Okay, so you have the right people on the bus! Are they in the correct aisle, let alone correct seat?

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.



Enrollment – What’s easier, growing 100% or doubling in size?

Confidence is an amazing personal trait.  With some people, confidence comes and goes.  However, consider the basketball player that doesn’t give a shot any hesitation even having missed the previous 10 shots.  The confidence that player has in his/her shooting ability never waivers – regardless of the competition.  They believe the next shot will go in.  They have unwavering confidence most likely based on achievements to that point.

I’m proud of my accomplishments professionally and feel that I’ve had enough success professionally that I should be pretty confident in my skill set and professional knowledge.  However, what we are attempting to accomplish at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska and what I have great responsibility for leading is something I have not accomplished nor do I know many who have.  We plan to double our traditional undergraduate enrollment within the next 10 years – yes, that’s 100% growth!  Admission directors and enrollment managers understand the gravity of this when put in the context of growing a first-year class from 300 annually to almost 600.  What you did yesterday won’t get the results you want tomorrow.  What’s even more obvious is that if it were that easy to grow a class 100%, it’s fair to say many schools would be doing so.

Safe to say there are many new initiatives at the college (not just in admissions) which will need to work in order for us to achieve our enrollment goals.  Nevertheless, my focus is on the actions we take specifically in the areas of enrollment management and marketing to achieve our goals.  I want to capture and share my experiences.  In that vein, I plan to blog at least two times each month.  I will share successes and failures possibly even frustrations.

While it’s true that I have confidence, I also have the anxiety of potential failure as a character trait.  This blog is not meant to be a road map or even a “look-at-me” experience.  I am not selling consulting and frankly I’m not looking for that either at the moment – I may need counseling or even consoling in the future.  I do know that the higher education landscape for enrollment managers is different from it was 10-15 years ago.  I’m anxious to share my experiences and hear about other’s experiences as well.  This is my journey.

My next blog will give a bit of a current situation update as a foundation from where we start.