25 Years to Life

August 5, 2019 Joanne Carruthers

Over 25 years after beginning my career in enrolment management as a liaison officer at my alma mater, a small liberal arts university, and well into my 24th year in admissions at my small boarding school, I decided to embark on the Leadership in Enrolment Management Certificate program supported by EMA and run through USC Rossier School of Education. This decision came three years after I first heard of the program and 36 months of reflection. When I sought support from my head of school, he quipped, “Couldn’t you teach that course? Why would you need to do this?” Indeed, as a long time veteran in the small boarding school admission world, why indeed would I embark on such a program at this stage in my career? Quite simply because there is so much that I know I don’t know. And because I know that I am not finished learning. I felt that I owed my own school more!

I am a firm believer that complacency kills. In order to grow, we must always be learning, changing, pondering, re-considering, re-affirming. Those of us who have been in the admissions profession for more than 20 years know how much has changed. When I first started, faxes were the fastest method of document transmission, and nearly all our inquiries came via land-line calls and regular mail. Fast forward 25 years and we send and receive very few faxes, but communicate via multiple cell and online calling platforms, video messaging and email has taken over as “formal correspondence”.  When we receive inquiries or letters by mail now, we show them to everyone in the office, with echoes of “Wow”!

Likewise, our industry continues to change. Enrolment Management in small boarding schools, perhaps all schools, is more challenging and diverse than ever before. Complacency is not an option if we want our schools to have full enrolment.  We are not only competing with the great boarding school down the road, but with international day schools, charter and religious schools, home stay programs, homeschooling, online programs, and many others. We are competing with the economy, with remaining not only relevant but valuable. We are competing with who we were as a school, who we want to be and must always be working towards becoming the best version of ourselves.

The last eight months forced me to find time each and every week – literally all my free time - to reflect on all facets of enrolment management, from the conceptual to the case studies and everything in between.  The 30-week program forced me to set aside time on a regular basis for introspection, thoughtful reflection and collaborative discussion. The readings have led to further research as well as both questions and answers. Each unit has provided opportunity for growth as well as the resources for future consideration. 

There were numerous challenging moments when balancing my extremely demanding job conflicted with the time needed for this program to work on expanding my knowledge and growing within that same profession. But it was indeed worth it.

I am grateful for the time spent reflecting, reading, planning, collaborating, sharing, researching, writing…learning. I will come away from the program with a newfound appreciation of the importance for making regular time for reading and self-reflection. I also have a fuller appreciation for the value of the collective intelligence in our industry and the many, many colleagues with whom I hope to continue to collaborate in the years to come.

On to the next challenge!

About the Author

Joanne Carruthers

Associate Head of School, Admissions Director Stanstead College

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