Challenge Accepted!

May 29, 2018 Tricia Xavier

Undertaking the USC CERPP Leadership in Enrollment Management certificate program during my first year as a director of admission and marketing was challenging …. and that’s exactly why I chose it.

When I was struggling with parent engagement, my teachers and cohorts challenged me to think outside the traditional box that inhibits growth and progress. I was inundated with recommendations on how to address volunteer fatigue, new ways of connecting to the community, and alternate ways of formatting ambassador meetings and responsibilities. Because of these ideas I was able to redirect our parent volunteer efforts to better fit my needs within the community.

When I decided to create a more defined and structured process around attrition and retention, it was my fellow program members who offered advice and suggestions that enabled me to pilot different ideas than what had been done in the past. I was able to then implement those ideas about creating retention programs and attrition points with support from the principal and head of school, and now they have a system for addressing these issues moving forward.

When I decided to roll out new procedures to clarify and streamline the admission process, various recommendations by peers, based on their real-world experiences, changed my understanding of these processes (and the nuances that lie within them). I was able to take these suggestions and create a faculty committee to support my work along these lines, which was a huge step in engaging them in the process.

When I was asked to rebrand/remarket all of our advertising and marketing materials, including redoing the website, my USC CERPP colleagues challenged me to ask questions, dig deeper, and explore new ideas. It was recommended that I reach out to a professional, who helped me coordinate all of the different pieces of this project. Learning the importance of vendors and consultants was a part of the process I’d missed in my many years as an admission associate.

When the board of trustees decided to restructure the tuition model to no longer include traditional financial aid in an effort to address stagnant enrollment, I found support from my fellow CERPP professionals, which ignited new meaning around outreach. I sought out new avenues to connect with mission-appropriate families through digital outreach and direct marketing.

Although it will take a while to digest ALL of the specific knowledge I’ve garnered throughout this program, I think one of the most important concepts is this idea of community. The enrollment management profession, as a whole, is gaining traction as an integral part of independent school and university programming, which means enrollment management professionals are becoming leaders in their fields. One cannot be a true leader without the support of the community. Every time I was faced with a challenge at my school, miraculously, we ended up working on a similar prompt in the program. Having consistent feedback from the brilliant faculty members and cohorts alike was invaluable to me and my growth.

Recently, I was forced to revisit my own ideas about independent school best practices. Struggling to find solutions on my own, or through my work colleagues, I addressed these concerns to the mentors and cohorts at the 2018 CERPP Conference in Marina Del Rey. Not only was I able to find a way forward at my school, but within my career as well. Successful admission and enrollment professionals rely on consistent collaboration and communication with heads of school, board members, administration, faculty, parents, and students alike. Without constant reevaluation of best practices, policies, and procedures there is no growth - which is why it’s so integral to the process to have open dialogue and communication with professionals in the field as well. I find the business of leadership in enrollment management to be quite unique in this sense. The success of all relies on the dedication and support of all. There are not many occupations that thrive on the community as a whole. Without this program I never would have been exposed to so many different ideas.

This program emboldened me to join the conversation, to be part of the solution, and to keep all lines of communication open as a way to support my peers in this ever-expanding field.

It’s a big world out there, but knowing that I have an even larger network of colleagues from the CERPP cohort to support my efforts of questioning, discovering, and leading makes it feel just a little smaller.

Challenge accepted.

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