Thursday, September 27, 2012

Confessions of a HESA Nerd: Enrollment Management

Like most first year grad students, I have various academic interests. Due to my previous collegiate and professional work experiences, I’ve become interested in service-learning, institutional advancement, first generation students, college accessibility for undocumented students, civic engagement, cross-cultural experiences, and study abroad.

And Buffy. Always Buffy. Which, let’s be honest, can totally be classified as an academic interest.

But here’s the thing about graduate school – it leads you down the most unexpected paths. (And I’m only in the second month!)

Case in point: I have discovered a deep fascination with enrollment management.

This is me studying Enrollment Management for the first time, and being all “…this is…intriguing”

You see, in our HESA program we are required to take 2 classes the first semester (Student Development Theory & Research and Intro to College and University Administration) and then we get one elective. There were a ton of interesting classes to choose from involving international education, gender, philosophy of education, and more.

But then I saw Enrollment Management and thought “HMMMM”. I mean, I thought Admissions was interesting and it was going to be taught by Don Hossler (an expert on this subject). Plus, if you know the trends in higher ed, then you know that enrollment management is the “sexy & exciting” functional area of the decade, with institutional advancement right underneath it (remember: the power players in any organization are the ones who bring in revenue). So I decided to take the class.

Enrollment Management: Sexy & exciting, indeed…Hmm, sadly this was the most exciting EM image the internet could find. My mission is clear: I must create as sexy & exciting image for EM...

“Numfar, do the dance of Enrollment Management!”


Our professor’s breadth of knowledge is fascinating and leads us through the most interesting discussions. Our T.A. is fantastic, bringing his small private college admissions experience into the classroom (I admit, I know little about private institutions so it’s great to learn from him) and I loved his lecture on Affirmative Action (I have a much better understanding of it now). My peers include both first and second year HESA cohort members, which helps to give our discussions different layers, plus it’s a nice change to socialize with the second years. The readings are great. I certainly did not realize, prior to our class, just how much EM encompassed and how the priorities are changing as the student population changes in America.

Even better, this week we had John Lawlor of the Lawlor Group, a well-known firm that specializes in small private university enrollment management consultation, speak to our class. (He even declined a video interview for our class and flew here on his own just to teach us for a couple hours. That is the kind of amazing program I am in at IU.) I took 15 pages of notes during his speech – it was fantastic to hear examples from different institutions and national trends.

Plus, when I said my interest was in policy and our professor stated that only the doctoral class would cover that topic, I asked if I could attend the doctoral class on the day they discussed policy. He said yes and I did (this also included a great talk on the walk home with an international doc student who explained higher ed policy in her country). So yeah, you know I must really love the topic if I was excited to attend an extra 3 hour class and do extra readings for said class…

Or I’m just crazy.

When I think about it, my interest in EM really should not be surprising. It involves high-level strategy over an entire organization, has multiple layers, includes marketing and policy, and carries with it a sense of competition (with other institutions). I have experience in all of these areas, and have always enjoyed my work with them. I like to think about the Big Picture but also enjoy considering the small details that take us there. My political science background and work with BGSU's Governmental Affairs office has inspired my love for higher ed policy. Also, I’m reminded of when I served as Director for Teen Central and managed all the functional areas, including marketing and strategic planning. The teen center was one of my best jobs and I would love to return to a challenging position like that again.

Luckily my Enrollment Management course is providing a great foundation of knowledge if this is the path I’m meant for. I guess we'll see what the rest of my two years brings.

Thanks, college. You know, sometimes you’re alright!

 References (Student Affairs for non-SA folks & Pop Culture References for Everyone!)
*Enrollment Management's mission at an institution is to enroll new students, retain current students - all the while ensuring there is enough net revenue for the institution's operating expenses, carrying out social justice by working to diversify the student body, obeying mandates issued by policy makers, following public policy funding changes, and more.
*Buffy the Vampire Slayer: As in, my favorite show since I was in the 7th grade. And there actually are/have been collegiate courses on Buffy, so it is also, like, totally an academic interest ;)
*Sexy & exciting – a phrase to describe anything trend-a-riffic. (Usually not used literally.)
*Numfar: Cameo appearance by series creator Joss Whedon in Angel whose (S2,ep21 “Through the Looking Glass”).  A running joke in the fandom is having Numfar expand on his “Dance of Joy” to become the dance of whatever the viewer wishes.  YouTube reference:
*The Lawlor Group:

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