SEM-EP grad’s home institution benefits from her research and credential
Stepping into her role as Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management at Buffalo State in 2014, Erin Alonzo wanted to deepen her understanding of SEM. First, she signed up for the 2015 AACRAO SEM Conference, as well as preconference workshops.
“From those core concepts workshops, and seeing the challenges other institutions have faced while trying to implement SEM, I was able to understand how important it is to develop a culture of enrollment management,” Alonzo said. “It’s not just recruitment -- it’s a whole-campus undertaking. Those workshops gave me strategies to internally transform the institutional understanding of enrollment management and help guide us through the development of a SEM plan.”
Buffalo State had hired a new president in 2014 and was developing a new institutional strategic plan. The timing was right for Alonzo to pursue more thorough SEM professional development.
Learning SEM through collegiality
While at the conference, Alonzo was introduced to AACRAO’s SEM Endorsement Program (SEM-EP). When she described the opportunity to her supportive vice president, they agreed that her completion of the SEM-EP program would enrich their institution’s SEM planning process.
“I had a nontraditional calendar, so I appreciated that it was self-paced,” Alonzo said. “The expectations were clear. As soon as I started the program I had phone calls to make sure I the understood expectations for the online course, webinar and report.”
The program began with the online course. (See SEM-EP curriculum here.)
“The online course, as intense as it was, was fantastic -- both the information provided through that course as well as the class discussion afterward,” Alonzo said. “It was very educational and insightful, not just learning best practices through written work but also understanding nuances from other professionals and how they were able to shape to specific populations at their institutions. It was a wealthy platform to grasp the intricacies of SEM.”
Alonzo had to “stop-out” of the program herself, when she took maternity leave to have twins. (Congratulations to the first SEM-EP babies!) When she returned from leave, she began the next step of the curriculum: field visits to learn from SEM practices at other institutions.
“The insights I gained in that process were wonderful,” she said. “I think one of the benefits of this program is interacting with fellow colleagues in the industry through the online course, field visits, the SEM Conference -- learning about people’s lenses, experiences, how they view the future and who they bring together.”
With this foundation, Alonzo undertook her Capstone Project, the final component of SEM-EP
Stop-out students’ obstacles to re-enrollment
Buffalo State’s SEM planning included efforts to improve completion rates and stabilize enrollment numbers. Toward that end, Alonzo developed a research project aimed at understanding obstacles to getting stop-out students to re-enroll.
“In western New York, where SUNY-Buffalo State is, the primary market has experienced some dramatic declines in the number of high school graduates,” Alonzo said. “We’re a traditional age-serving institution, so in addition to developing new markets for transfer and freshmen, I also took a look at stop-out students.”
Alonzo originally hoped to make a roadmap to completion for particular cohorts through identifying needed courses and creating mock schedules. She wanted to identify the population of students that was academically and financially eligible to return, not currently attending another institution, and provide a clear path back..
“What I learned was my 'crystal ball' on how to clear that path was anything but perfect,” Alonzo said. “Through my research we began to identify roadblocks within our own database and internal policies that were making it difficult to re-enroll.”
For example, inactivating records forces students to reapply for admissions, which costs money, and they have to take paperwork to multiple offices, which takes time. Alonzo’s research helped analyze and streamline some internal operations and processes.
“I wasn’t able to pave the road I wanted, but now at least we have a path to return that’s less cluttered with obstacles,” she said.
Learn more about SEM-EP
“What I learned through the SEM-EP was that everyone looks at enrollment management differently,” Alonzo said. “We can learn from each other, and this program gives us an organized platform from which to do that.”
SEM-EP's 20 graduates come from 13 different U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. Their biographies and Capstone Project details can be visited in the SEM-EP National Registry. Learn more about AACRAO SEM-EP at this year’s AACRAO Annual Meeting in Orlando, March 25-28th, 2018. Register for #AACRAO18 now! The SEM-EP faculty will provide an overview of the program during a Monday afternoon session.