We're all in this together: embracing a new understanding of enrollment management

April 13, 2017 Beth-Sarah Wright
We're all in this together: embracing a new understanding of enrollment management

by Beth-Sarah Wright, PhD, Director of Enrollment Management, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School (GA)

One of the first things I said to my school community in my annual report as the interim director of admission was, "This is a “whole-school approach to admission.”  I asserted that each and every member of the school is a member of the admission team. That we have a mission to know and a story to tell, and we cannot tell that story in its fullness without the work that each and every individual does in and out of the classroom, in the labs and studios, in the clinics, in the libraries, in the hallways and common areas, on the playing fields, in the gyms, on the grounds, in advisories, in the dining hall, on stage, in the music rooms.  We need their creative pedagogy, their new initiatives, their enthusiasm, their energy, and their excellence. The following year, I became the bona fide director of enrollment management and it just didn’t quite have the same ring to it…a whole-school approach to enrollment management?

Embarking on the Certificate Program in Leadership in Enrollment Management at USC significantly shed a new and inspiring light on this. The entire program thus far has been tremendous in providing practical strategies to address the very work we are going through as enrollment managers through the vicissitudes and demands of the calendar.  But it is the definition of enrollment management that has been so instructive and pivotal in my understanding of this work and its role in the functioning of the school. Not only have I deepened my understanding of this role, but now I must impart it to the rest of the community, where largely they have been accustomed to a more limited understanding of ‘"admission" versus the more expansive "enrollment management."

The early topics, "Social Foundations of the Profession," "Enrollment Management in the Public Interest;" Don Hossler’s article “The Origins of Strategic Enrollment Management;” and Hossler’s, David Kalsbeek’s, and Bob Bontrager’s seminal work, “Successful Strategic Enrollment Organizations,” truly expanded my understanding of the breadth and depth of the work of enrollment management.  Subsequent topics and readings on retention, admission models, predictive analyses, data-driven decision making, marketing and translating the mission externally, evaluating return on investment, and garnering institutional support, among others, truly opened up the possibilities and central role that enrollment management has in institutional success.

In a response to a comprehensive and seven-pronged model for enrollment management that I have been working on, entitled DIGNITY© (see below), CERPP faculty member Rick Shaw, the dean of financial aid and admissions at Stanford University, expressed his appreciation for the fact that the model is grounded in the concept that “we are all in this together” and that taking the broadest view with the intent to impact the whole community empowers the belief that the entire institution will benefit and be better. Enrollment management plays a central role, embodying a growth mindset embedded in design thinking that believes we can improve and make a difference, and identifies challenges and solutions for those we serve and those who serve. I am grateful to this course, its illustrious faculty, and the practical wisdom and guidance it has provided me for reworking and shedding insight into this powerful and integral work in our educational institutions.  

The DIGNITY© model. Briefly, the seven tenets are:

  1. Assess, redefine, adopt, and proclaim what Diversity means in your community.
  2. Clarify, reiterate, and orient your community’s Identity.
  3. Achieve Growth in capacity, comprehension, candor, and courage.
  4. Create a Nurturing environment with a climate and initiatives where all members feel affirmed, recognized, valued, and included.
  5. Demonstrate Integrity by being self-reflective and more accurately aligning your identity with your actions. Are you who you say you are?
  6. Build Transparency with clear articulation of expectations, dignity objectives, and the ways in which you will achieve them.
  7. Bring accountability in terms of measuring Yield, outcomes, and using data to drive decision making.

Manuscript in preparation for publication.

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