The University of New Mexico (UNM) College of Pharmacy has a 75-year history of serving their diverse in-state student population. As the only college of pharmacy in the state of New Mexico, UNM Pharmacy has built a strong reputation amongst the local students for delivering quality education through a tight-knit classroom and campus environment.
Having applicants feel that sense of community throughout the admissions process has been top of mind for UNM Pharmacy since the beginning.
“We used to do everything in-person,” shared Krystal Ward, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at UNM College of Pharmacy. “We had an all-day event with presentations, tours, and interviews which lasted around 6 hours. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we moved that process to Zoom.”
But while the convenience of the online format was greatly appreciated by applicants, the long days in front of a computer weren’t giving them the warm sense of community that UNM Pharmacy is known for.
“Once we were able to come back on campus, we knew that we needed to find a way to still offer the convenience and accessibility of the online experience,” explained Ward.
“Kira gave us a way to evolve our process, allowing us to maintain the core components that are important to our mission and vision as a school, while continuing to offer applicants a more convenient experience.”
An inside look at UNM Pharmacy
UNM College of Pharmacy is among the smaller pharmacy programs in the United States, enrolling around 60 students per class, for a total student body of approximately 250.
“We have around 100-110 applications per cycle and we usually interview 70-80 of those applicants,” shared Ward. “As we’re the only pharmacy school in the state of New Mexico, our primary purpose is to serve the in-state student population, but each year we also receive a small number of out-of-state applicants.”
Although small, UNM’s classes tend to be very diverse, with many first-generation students enrolled in the program. With these applicants in mind, it is important to UNM Pharmacy that their admissions process is streamlined and easily accessible.
“We had just wrapped our admissions cycle right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” Ward shared. “At that point, it was an all-day event which lasted around 6 hours. Students would come to campus, they’d watch presentations, they’d do a traditional interview with two members of the admissions committee and finally, they would take part in a 5-station MMI, and a 30-minute writing exercise.”
In 2021, the college of pharmacy moved that process to Zoom.
“It was the same process, but recreated using Zoom breakout rooms,” Ward explained. “In order to make it work, we had multiple accounts running on Zoom and several people managing the movement of applicants in and out of breakout rooms.”
“But in the fall, I attended a webinar where I learned how the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy had optimized their admissions process with Kira, and I discovered what it could do for our admissions team,” Ward continued. “Up until then, we had essentially resigned ourselves to the fact that the online process was what it was with Zoom, but all of sudden we saw an opportunity to hone in on the aspects that we liked in the online process and create an overall experience that was so much better.”
Not settling for a 'good enough' admissions process
After submitting their application and letters of recommendation through PharmCAS, applicants are screened by the UNM Pharmacy admissions team to check if they meet the minimum GPA and prerequisites,” explained Ward. “Applicants who meet or exceed those requirements are automatically invited to interview.”
At UNM Pharmacy, an invitation to interview includes participating in a traditional two-on-one interview, a 30-minute writing exercise, and a 5-station Multiple Mini Interview (MMI).
“We brought MMIs into our process in 2017,” shared Ward. “It’s a great method for equitable interviewing as applicants rotate through different stations, each with its own standardized question or prompt. Because of the structured nature of the interview, the MMI helps us ensure there’s a consistent experience for all applicants, and it helps us mitigate bias in our admissions process.”
“The downside of the MMI is that it does typically put a large time burden on the admissions team to pull off,” Ward added.
“Kira showed us a world where we could maintain the integrity of our MMI, but deliver it in a way that was more convenient and efficient for our faculty, applicants, and admissions team.”
The flexibility to deliver interviews the way you want
“With Kira, we had the option of delivering our MMI either live or asynchronously. Being that one of our primary goals was to make this as convenient as possible for applicants and interviewers, the asynchronous method really captured our interest.”
With an asynchronous MMI in Kira, applicants still move through stations in the same way that they would during a traditional MMI, only the questions are delivered by video recordings made by the school's own faculty and staff, and the interview can be completed on the applicant's own schedule. By assigning reviewers to assess specific stations, Kira’s horizontal reviewing functionality ensures that each applicant is still being seen and evaluated by a diverse set of reviewers.
“With the asynchronous method in Kira, we’ve been able to maintain that consistency, but everything is much more efficient, more convenient, and much more accessible for our reviewers as well as our applicants,” explained Ward.
“Kira Talent provides us with a flexible platform that works for our established process, rather than making us adjust our process to fit the platform. Other video interviewing vendors just don’t offer that.”
Keeping applicants more engaged throughout the process
By keeping their two-on-one interviews in-person but transitioning their MMI and written exercise into a Kira Asynchronous Assessment, UNM Pharmacy has strengthened their interview attendance rate.
“Making the Asynchronous MMI in Kira due one week before our interview day has saved us a lot of headaches,” shared Ward. “Prior to Kira, we had a lot of last-minute cancellations on our interview day. Having applicants complete the MMI online the week before lets us know which students are committed to the admissions process and which students we needed to reach out to and check up on.”
“This year with Kira, we had zero no-shows on interview day. We didn’t have to adjust schedules last minute and we didn’t have any gaps for our interviewers.”
Securing buy-in for a new process
“Bringing Kira into our process was actually one of the easiest sells I’ve ever had to do,” shared Ward. “Our board is involved in the reviewing process so they saw right away what a benefit it would be to be able to run the MMI on-demand and have applicants and reviewers complete the assessments on their own time.”
That has been the focus of the overwhelmingly positive response that UNM Pharmacy’s admissions team has received from their reviewers.
“Being able to review applicants on their own time, whenever it’s best for them, means that reviewers are not only more willing to volunteer, but we’re also ensuring that applicants are being fairly evaluated,” explained Ward.
“What we were more nervous about was selling the new process to our applicants,” she continued. “But where we anticipated we might get pushback, we actually got a ton of positive feedback.”
UNM Pharmacy’s applicants found that Kira offered them a more comfortable atmosphere in which to interview, giving them an opportunity to truly put their best foot forward.
“I’ve been looking at the feedback from our students and many of them mentioned that, with Kira, they were able to ensure that they were in the right headspace and they could focus on answering the questions,” explained Ward. “Kira also helps them get a feel for our school, so when they come to campus they already have a sense of the program and are excited about the opportunity to study here.”
Gaining a new partner in holistic admissions
“Even with all of those benefits, I still think that Kira’s biggest differentiator is their team and the service they provide,” shared Ward.
Kira assigns each program a dedicated Client Success Manager who provides hands-on assistance in designing, building, and running the interviews and assessments.
“They essentially became another member of our admissions team,” said Ward. “Starting with creating and refining our questions, we were able to simply describe what qualities we were looking for in applicants and Kira had a whole bank of questions which we could pull from.”
“Although we had been doing the exercises for years, having Kira’s expertise has really enhanced the responses that we’re getting from applicants,” she added.
Ward estimates that the UNM Pharmacy admissions team saved over 50 hours by switching to Kira Talent.
“When I consider the time it took for our team to set up a traditional MMI and manage all of the stations, that 50 hours is honestly a lowball estimate,” she clarified. “Whatever questions myself or my staff had, Kira was quick to respond and offer clarification or make whatever changes we wanted.”
“Having that level of dedicated assistance saved us easily another 50 hours by not making us figure out the ins and outs of the platform.”
“We lost a member of our admissions team right before the cycle started and I don’t know how we would have gotten everything done if it weren’t for Kira,” Ward explained.