Do you remember the feeling you get when you receive a bill or credit card statement and you get that incredible sinking feeling because the amount is way beyond what you anticipated? I had this similar feeling when I modeled out first-year and transfer enrollment increases needed on an annual basis to grow from 1,100 students to 2,000 students in ten years. Safe to say I had a significant knot in my throat and some uneasiness in my stomach. I played with the numbers to determine how retention, transfer enrollment, and first-year enrollment all needed to increase and to what extent I needed to see those numbers increase immediately or if I could push them out a few years as new initiatives take root all the while feeling “okay” about the volume increase in a single year by comparison. I have it plotted out year by year. This is good if for no other reason to understand the reality of what we are trying to do. However, I’ve got to be careful to not represent the model as representative of what WILL happen. It’s just a model not my personal crystal ball!
With a working model designed, reality strikes initiating personal pains of urgency far beyond what I have experienced in the past. And, consider this important fact; urgency isn’t necessarily shared by all at Doane College – at least not at this point. I’m not being critical. Rather, I’m acknowledging the reality. Our interest in growth is proactive. It’s a vision established by our President, Dr. Jacque Carter, who makes a great case for growth based on long-term stability and national presence. It’s exciting! But, our backs are not against the wall. We are not in crisis mode. We are not in financial dire straits. That is good and we want to be even stronger ten years from today.
So, one of my continual challenges is to bring people to a significant level of urgency without the benefit (and/or drawback) of a “nothing-to-lose” mentality. I contend that while all strategic visions will have their naysayers, these naysayers have a stronger presence when they truly feel there is a better alternative. In our case that alternative may be the simple resistance to change. At least when in panic mode, even the naysayers can struggle for a better alternative than a solution to a crisis. As a result, they may not be helping but they also aren’t hurting. In our current environment, doubt in our ability to grow can easily impede our urgency.
In order to create some urgency, I’m pushing operational change particularly in admission and marketing. We are identifying what must change in order for us to grow. How are we going to attract and yield students that we don’t currently get – both traditional and adult learners? How will we grow our geographic market? It begins to set in with our teams…this is on us. No one will do this for us. The cavalry is not coming over the hill. But, this is not to say that admission can do it all independently. It will be a team effort for sure. Nevertheless, the teams responsible with leading our enrollment growth effort are admissions, marketing, and athletics.
For some quick perspective, when I first arrived at Doane, marketing did not report to me as VP for Admissions. Marketing departments are structured different at each college and university. Dr. Carter recognized my desire to bring the efforts of marketing and admissions more closely aligned. I felt we needed to leverage a strong working relationship – a partnership – with our marketing department. As a result, one structural move we made was to bring marketing, communications, and admissions under the same VP. My position of Vice President for Enrollment Services and Marketing was created. In addition (and also very critical to Doane’s enrollment), the athletic department also transitioned to report to the VP for Enr. Services & Marketing because student-athlete recruitment is currently a significant component to our enrollment plan.
Once departmental realignment was complete, it was time to begin focusing the departmental operations on common goals. This also allows for enrollment accountability to be shared across a greater number of key decision makers at the institution. After spending some time making sure people are in the right aisles, it’s time to get the bus out of PARK.