Focused academic partnerships role in SEM

by Brent A. Gage, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, University of Iowa, and Senior Consultant for AACRAO Consulting

The development of a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan can bring great clarity to institutional goals, priorities and mission-centered initiatives that are crucial to moving the institution in a strategic direction. As we work with our faculty and administrative colleagues through enrollment management efforts, it is vital that we are nimble enough to move from large institutional goals to understanding the unique priorities of the various academic departments we serve.

Regardless of the size and scope of the institution, varying priorities exist across the broad spectrum of academic programs within our colleges and universities. While departmental and unit goals must work in conjunction with the larger institutional strategic plan, there is still room for specialized efforts that address issues highly unique within departments or academic programs.

Taking the time to meet with faculty members or department chairs and learning what is really important to their program can uncover opportunities that may be missed without these crucial conversations. While it may appear on the surface that all students who wish to study Physics, Public Health or Journalism are quite similar, in-depth conversations with key faculty can lead to highly productive academic partnerships.

Within each department, there are a myriad of opportunities for student engagement. However, to maximize the ability of the department to provide these opportunities they must have the right mix of students who have interests within the subject matter to support these efforts. Learning the specific needs of the department can allow you to provide strategies for departments to target sub-populations of students with specific marketing, communication and campus visit programming that will both expose students to opportunities within a discipline that excite them while matching students with the needs of the department.

Each year, our goal is to identify three to five academic areas for which we can develop a focused outreach effort through a partnership. These efforts have taken a number of forms, each driven by the goals identified by the department:

  • Additional name purchases of prospects for an area of study that highlights a unique feature of the program.
  • Targeted yield events for a specific segment of students that go beyond the traditional format of campus visit options.
  • Profiling faculty and explaining the research they are doing followed by an invitation for the faculty member to learn more about becoming part of his/her team.
  • Inviting select students to share some of their work for critique or review by a faculty member and an explanation of how their skills would be developed during their enrollment.

The opportunities abound as Enrollment Managers learn how to best shape the enrollment of an incoming class through a better understanding of the needs of the department and the type of student that will flourish under their guidance.

Through all the demands that are place upon us in our administrative roles in an ever-changing environment some things always remain the same: when you get out and talk to your campus community about the things they are most passionate about, great ideas are sure to follow.