looking to conduct an online MMI in real-time? Learn how Arizona Vet Med is meeting applicants face to face with a live MMI in Kira
Even the campus tours at Texas A&M have been reimagined and adapted to suit the new remote admissions process.
“We have what we call an admitted students day,” explained Cornell. “Applicants who have received an offer of admission or are on the alternate list are invited to come to campus, meet the faculty, and get a feel for the school community.”
“We’ve actually found that bringing students to campus separately from the interview helps to support the right atmosphere.”
Scaling admissions without increasing fatigue
The efficiency and accessibility of their process with Kira has helped Texas A&M achieve their goal of scaling the Veterinary Medicine program.
“We had a set goal of increasing our class size,” shared Cornell. “In order to do that while maintaining the quality of applicants admitted, we needed to reach a wider pool of candidates. Kira gave us a way to do that.”
“This past year, we had around 1250 applicants,” she continued. “Of those, we interviewed around 350. With that number of applicants, compared to the size of our team, it would have been a challenge to bring them all to campus.”
"With Kira, we’ve been able to increase the number of applicants we interview with minimal additional burden on our team."
VMBS’s reviewers supported the sentiment in a post-cycle survey conducted by Texas A&M, with the overall majority sharing that they enjoyed the ease and convenience of working in Kira.
“At the end of the day, Kira is a more efficient use of our reviewers’ time,” Cornell shared. “Instead of having to set aside three full days for interviews, they can work when it’s convenient for them, whether in the office or at home in their pyjamas.”
“The problem of reviewer fatigue, which used to be a significant challenge once we got to the third straight day of interviews, is now completely solved.”