Fall 2022 Perspectives

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Perspectives

Enrollment Management

1 2 3 4 5 How an Admissions Blog Can Help You Reach Your Enrollment Goals A Newsmagazine for Graduate
Professionals
The Leader in Graduate Enrollment Management Vol. 34.3

Table of Contents

Operations

Perspectives

A Newsmagazine for Graduate Enrollment Management Professionals

Editor, Melissa Sersland

Director of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment at The Graduate School, Northwestern University Evanston, IL

NAGAPpublications@gmail.com

Student Lifecycle, Engagement, and Support Enrollment Modeling & Strategic Planning Career, Staff, & Personal Development Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

NAGAP Perspectives is published three times per year (fall, spring, summer). Articles of particular interest for publication are graduate enrollment management research/ study results, how-to articles, success stories, reports of workshops/ seminars, book reviews, etc.

Recruitment & Marketing Money Matters

Submissions should be sent to the editor via email. Articles should be provided in Microsoft Word format, with figures and photos provided separately as high-resolution TIF or EPS files. APA style is preferred for documenting sources. Submission deadlines: August 30, January 6, May 17.

Copyright © 2022 NAGAP

GEM Operations Student Lifecycle, Engagement, and Support

From the President 3 By Kristen Sterba, NAGAP President

GEM to the Corporate World

By Dave Fletcher, DMin, Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine, and Kate McConnell, MBA, Penn State Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies

Q&A with Ray Lutzky, PhD, Academic Partnerships ....................4 with William Rieth, eCity Interactive

with Wendy Hamstra-Smith, Enrollment Rx

with Jillian Baer, Liaison International

Enrollment Modeling & Strategic Planning Career, Staff, & Personal Development Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Recruitment & Marketing Money Matters

NAGAP is committed to diversity and inclusiveness in all of its activities. This commitment embraces respect for differences including age, culture, disability, education, ethnicity, gender, life experiences, race, religion, and sexual orientation. NAGAP champions an open exchange of ideas in a collegial environment that embraces academic freedom, cooperation, mutual respect, and responsibility. NAGAP supports activities that promote and nurture professional development, best practices, research, and collaboration of a diverse and global community of graduate enrollment management professionals, encouraging dialogue that fosters professional growth among all of its constituents, in the U.S. and internationally.

Recruitment & Marketing Money Matters

How an Admissions Blog Can Help You Reach Your Enrollment Goals 10

By Amanda Miller, MA, The Heller School at Brandeis University

Behind the Curtain: Tufts Gordon Institute’s Attempt to De-Mystify the Admissions Process and Increase Prospective Student Engagement

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By Ethan Robles, MA, and Wei Cai, Tufts University’s Gordon Institute

Recruitment & Marketing Money Matters GEM Operations Student Lifecycle, Engagement, and Support Enrollment

GEM Operations Student Lifecycle, Engagement, and Support

Growing Graduate Degrees Online: 3 Success Factors for Managing Program Partnerships 15

The 4 P’s of Graduate Marketing

Michael McGetrick, MBA, Spark451, Inc.

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Modeling & Strategic Planning Career, Staff, & Personal Development Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

GEM Operations Student Lifecycle, Engagement, and Support Enrollment Modeling & Strategic Planning Career, Staff, & Personal Development Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Enrollment Modeling & Strategic Planning Career, Staff, & Development Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

NAGAP Leadership Academy Alumni 25

By Kittie Pain, MLitt, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Q&A with NAGAP Committee Chairs with Katie-Ann Mason, EdM, Bridgewater State University .........28 with Fran Reed, Neumann University 29

2022 Summer PDI Fellowship Essays

By Shaina Peterson, Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis 30

By Katelyn MacCormac, Carleton University 32

New Job, New Baby: What I’ve Learned About Supporting Working Parents and New Hires 33

By Melissa Sersland, MS, Northwestern University

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives2
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Fall 2022, Vol. 34, Number 3

NAGAP Friends,

There are so many things I love about fall. I love watching the trees change, pumpkin anything, cross country meets with my son, and football games. It is also an exciting time on campus as we welcome new and returning students and dive into a new application cycle. The last few years have been challenging, and application and enrollment numbers have varied widely among programs and institutions. Many of our institutions may be adjusting our budgets based on enrollments or increased expenses, and you may be adjusting your recruitment strategies based on those factors as well. As we approach 2023, I hope you are able to connect with your colleagues for support and ideas. The Exchange is one place you can reach out to your fellow NAGAP members. NAGAP recently launched NAGAP Communities, which are informal networks of GEM professionals who share a common interest or affinity and wish to share knowledge or engage in community building. Communities can be based on identity-status, academic background, use of a specific technology in your professional work, or any other way that you’d like to share ideas and interests with fellow NAGAP members. Each NAGAP Community will have a dedicated space on The Exchange, administrative support for any virtual meet-ups, and support to meet and gather at the annual Summit. To start a NAGAP Community, you need a leader and/or co-leader and 15 NAGAP members who want to belong to the Community. If you are interested in learning more, visit our website or email us at info@nagap.org

Speaking of the Summit, I am very excited that we will be in New York City from April 12-15, 2023. Make plans now to meet us in the city that never sleeps. It is always good to connect with our colleagues, and we will be at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, which is in the middle of it all.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Perspectives, focused on helping you get a look behind the scenes with some of our GEM colleagues. You’ll find Q&A’s with individuals who left working for higher education institutions to work for corporate and vendor partners, plus Q&A’s with some of our committee chairs. You will also find insights and best practices from some of our members on launching an admissions blog, hosting information sessions on application requirements, and growing graduate degrees online. Finally, you’ll hear a bit more about our Leadership Academy cohorts and from our Summer PDI Fellows.

We are always looking for content for upcoming Perspectives issues, so if you have an idea you would like to contribute and write, let us know. You can email nagappublications@gmail.com with any questions you have or with your submission draft. The next deadlines for submissions is January 6 for the spring 2023 issue. Please feel free to reach out to me or any of the Governing Board members at any time, and thank you for allowing me to serve as your president.

3NAGAP .org Fall 2022
THE PRESIDENT

CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

GEM to the Corporate World

GraduateEnrollment Management is a complex multi-faceted operation that touches all parts of the student lifecycle and requires the collaboration with different university offices and a variety of people. However, for many of us in GEM, successful operations also mean collaborating with entities outside of the university. Many of us partner with companies in the corporate/vendor world who provide structure and support to our GEM efforts, supplying, for example, technology resources, recruitment search tools, CRMs, social media platforms, digital and other marketing initiatives, to name a few. Many of us view these vendors as essential partners in our efforts.

They are more than just a hired hand—they work towards the same goal as we do, enrolling students with the best fit and who will benefit from their graduate and higher education experience.

Some of the people we collaborate with in these companies originally came from Graduate Enrollment Management associated departments and they may have been a campus or NAGAP colleague at one time, until they chose to support GEM from the corporate side. Seven such colleagues have agreed to share their stories about their move from GEM to the corporate/vendor world. Four are featured in this edition of Perspectives, and three will be featured in the next issue. Read on to find out why some made the move and how their GEM experience benefits them daily in the work they do today, collaborating with those of us who continue to support GEM from the university side.

&A

with Ray Lutzky

Ray Lutzky, PhD, Vice President, Academic Partnerships

What prompted your decision to make the change?

In 2013, I moved into my first senior leadership position in graduate enrollment management. After four years of interviewing for chief enrollment officer roles and coming in as a runner-up, I ended up making a lateral move at the same level from one institution to another. Unfortunately,

this did not make me any less frustrated and I began to recognize the lack of strategy and innovation in some higher education institutional leadership. I was attracted to the EdTech world—in particular, I was attracted to the idea of the equity-backed edtech start-ups, having had the chance to work with a few of them as vendors during my time at universities. It was from here that I recognized the opportunity for my own professional growth, within my existing career progression that would also expand opportunities into adjacent (potentially more corporate) areas.

What led you to apply to your current company?

I am Vice President at Academic Partnerships, a company based in Dallas, Texas. Academic Partnerships is an online program manager, or OPM, and I was always told to be

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives4
Q

CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

wary of these kinds of organizations. What I have learned is that, like universities, it’s an unfair characterization to lump all organizations together under one heading. In my research of the edtech industry, I have found as many inspirational organizations and leaders as there are horror stories in the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education. The trick with OPMs, or any EdTech company partner for a university, is to pick the right fit for the situation (just like admissions!). Academic Partnerships has always taken an approach to working with schools that is focused on regional, affordable brands with high quality, in-demand programs that lead into employment opportunities in fields like healthcare and education. I learned an incredible amount about how corporations work with universities, and how to maximize those relationships for win-win-win scenarios, during my time at InStride. Prior to my role at Academic Partnerships, I was Director of the Academic Network for InStride, working with more than 25 colleges, universities, and education providers to provide online employee education paid for by companies.

What about your experience working in a university setting has helped you most in your role with your current company?

Without question, my higher education network has been singularly instrumental to my success. Being able to call upon contacts and friends that I have encountered over nearly a decade of attending NAGAP events has given me an edge. Making that network work requires investment and care, but NAGAP is rapidly growing into an organization that represents many facets of the gradate enrollment management ecosystem. I suspect the value and durability of my NAGAP network will only increase over time.

What do you wish your colleagues in higher ed knew about the vendor/corporate side of GEM?

While there are some well-known horror stories out there, the reason corporate partners exist is because institutions need them. Few universities have ever been known as agile. Sometimes institutions lack the very things that would allow them to be competitive today, things companies can bring to the table—agility, scalability, expertise—that can inform decision making and help teams focus on the highest priorities. This point is reinforced by the fact that, for example, many

universities operate independent business incubators/ entrepreneurship ecosystems to empower private enterprise to help distinguished faculty—faculty who are experts in their fields and not in business, who need support from private industry to bring their innovations and ideas to the world (and to be successful in getting to the right place).

What do you wish your current colleagues in the vendor/corporate side knew about higher ed?

Love, like a university or any other institution, is blind. Not only are universities often blind to what is happening around them, but they are also immutable. Centuries old universities (and some merely decades old) shake off today’s trends like shaking off a chill in a cold department store on a hot summer day. So one must really consider the question “so what?” when offering innovative solutions to higher education institutions’ problems as if nobody had ever considered change before. Iconoclastic presidents, with a few notable exceptions, are annually eviscerated by various university governance structures when they attempt to make changes severe enough to provoke a response from powerful faculty. So, while corporations and private industry will always push university partners to go beyond the boundaries of their institutional norms, there is little internal enthusiasm for this, and sometimes the best approach is to offer small, incremental opportunities that fit within a university’s existing culture and programs.

What are the pros & cons of your change and what do you like or miss about changing from an institutional role to a vendor role?

The world is changing in unprecedented ways and more and more students, faculty and staff are leaving traditional higher education. Tenure-track professors are going into private industry and abandoning a process academics have long criticized as arcane and unfair. Students are pursuing Google Career Certificates that command high industry salaries, and Amazon is offering to send all its employees to college online, for free. The line between institution and vendor is almost artificial; today some NAGAP members work for not for-profit universities that are entirely owned by corporations. When I first left the institutions and went to a company, I worked for a corporation that was majority owned by a state university. Where is the line? n

5NAGAP .org Fall 2022
Making that network work requires investment and care, but NAGAP is rapidly growing into an organization that represents many facets of the gradate enrollment management ecosystem.

CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Q&A

how individual departments end up benefiting (or not benefitting) from enrollment growth. I think this helps me relate to our partners in a way that someone who hasn’t formally worked in graduate enrollment/higher ed can never fully understand or appreciate.

What do you wish your colleagues in Higher Ed knew about the vendor/corporate side of GEM?

What prompted your decision to make the change?

I worked in a variety of enrollment roles at Temple University within their Business School and School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management from 20142019 when I decided to make a move. It was truly a grueling decision. We had an amazing team and had built a highly effective recruitment and enrollment strategy, but I was ready for a new challenge. Some of my favorite experiences at Temple were presenting at conferences, hosting other colleges within Temple, and meeting peers from other institutions to share the work we had been doing. It dawned on me that this could be my career. Why only help one institution when I could help many? And, by extension, help students find their best-fit program/school.

What led you to apply to your current company?

The winding road that led me to eCity Interactive is too long for this, but the “too long; don’t read” version is some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of working with were already at eCity and asked me to come over and help launch enrollment services to their already growing higher ed practice. I couldn’t say no. I get paid to talk about the funnel and help schools build out their enrollment strategy and tactics. Little does eCity know I would do it for free. I love helping institutions solve their marketing and enrollment problems.

What about your experience working in a university setting has helped you most in your role with your current company?

This may sound nuanced, but it’s undoubtedly the ability to understand the organizational dynamics within an institution, for example, the tension that tends to happen between Marketing and Admissions teams; or when faculty members start a new program that doesn’t fit a market need; even things like budget models and

I think I speak for, hopefully, all vendors when I say that we care about your success, and it isn’t just about a sale. I know from my experience in higher education that choosing a partner is daunting and, candidly, when I went to conferences, I would run through the vendor hall as quickly as I could because I didn’t want to be “sold”. I get it. On the other hand, vendors provide a unique perspective on challenges in higher education. We are steeped in research and work with a variety of institutions so we can help share best practices. I know at eCity Interactive we’re extremely selective with whom we work because we want to make sure there is a good fit on both sides—just like in admissions.

What do you wish your current colleagues in the vendor/corporate side knew about Higher Ed?

I’ve ping-ponged back and forth between corporate and higher ed, and even the best corporate environments can’t match the pride and camaraderie within higher education. When you’re at an institution, you bleed those colors. You feel the energy when students return to campus and can see the pride students have when they graduate. That passion for the school you work for permeates everything you do, and it’s hard for those who haven’t worked in higher education to understand what that is like.

What are the pros & cons of your change and what do you like or miss about changing from an institutional role to a vendor role?

The flexibility in my current role is tough to put a price tag on and, with a young family, it’s a huge pro. I do miss being on a college campus and working with a team through multiple enrollment cycles. While I still have the pleasure of helping institutions grow enrollment, it will never be the same as physically being on a campus meeting with students and seeing them achieve their goals—even if their presence on campus creates longer lunch lines at the food trucks. Now that I think of it, food trucks might be the thing I miss most. I may have to pay Temple a visit soon. n

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives6

CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Q&A

What prompted your decision to make the change?

I had the good fortune of spending the first fifteen years of my career at my alma mater, Saint Louis University. My journey started as an admission counselor and moved to managing events and finally to overseeing admission operations, communication, and graduate admission. At that point I realized I was ready to start exploring a different direction in my career. My assumption had always been that when that time came, I would move to another university but the idea of pursuing a role in education technology had become increasingly appealing to me.

What led you to apply to your current company?

While serving as the Associate Dean of Admission Operations at SLU, I worked with Enrollment Rx for many years as a client and respected how the company operated. It is important to believe in the work you are doing, and I feel I can speak with authenticity and enthusiasm about the services and products offered because of the positive experience I had as a client.

What about your experience working in a university setting has helped you most in your role with your current company?

In my role as Director of Sales Enablement at Enrollment Rx, I work with prospective colleges and universities who are looking for new CRM technology. Being able to identify and relate to their challenges at a professional

level helps build the connections and trust that are fundamental in a partner/client relationship.

What do you wish your colleagues in Higher Ed knew about the vendor/corporate side of GEM?

Many of us on the vendor side view our roles and contributions as an extension of higher education, not just a sale of a product. Well-executed technology can bring about a wealth of efficiencies and a more engaging and rewarding experience for internal users and students alike. On the practical side, yes, we sell a product to sustain our business but, from a standpoint of intrinsic motivation, we believe that the work we do and the services we offer truly make a difference for all who utilize it. We are passionate about using technology to support the mission and goals of enrollment management.

What do you wish your current colleagues in the vendor/corporate side knew about higher ed?

While similarities exist within higher education, each college or university has its own culture, goals, and intricacies and so it is important to understand what drives and motivates that particular institution. There is also a rhythm and a flow to the academic year that does not always align with a corporate timeline.

What are the pros & cons of your change and what do you like or miss about changing from an institutional role to a vendor role?

A college environment possesses an energy and vibe that is not often found in a corporate setting. I miss the daily interactions with students and the beauty of a college campus. However, I enjoy the opportunity I have now to work with a multitude of different schools and institutions because it has broadened my knowledge of the educational landscape. I also enjoy the flexibility of a work-from-home environment! n

7NAGAP .org Fall 2022
Wendy Hamstra-Smith, Director of Sales Enablement, Enrollment Rx
with Wendy Hamstra-Smith
It is important to believe in the work you are doing, and I feel I can speak with authenticity and enthusiasm about the services and products offered...

CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Q&A

very closely with our university and association partners to help improve their applications and break down barriers for applicants. This is the same work that I was doing at Ohio State, just from a consultative point of view and for many different schools/programs, rather than just one university. Otherwise, our goal and our mission are the same—to help more people go to college. It’s a beautiful thing when it can feel this seamless.

What do you wish your colleagues in higher ed knew about the vendor/corporate side of GEM?

What prompted your decision to make the change?

I loved working at Ohio State and realized my favorite parts about many of my roles in GEM had been working in systems and helping improve the technology to break down barriers and make it easier for prospective applicants to apply to graduate school. I was getting to do that work for the Enterprise Project at Ohio State, but some things with the project were changing. That led me to begin considering a role outside the university that would allow me to do more of what I loved.

What led you to apply to your current company?

Liaison International was an obvious choice for me, and absolutely my top choice from all the other places I looked. Liaison is the largest company involved specifically in GEM and application management—two areas in which I desperately wanted to stay involved. Their work with professional healthcare associations and the CAS model (Centralized Application Services) goes back decades. I knew it would be a great place to use my knowledge of GEM to help support institutions and programs that are interested in improving their admissions processing. I was familiar with Liaison and their work from countless NAGAP conferences and had worked with their tools in the Office of Graduate Admissions at Ohio State. It was a perfect place to begin exploring options and has ended up being the perfect fit for my experience.

What about your experience working in a university setting has helped you most in your role with your current company?

My 10 years in GEM is invaluable to my current role. I work

The vendor/corporate side of GEM feels like an overlooked opportunity. It never would have occurred to me before working for Liaison that I could be living the same mission and values while impacting dozens of different schools/disciplines, and therefore tens of thousands of students. What an incredible thing! I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity and certainly wish to share my experience with anyone who is curious. I think back to my time in the Master of Arts in Higher Education program at Ohio State. What an incredible experience with wonderful mentors and invaluable courses and training. However, nowhere in those two years was I exposed to Graduate Enrollment Management as a segment of higher education. And certainly, I was not exposed to what I lovingly refer to as “Higher Ed adjacent” opportunities. I think it’s important for groups like NAGAP to shine a light on the professional development that exists both inside our discipline and outside as well.

What do you wish your current colleagues in the vendor/corporate side knew about higher ed?

I feel incredibly lucky that I work with many colleagues who came from a campus or university – so there’s not a lot of “teaching” to do in my world at Liaison. They pretty much get it. The major divergence is in the timing of decision making. Since Liaison is a relatively small company (although I suppose everything is small compared to working at Ohio State), we can be agile and make decisions and turn things around very quickly.

I have a lot of autonomy and trust in my role to do what is best for my individual partners. Universities and colleges don’t always work at the same pace. The bureaucracy

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives8

CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

of an institution can sometimes slow things down, which is part of a campus culture. The red tape and escalation procedures are handled very differently. So, while some of us on this side can become impatient (yes, I’ve quickly become accustomed to a faster pace), it’s often important for me to remind everyone that some of the folks we work with not only have to get approval from multiple offices, but that one person (especially in GEM), might also be wearing 6 different hats and the application software piece of their job falls under “Other Duties as Assigned” territory. GEM-ers are some of the hardest working people I know; sometimes in higher education it just takes some time to get things done.

What are the pros & cons of your change and what do you like or miss about changing from an institutional role to a vendor role?

Pros: I love the flexibility of working from home (which I’ve been doing since BEFORE the pandemic). And in my particular role at Liaison, I am responsible to get A LOT done week to week but can control when and how I accomplish my tasks. If I need to take some time for appointments or for family obligations, I can choose to take that time, but know I’ll need to make it up in evenings

Dave Fletcher currently serves as director of admissions at Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine in Miami Shores, FL. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree and currently serves on the NAGAP Publications Committee and Education Committee.

or weekends. But I can choose for myself how I want to complete my work.

I LOVE my autonomy. With a small company, Liaison hires the best and trusts them to do the work. I can make decisions that will benefit my partners and fully execute the vision. My company trusts me and relies on me to do that. It’s incredibly validating.

I love the fact that I can still draw a direct line to my impact—and those values have not had to change at all. It’s still very clear to me that when I do my work, or meet with a specific group, I can touch and see the impact it will have on a particular application, which will then, for example, create a more inclusive application practice for 20,000 prospective applicants in next year’s pool. That’s an incredible feeling! Something I haven’t lost at all since leaving campus, and actually, due to our ability to track and access data, I can see even more of an impact from my work than I may have had in previous roles.

Cons: I miss some of my old coworkers dearly—Ohio State is an incredibly special place with dedicated and hardworking people.

My last office overlooked the Horseshoe (Ohio State’s football stadium). That was pretty cool. n

Kate McConnell is the director of marketing and recruitment at Penn State Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies. She is a member of the NAGAP Education and Publications committees.

The Exchange

Check out NAGAP’s The Exchange : a social networking resource library to communicate with colleagues, share ideas, and get the most up-to-date NAGAP and GEM-related news. Learn more about this members-only platform and its various functions by visiting nagap.org, and join a discussion today!

Join the Conversation!

This was a great learning experience for our team, and we are now at a point where we have the new system running smoothly. Join the conversation on NAGAP’s The Exchange and discuss in more depth your experiences, questions, or concerns regarding implementation of a new system!

9NAGAP .org Fall 2022

How an Admissions Blog Can Help You Reach Your Enrollment Goals (and five tips for how to start!)

In May of 2020, just two months into the pandemic, I launched the Heller Admissions blog. At the time, my primary goal was to mitigate the loss of our in-person events: I hoped to create a space where our staff and current students could connect authentically with prospective and admitted students. It also gave me an opportunity to share advice and tips that I’ve gathered over the years with students who might not be as familiar with the process of applying to graduate school. Over the past two years, the blog has grown exponentially. In June of 2020, the blog received 247 views from 113 visitors, but in September of 2021, we had 1,504 views from 497 visitors. All told, we’ve received 13,675 views from 6,773 visitors: not bad for a graduate school that enrolls under 500 students!

Since I started the admissions blog for Heller, we’ve returned to in-person events and classes, but I still consider the blog to be one of the best weapons in my enrollment marketing arsenal. Blogging helps create user-generated marketing content, which is particularly effective for enrollment marketing because it allows prospective students to get an authentic perspective on life as a graduate student. This content can also be repurposed for social media stories, email communications, or website testimonials. If you want

to strengthen the reliability and transparency of your marketing materials, blogging is a fantastic way to do it.

Blogging can also help you reach your SEO goals. Many of the factors that affect where your site lands in the results pages (like including keywords, links, and unique, relevant content) can be improved through blogging.

Every article posted on your blog is an opportunity to boost your position in search rankings: for example, the Heller Admissions blog includes several guides on how to write a statement of purpose, how to ask for

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1 2 3 4 5 RECRUITMENT & MARKETINGRecruitment Marketing Operations Lifecycle, Engagement, Support Enrollment Strategic Staff, Personal Development Equity, Inclusion

RECRUITMENT & MARKETING

recommendation letters, and how to stay organized during the application process. Anyone searching for information on these topics may stumble across our blog, which drives a continuous traffic stream to our website.

Finally, blogging can be used to feature diverse voices and perspectives that may not otherwise be on your website. I’ve had students from all different backgrounds (students of color, queer students, international students, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, first generation students) write for the blog. They’ve written pieces about diversity at Heller, guides to navigating the financial aid process as a first generation student, support for international students at Heller, and much more.

However, there are some best practices when it comes to starting an admissions blog. I’ve learned a lot through trial and error, but after more than two years of managing a blog, here are some pointers that I would recommend:

1. Utilize your most important resource: your students! At Heller, we have our graduate assistants write one blog post every two weeks. When onboarding a new student blogger, I spend some time training them and going over the functionality of the site and the kind of blog posts we’re looking for. The first two posts’ topics are assigned by me, but after that, they have free reign to write about what’s going on in their lives. If you don’t have graduate assistants in your office, spend some time cultivating relationships with students who are deeply involved on your campus: program ambassadors or student liaisons, presidents of the student association, etc. You can also ask professors to tell you about students who submitted interesting or particularly well-done assignments, and reach out to the students to talk about that project on the blog.

2. Related to the suggestion above, start by analyzing who your current audience is and what they need from your school. What do they know about you? What do they want? How can you use this information to create content that speaks directly to their needs? Taking this into consideration, write prompts for your bloggers that they can utilize if they’re experiencing writer’s block. A few of my prompts include: “Sample semester schedule: what classes are you taking this semester? When does your class meet? What’s the time commitment like in terms of readings and assignments?” and “Readings/Assignments: Have you had a reading or assignment this semester that you found particularly interesting? What class was it for? How does it incorporate into the syllabus? How did you apply it to your readings/assignments for other

classes? How could you see this reading/assignment informing your future work? What did it make you consider differently?”

3. Start with a plan! Make sure that everything from writing the blog post itself through publishing it online is organized and planned out ahead of time so that there are no last-minute surprises or issues along the way. With this comes setting realistic expectations: at the beginning of the blog, I had originally planned to publish a post three times a week, but quickly found that to be overwhelming. Keep in mind that students will be busier during midterms and finals time, and may be unavailable during the summer.

4. Make your content interesting and engaging. Your content should be written in a conversational tone and use first-person language. It should also include images, links, and other media that are relevant to your audience. Images are particularly well-suited to blog posts: I love including pictures that students have taken before they delivered a presentation, during a class activity, or on an extracurricular outing.

5. Remember your SEO keywords! Many platforms include sections where you can add in keywords that people may be searching for. Before starting, do some analysis on what your competitors are writing about and what your SEO keywords might be for a variety of topics. Titles that include “How to”, “Guide to”, and “Tips for” typically perform well on our blog. In short, starting an admissions blog for your office can help you reach your enrollment goals.

Admissions blogs are a great way to connect with prospective students, as well as an opportunity to build your brand as a school. They serve as an excellent marketing tool, because they give you the chance to showcase your school and position yourself as a resource for prospective students. n

Make sure to check out the NAGAP blog, which launched in 2022!

Amanda Miller is the associate director of admissions at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Agnes Scott College and a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

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Behind the Curtain: Tufts Gordon Institute’s Attempt to De-Mystify the Admissions Process and Increase Prospective Student Engagement

How do I write a compelling application?” Students and admissions professionals face this question regularly. In both undergraduate and graduate school admissions, it is a question of nuance, detail, narrative, and fit. It is, perhaps, one of the most important questions on our prospective students’ minds. But how often do we take the time to pull back the curtain to show the inner workings of the admissions process and provide our applicants with a thorough understanding of our application review process? How often do we talk about the realities of admission, as opposed to the details of our program?

What follows is an overview of Tufts University’s Gordon Institute’s admissions and marketing team’s strategy of peeling back the curtain from the admissions process and allowing students to receive advice, strategies, and a glimpse of the realities of application review. Moreover, this article will show that offering this type of content not only attracts students and encourages engagement with our admissions office, but also translates to higher event yield rates and higher prospective-student-to-applicant conversion rates.

Tufts University’s Gordon Institute focuses on technology leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurial competencies

to provide students with practical leadership skill sets necessary to remain competitive in a constantly changing workplace. The MS in Innovation and Management (MSIM) program, one the Gordon Institute’s graduate offerings, spawns from this philosophy. The MSIM degree attracts students coming from technical backgrounds such as all areas of engineering, life sciences, and computer and data science, as well as students completing degrees in economics, humanities, and social sciences.

While the degree is specialized in its focus, it attracts a wide array of students who come from many different backgrounds, institutions, and academic foci. This diverse

How often do we talk about the realities of admission, as opposed to the details of our program?

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives12
RECRUITMENT & MARKETINGRecruitment Marketing Operations Lifecycle, Engagement, Support Enrollment Strategic Staff, Personal Development Equity, Inclusion

RECRUITMENT & MARKETING

population of international and domestic candidates have many different questions regarding the degree and the admissions process. However, the most common question among all these different populations centers on the graduate school application and how they can strengthen their candidacy.

Seeing this point of frustration and uncertainty in our applicant pool, the MSIM admissions team was looking for opportunities to further engage students beyond generalized programmatic information sessions and graduate school fairs. The pandemic pushed most of our recruitment online and, with those restrictions, we found it harder and harder to engage students beyond general information sessions. Having tried alumni and current student panels, co-sponsored sessions with other academic departments in Tufts University’s School of Engineering, and a slew of different graduate school fairs, it felt as though our programming was limited to pitching our program and hoping students would apply.

It was at this point that the Gordon Institute’s director of admissions and professional programs charged the admissions and marketing team to rethink how we engage with our students once they have shown interest in the MSIM program. Our answer was to combine our students’ most asked question (how do applicants improve their application?) with our own desire to provide insight into the admissions process, engage student application questions on a more regular basis, and further student engagement following their initial interest. Our idea was to create a session focused solely on the application and the admissions process–the Application Workshop.

The Application Workshop is a simple premise. We outline each aspect of the application that we review and then dedicate time to discussing those aspects in depth with the students. To clarify, we cover the transcript, personal statement, letters of recommendation, supplementary essays, interviews, and deadlines. For our program (and for many other graduate programs) these documents make up the core of an application. While talking about each of these areas, we provide a summary of what information we can glean from a particular area of an application, discuss general strategies to improve that piece of the application, and then, take questions from students to alleviate their concerns.

For example, when talking about the transcript, we share that grades and course designations are very significant in our process. Grades allow us to see performance, but the course designations allow us to see the wider

context of that performance. Since we are a STEM-based program, we want to see a solid foundation in STEM coursework or evidence of ability in STEM, regardless of whether a student is coming from an engineering discipline or a social science discipline. We also advise students to provide additional context for their transcript. We allow students an “Additional Notes” section on the application. So, if they had a bad semester in 2020 (an issue many students faced at that time), then they can take time to explain why some of their grades may not be as compelling in certain areas of the transcript and provide our admissions team with more information than is usually available in these largely static documents.

As we move through the workshop, we maintain this pattern and cadence with each piece of the application. We give them what we are looking for in that application area, ways to improve or advice they may not have considered, and allow them to ask us questions about their situation. Opening the door and inviting them to look at the inner workings of an admissions office fosters significant engagement from the students. Not only are they actively asking questions, but they are also showing up to these events consistently.

When we dug into the data over the past two years offering the Application Workshops, we found students attend application workshops at a higher yield rate when compared with our General Information Sessions.

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Academic Year 20-21 Average Event Attendance General Information Session 42% Application Workshop 46% Academic Year 21-22 Average Event Attendance General Information Session 52% Application Workshop 57 % 2020-2022 Overall Average Event Attendance General Information Session 47% Application Workshop 52% Table 1: Average Yield Percentage for MSIM Recruitment Events

RECRUITMENT & MARKETING

We would like to point out a couple of conditions regarding the data above. To begin, sign up and attendance numbers for the General Information Sessions and the Application Workshops vary. However, we did find an overall consistent average when it came to attendees for both the General Information Session (31 student sign ups on average) and the Application Workshop (34 students sign ups on average). We also offer more General Information Sessions than we do Application Workshops (we offer one Application Workshop for every two Information Sessions). The frequency of the General Information Sessions could, and most likely does, have some implication in the disparity between the yield numbers. Taking those factors into account, we are still seeing a consistent growth in attendees for the Application Workshop. We are also seeing data that shows the combination of the General Information Session and the Application Workshop have a direct impact on application numbers and the quality of those applications. When we investigated applicant behavior, we found students who attend a General Information Session and an Application Workshop were far more likely to apply to the MSIM program than those who only attend an information session. Moreover, we also found those students who took advantage of both the General Information Session and the Application Workshop were far more likely to be admitted than those who only attended a General Information Session. This information shows us that engagement opportunities beyond General Information Sessions have helped us move students from prospects to applicants. We’ve seen those students who engage in those opportunities are likely more qualified for the program than those who do not. While we do think these data points are striking, they do not paint a fulsome picture. We do not know, and cannot currently prove, that our Application Workshop is effective in improving applications. Nor do we have enough data to make an objective case that offering something like an application workshop can improve prospective-student-to-applicant

Ethan Robles is the senior assistant director of admissions at Tufts University’s Gordon Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree from DeSales University and a master’s degree from Lehigh University.

Table 2: Application and Acceptance Metrics of Students Based on Recruitment Engagement

attending a General Information Session

movement over a long period of time or with every type of graduate program

We do, however, feel comfortable stating that implementing this type of programming has helped us to attract a more broad, engaged, and qualified applicant pool. Speaking openly about what we want to see in the application and opening the conversation to our prospects has shown us, in a short amount of time, that this type of content is in demand.

As we have been tracking this data, we have seen growth in the quality of applications and received many subjective comments from students who felt the Application Workshop strengthened their confidence in their candidacy. For us, this offering checks many boxes. We can engage with our audience, we see a larger prospect-to-applicant movement, and we are doing something in service of our prospective students, as opposed to creating more programming that only serves our graduate offerings. It is our hope our experience and the information we have outlined in this article can open a larger conversation within graduate enrollment management and, hopefully, allow admissions offices to think creatively about how to provide access and deeper information about the graduate admissions process. n

Wei Cai is the senior marketing and communications specialist at Tufts University’s Gordon Institute. Wei holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives14
Students only
Started an application 56.5% Application was accepted 39% Students attending both a General Information Session and an Application Workshop Started an application 72% Application was accepted 68%

Lifecycle, Engagement, Support

Growing Graduate Degrees Online: 3 Success Factors for Managing Program Partnerships

Inclusion

Graduate enrollment management professionals are under more pressure than ever to outperform the student growth expectations of their executive leaders. This pressure from campus executives has been exacerbated by global trends including a historically strong U.S. job market and boom in virtual learning. This increased stress on presidents, provosts, and chief enrollment officers is lending itself to a wave of retirements among seasoned professionals, including GEM professionals. A recent NAGAP/EAB study also found a greater number of younger professionals are quitting the field altogether, having no desire to experience the same situation their leaders are now in and finding better pay in other industries.

Seasoned graduate enrollment administrators know that exigencies impact these goals. Meeting enrollment goals is usually viewed as a “starting point,” and should be the result of lengthy and complicated negotiation among stakeholder groups including presidents, provosts, and boards of trustees. Some graduate enrollment professionals also know (from personal experience) that their presidents and provosts will always end up asking for “50 more students” for some degree program that

needs some extra (often to the chagrin of the faculty teaching those students).

How can graduate enrollment managers help expand capacity and meet these ever-increasing demands of these provosts and presidents? As mentioned, growth in online degree programs has accelerated in the wake of the global pandemic’s push towards virtual learning. An answer to the “enrollment growth puzzle” for some university leaders is to build on their recent virtual

Growth in online degree programs has accelerated in the wake of the global pandemic’s push towards virtual learning.

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GEM OPERATIONS Operations
Strategic Staff, Personal Development Equity,

GEM

Creating online graduate enrollment growth demands expertise in creating a best-in-class virtual learning ecosystem for today’s students.

successes for long-term sustainable enrollment growth opportunities online.

Despite ever-increasing competition for online and oncampus graduate students, shrinking resources for public and private institutions, new working environments that may involve hybrid and remote work (or not), leading universities are launching new online graduate programs today faster than ever before. Some of these universities make the choice to offer degrees entirely online not only to attract different students, but to lessen the impact on shrinking campus resources (all classes always require skilled faculty, for example, but virtual classes may not need a space on campus).

Creating online graduate enrollment growth demands expertise in creating a best-in-class virtual learning ecosystem for today’s students. That ecosystem can be built at a variety of scales, from the so-called megauniversities that compete nationally, to more regional, state institutions that have strong programs with opportunities for managed expansion. A key reason that the mega-universities dominate the graduate enrollment landscape online, despite having higher tuition prices than most public regional universities, is their ability to scale to meet students “where they are.” Mega-universities create infrastructure and systems to scale their ability to reach students (marketing, teaching, enrollment, learning management system) and to meet demand for graduate programs. Unfortunately, most regional public or small private universities lack the enormous resources or institutional agility to “build” an online division and these systems, particularly when it comes to scalable enrollment outreach and student success. This lacuna in university enrollment operations can be supplemented by partnership with a trusted online program management company, or OPM.

William Paterson University of New Jersey (WPUNJ) selected Academic Partnerships, a leading online program management company, to help them deliver high quality, affordable workforce-relevant academic programs to students online. WPUNJ is a leading public university with more than 10,000 students and offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs through four academic colleges: Arts, Humanities, and Social

Sciences; Cotsakos College of Business; Education; and Science and Health. Their partnership demonstrates the power and best practices of partnerships for graduate programs thinking of going (or growing) online.

Since 2020, more than 3,000 students have enrolled at William Paterson University in online degree programs supported by Academic Partnerships. Some of these students have already completed their respective graduate degree programs and attended an in-person graduation in Newark, New Jersey, last May. WPUNJ, supported by Academic Partnerships’ ability to scale and was able to build the ecosystem required for success. This success was primarily accomplished through three key elements that set a strong foundation not only for the recruitment of new students, but for their successful continuous enrollment and graduation. The three elements of the William Paterson University model are executive sponsorship, collaborative partnership, and shared vision.

#1: Executive Sponsorship

Great university leaders set the tone for academic communities. These executives know they must not only lead change on campus, but they must also embody that change. To affect transformational institutional growth and to shift community mindsets towards innovation, a university leader must provide the executive presence and sponsorship necessary to endorse a shared vision and outcome for success. The executive team at William Paterson University provided their endorsement and leadership from the beginning of their work with Academic Partnerships, and it made a tremendous impact.

Provost Joshua P. Powers was joined by Associate Provost for Curriculum and International Education Jonathan Lincoln and Associate Provost for Academic Initiatives Kara M. Rabbitt, and led the vision and call for internal championship. To ensure success launching new online graduate programs, these executive leaders invested their time, presence, and energy in making sure different academic teams, departments, and administrators at WPUNJ rallied around their shared goals. The collegial atmosphere created by executive leadership set the tone for a dynamic partnership with clear

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives16
OPERATIONS

GEM OPERATIONS

delineation of roles with a shared commitment to student success. Just as it does for its on-campus programs, William Paterson focuses on and retains complete control over the academic core of the online programs that Academic Partnerships’ supports through resources and market-relevant expertise. Academic Partnerships supports the university through integrated marketing, enrollment and retention services, and actionable insights. William Paterson University and its faculty remain in complete control of admission standards, decisions, program curriculum and instruction, program standards and content, as well as the conferral of degrees and grades.

#2: Collaborative Partnership

As previously discussed, the ability to scale efficiently and with agility is a key factor in university leadership’s decision to involve an online program management company like Academic Partnerships in the development of new graduate programs. Scalability does not just mean having the right technology and infrastructure, although these would be considered “table stakes” required to “get the job done.” A true collaborative partnership that brings shared success to campus communities requires managed growth without sacrificing quality. In a deep partnership, graduate enrollment managers and university partners retain complete control of the academic core of the online programs.

While retaining complete control, by working with Academic Partnerships William Paterson University gains enhanced outreach to qualified prospective students, external investment to launch new programs, and continuous investment to maintain efficiency and market leadership for online programs.

The Academic Partnerships team worked comprehensively with faculty and administrative teams at WPUNJ through effective and efficient collaboration. By working collaboratively through a shared process to set goals for growth alongside professors and other studentfacing professionals, Academic Partnerships was able to offer WPUNJ realistic, grounded recommendations that fit within their existing framework. Over the course of two days, the team from Academic Partnerships provided faculty with an opportunity to get any questions answered

and support the delivery of their high-quality degrees (this meeting was also attended by Associate Provosts Lincoln and Rabbitt, demonstrating the support of the senior academic leadership to the faculty during these sessions).

The faculty of William Paterson University also benefited from resources provided by Academic Partnerships, such as course mapping tools and instructional design support to ensure best practices in online pedagogy. Investment in faculty is critical – collaborative partnerships mean deeply engaging with university academic experts and professors to ensure the highest level of quality and integrity of content and learning materials. A major criticism of online programs continues to be academic rigor, and this step can make a difference when building online graduate programs designed to help students succeed in their careers.

#3: Alignment of Vision

At the outset of any partnership, it is important to assume shared vision and positive intent on all sides among partners to ensure success. Justifying that assumption to engender trust and respect, however, requires time, as well as the executive sponsorship and collaboration mentioned above. In on-campus terms, building a magnificent partnership is like building a magnificent campus building – it takes planning, campus stakeholder alignment, and a strong foundation. With strong executive sponsorship and operational alignment, the relationship between William Paterson University and Academic Partnerships has blossomed over 2 years to include new academic disciplines and operational efficiencies. This shared success has spurred trust and expanded the partnership in exciting ways.

The success of WPUNJ goes beyond the enrollment growth illustrated. Student enrollment growth brings with it new resources for staffing and teaching. Shared success has led to an innovative, deep partnership where good questions are asked on both sides. The team at WPUNJ places a premium on reaching the right applicants for their online graduate programs, and Academic Partnerships has paid deep attention to the digital strategy employed to attract those prospective applicants, and regularly informs WPUNJ on market trends and ways to manage growth in cost-sensitive ways. For

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A true collaborative partnership that brings shared success to campus communities requires managed growth without sacrificing quality.

GEM OPERATIONS

example, William Paterson University can maintain an average tuition for its online MBA that is far below megauniversities and many local, private competitors with online MBA programs. When news of shared success reached other stakeholder groups at WPUNJ, additional programs (including undergraduate degrees) were added to the expanding portfolio of high-quality online offerings provided in partnership with AP.

The landscape of online higher education is dynamic, diverse, and competitive, going well beyond traditional recruitment territories. The launch of new online graduate programs expands geographic opportunities for enrollment managers, enabling William Paterson to not only grow outside of New Jersey, but to become more competitive for online students in the Garden State, as well. For example, from 2015 to 2020, the number of New Jersey students enrolled in online programs from out-of-state institutions increased by almost 160 percent, according to The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. Among the top three destinations are the out-of-state mega-universities mentioned earlier (these institutions are also among the primary competitors of William Paterson University in digital advertising).

By creating an efficient partnership with a shared vision, William Paterson University successfully navigates this challenging competitive environment to reach and serve new online students in New Jersey and beyond. The superior quality, affordability, and workforce relevance of WPUNJ online graduate programs is even clearer when compared with some of the mega-university options targeting New Jersey students. With an intentional focus on academic quality, core programs and student success, William Paterson University continues to grow

strong graduate programs while going up against large, sophisticated, and well-resourced out-of-state competitors.

Graduate enrollment managers have options to consider when planning how to meet (and exceed) goals from executive leadership. Partnerships with industry-leading private companies like OPMs can help universities innovatively reach new populations of students. Undergraduate enrollment managers have long leveraged these kinds of partnerships to enable enrollment growth and expand institutional outreach. For example, universities increasingly view opportunities to the almost 40 million Americans with some college but no undergraduate degree with industry-specific virtual learning programs designed to be “stackable” for adult working learners. Companies like Google and Amazon have partnered with universities to award academic credit for industry training. Graduate degree programs can similarly position themselves for success through private partnerships, and stand to benefit from this shift in focus, also. As undergraduate students find new, stackable ways to complete their degrees, new opportunities to serve these students online will emerge for innovative graduate enrollment managers. n

Ray Lutzky is vice president at Academic Partnerships and a former NAGAP Board member.

Strategic Partnership Council

The Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) is designed for organizations whose missions are aligned with NAGAP’s and who wish to become more strategically engaged with our association.

Through customized marketing and collaboration platforms we offer bundled packages and unique opportunities for organizations to help build and maintain year-round relationships with our members and GEM professionals across the nation and around the world. To learn more about the SPC, visit our website: https://nagap.org/strategic-partnership-council

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives18

2023 Graduate Enrollment Summit

The NAGAP Conference Planning Committee is thrilled to be putting together an incredible experience for 2023 in New Yok City! This year’s GEM Summit is centered in one of the most entertaining and culturally rich parts of the world. We anticipate a robust attendance from our growing membership ready for networking, professional development, and reconnecting with colleagues from around the world.

This year’s GEM Summit will take place at New York Marriot Marquis in Time Square from April 12-15. Centered in the heart of Manhattan, this will be a time to reenergize, gain depth your area of expertise, and learn something new. We are excited to share, learn, and grow with you in our ever-evolving graduate enrollment world. This will be another chance to connect with others dedicated towards the entire lifecycle of our graduate and professional students.

The GEM Summit registration will be open by early January 2023. Watch this space and our website for updated information. Call for programs will are open now! Please note we will close the call for programs on October 31st, so we encourage you to submit your proposals. You can view a recording of our webinar on Creating a Proposal on The Exchange We look forward to seeing you in New York City at the 2023 GEM Summit!

2022–2024

NAGAP Governing Board

Officers

President Kristen Sterba University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Vice President Naronda Wright Georgia Southern University

Secretary Brett DiMarzo Boston College

Treasurer Jamie Grenon Bryant University

Immediate Past President Jeremiah Nelson Catawba College

Executive Director Marla Schrager NAGAP, The Association for Graduate Enrollment Management

Publications Committee

Dave Fletcher

Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine

Caitlin Getchell University of Tulsa

Kate McConnell Penn State Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies

Amanda Miller Brandeis University

Kittie Pain Kutztown University

Ethan Robles Tufts Gordon Institute

Nicole Sloan University of Florida

Troy Sterk Seattle University

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Directors

EDUCATION

Fran Reed

Neumann University

MEMBERSHIP

Ryan Taughrin University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Katherine Beczak Rochester Institute of Technology

EXTERNAL RELATIONS AND PARTNERSHIPS

Keith Ramsdell

A shland University

PUBLICATIONS

Recruitment & Marketing Money Matters

Melissa Sersland Northwestern University

ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Brian Derossiers-Tam University of Toronto

RESEARCH

Amanda Ostreko University of Kansas

CHAPTERS

Katie-Ann Mason Bridgewater State University

MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS

Michael Merriam

Framingham State University

GEM Operations Student Lifecycle, Engagement, and Support Enrollment Modeling & Strategic Planning Career, Staff, & Personal

NAGAP Chapters

Join or Start a Chapter Today!

For those of you looking to get more involved with NAGAP, your local chapter is a great place to start. Chapters provide a wonderful opportunity to network, to participate in regional workshops and conferences, and to assume leadership positions. They are also a great resource for learning more about GEM, especially if you are unable to attend the GEM Summit.

NAGAP has eight regional U.S. chapters, one international chapter, and two special interest chapters. To find out which chapter your state is a member of, visit NAGAP’s Chapters page. Here you will find contact information for each chapter president, and a link to the chapter’s website or social media page. Most chapters have a “join” or “contact us” link on the landing page.

If you find your state is not affiliated with a chapter, you may be interested in beginning a new chapter. For more information, review the How To Get Started overview. Questions? Please contact us at info@nagap.org

November

Prospective and Incoming Students with Financial Wellness Programming

December

Projections: Science or Sci-Fi?

How One Large Public University Tackles the Necessary but Often Elusive Goals

March 21:

Helping Decentralized Admissions Offices Work Together: Creating Opportunities for Collaboration and Community Among Graduate Admissions Staff

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives20
webinars
15: Supporting
6: Graduate Enrollment/Graduation

Lifecycle, Engagement, Support

The 4 P’s of Graduate Marketing

Staff, Personal Development Equity, Inclusion

Whether we realize it or not, as graduate enrollment professionals, we are also marketers. As such, we are called upon to apply the principles of marketing on a regular basis. Anyone who has studied marketing for more than a minute has probably heard of the “marketing mix” or “4 P’s of marketing,” as coined by Marketing Professor and Textbook

Author Philip Kotler. The 4 P’s are of course Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. In our work with dozens of graduate programs at Spark451, we’ve come to find Kotler’s framework somewhat incomplete for the task at hand and have thus derived our own 4 P’s of Graduate Marketing. Allow me to walk you through them.

The 4 P’s of Graduate Marketing are:

P = Program

P = Personas

P = Platforms (Student Journey) P = Performance

Narratives

Let’s take each element of the PPPP framework one by one.

(P) Program

Whereas undergraduate marketing tends to deliver a message about the experience at the university as a whole, graduate marketing operates at the program level. Our first priority is always to define and communicate the strengths of the graduate program. Of course, this type of

work cannot occur in a vacuum. One must position your program relative to the competition. A good formula for that is to look at the strengths of those programs and find those that are unique. We call these unique strengths differentiators, and they will be the points we will want to lean on most in our messaging.

Understanding your program requires some discovery and research by our teams.

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Enrollment Strategic

(P) Personas

Our second priority will be to study and identify the many audiences of learners and their traits so that we’ll be able to pinpoint which aspects of each program will appeal to them most. Consider this marketing intelligence.

A key deliverable will be to define these audiences and segment them for optimal marketing opportunities. A subset of this work is to create and maintain a set of

personas that identify historical demographics (who) and motivations (why) for pursuing each program (see below).

The audience identification is more or less a quantitative exercise (derived from historical data when sufficient quantities of it exist), wherein building the personas and mapping their motivations is more qualitative (derived from surveys and interviews). We’ve included a few examples below:

Graduating College Students

Ages 20-23

Location: Northeast

What we want them to know

Undergrad gave you the soft skills to succeed in a career. Our program will give you the business skills.

What they want A fulfilling job, money

How they feel

Afraid, uncertain, confused – unsure whether working or grad school is the better choice. Unsure whether grad school is worth the expense.

Other takeaways

How the [program] will help them get a job they like without incurring too much debt

How the [program] will prepare them to succeed in their career

Young Professionals

Ages 22-27

Location: NYC

What we want them to know

The [program] is the fastest, cheapest, most efficient way to take your career to the next level.

What they want

More actual marketing knowledge, more money, promotion, strong work/life balance

How they feel

Frustrated. They feel stuck in their jobs and feel they aren’t progressing quickly enough. They feel like they are missing the business background to do transformational work. They want to do something tangible that will help accelerate their career.

Other takeaways

How the [program] will help them advance their career

Career Changers/Shifters

Ages 25-45

Location: Major U.S. Cities

What we want them to know

The [program] will help you find a job you enjoy.

What they want

Fulfilling job, more money, strong work/life balance

How they feel

Unfulfilled. Though they may enjoy their company or industry, they aren’t excited with the day-to-day responsibilities of their job. They want to shift or change careers to something that suits them better.

Other takeaways

How the [program] will help them enjoy their work more

Influencers

Ages 30+

Location: Northeast

What we want them to know

The [program] offers rigorous, industry-relevant training and produces better prepared graduates than competitors.

What they want A reason to care

How they feel

Neutral. Without a connection to the grad school, we need to provide incentives to support us.

Other takeaways

Why they should care

How the [program] will help them and their organizations

Why they should recommend the [program] to others

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives22
Whereas undergraduate marketing tends to deliver a message about the experience at the university as a whole, graduate marketing operates at the program level.

We typically look at personas as either “audience types” (abstracted groups) or archetypes (individuals as models).

PERSONA NAME:

BACKGROUND

Job? Career path? Family?

DEMOGRAPHICS

Male or female? Age? Income? Location?

IDENTIFIERS

Goals and motivations? Challenges? Communication preferences?

SIGNALS

Actions in our platforms? Journey? Stumbling blocks?

What does personal modeling give us?

Delivering a set of personas is often an important part of the scopes of work that we do as an agency, but you can pull them together using the resources at your disposal. Start with a deep dive on historical student demographic data and add pain points and motivations through some personal interviews with students and faculty.

(P) Platforms (Student Journey)

The student journey is the set of experiences a student has while interacting with your graduate school on their way to enrollment. Student journeys are unique because there are many ways to interact with a college. Each of these experiences, known as touchpoints, are specific ways that a student or potential student interacts with a brand. Examples of touchpoints include:

• A prospective student discovering a program on a blog

• A prospective student viewing a display ad on Facebook

• A prospective student receiving a follow-up email from your grad school after they make an inquiry

They can be comprehensive, include lots of data points, or be fairly simple.

These touchpoints can be positive or negative based on the experience of the prospective student (for example, hearing about the positive experience of a friend taking an MA program or reading a negative Google review).

The student journey begins before enrollment when a prospective student realizes they have a desire or pain point and need to satisfy/explore a particular learning goal. The journey proceeds through the experience of researching, inquiring, and enrolling in the program and continues after they begin classes, declare their intention to pursue a certificate, and then complete that certificate. The student journey is important to us because it helps reveal the specific opportunities your grad school has to reach its potential students. Specifically, it helps inform where to find students and how to message the brand. The following diagram is an example of a student journey. In this image, the curving line represents the unique path that one student goes on in their enrollment experience, including all the various touchpoints (such as websites, events, and emails) that they experience.

The student journey begins before enrollment when a prospective student realizes they have a desire or pain point and need to satisfy/explore a particular learning goal.

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1 5 4 2 3
“Who and where are they?”
“How do we talk to them?”
“When and where can we best connect?”

The Digital Student Journey

(P) Performance

Grad schools can define and communicate their goals through objectives. The objectives will specify measurable outcomes that will be achieved within a particular time frame. They help individuals across our joint teams understand their goals and determine whether their strategy is effective and tactics are well executed. Objectives are used to align expectations and plans,

Goal

Build brand awareness for the grad school

Generate leads

Qualify leads

Convert leads into applicants

Drive revenue

coordinate efforts, measure progress, and hold teams accountable for results. Our objectives are fed by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that help us track our progress toward meeting the objectives. They are usually metrics that are defined by percentages such as landing page conversion rate or an email open rate. Here are some examples:

Example Objectives and KPIs

We will generate 50,000 visitors to the grad school’s website this year.

We will convert 5% of visitors into leads this year (2,500).

We will establish a metric for program-fit, and achieve a 50% fit rate among inquiries.

We will help achieve a 20% applicant conversion rate by the end of the year.

We will achieve $1 million in additional revenue by the end of 2023.

Spark451 works with our grad school clients to establish unit-level goals and objectives and use an online dashboard to monitor progress toward them.

Conclusion

OK. So now you’ve had a chance to learn about the 4 P’s of graduate marketing. It’s important to point out that the 4 P’s are not the actual deliverable, but are a means to an end. With the strategic work you’ve accomplished working on your 4 P’s, you will construct a narrative (story) about how your program will transform the lives and careers of the people who pursue it and then generate and deliver the messages that share that story. For many people, that’s the fun part, and they want to skip the strategy and get right to it. I get that, but don’t skip the strategy. It will pay off in the long run. I wish you

the best of luck in achieving your enrollment goals for 2023.

For questions on the 4 P’s of graduate marketing or anything else enrollment marketing related, feel free to reach out to me at mmcgetrick@spark451.com

Michael McGetrick is the vice president of creative & interactive and graduate marketing practice lead at Spark451. He holds a bachelor’s from Brooklyn College and an MBA from New York University.

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives24

NAGAP Leadership Academy Alumni: a look back at the cohort, the program, and what has been applied to their work environments.

With the advent of the NAGAP Leadership Academy, the organization propelled itself into a new realm. Never before had members had an opportunity to engage with their peers in a smaller setting, led by management professionals, in an intensive effort to grow leadership and management skills. It took many years to develop such an academy, and the cohort members have well received the idea. This piece will look back at how the seven-month program prepared members for their existing work environments, helped some gain confidence in managing others and created an overarching unique network of individuals within GEM.

For perspective, the cohorts begin each September in a face-to-face, three-day workshop hosted by an outside management company with a trained and certified Program Facilitator. The ideas and theories are generalized and applied to the context of higher education as the initial days unfold. Before the inperson workshop, each individual has gone through a 360-degree evaluation with their supervisors and peers.

Their assigned coaches share their results and use that assessment as their growth focus. In the following months, cohort members meet monthly, virtually, with the facilitator and strive toward their individualized capstone projects presented at the annual Summit.

In conversing with seven colleagues, I discovered that each had their own unique takeaway from their experience. I don’t want to dismiss that, so over the

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CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

next two issues, I’ll share the stories of their discoveries and growth.

I met with Jennifer Jones (Virginia Tech), Henry Cantu (University of Connecticut), Adam Huang (Cornell Tech), Scott Eubanks (Eastern Washington University), Kristin McAullife (Boston University), Ellen Lloyd (Mount Saint Vincent College), and Trista Wdziekonski (University of Michigan). Jennifer, Henry, and Adam were members of the original cohort and could not present their capstone projects at the Summit due to COVID. Scott, Trista, Ellen, and Kristin were in the second cohort and presented their capstone projects at the Summit in 2022. All were eager to share their experiences.

Each was asked if they found value in kicking off the academy in a face-to-face setting.

Adam Huang (AH): For sure. You can never be in person and not be in the moment. The banter, the connections, it breaks down barriers and makes it easier to connect with others.

Jennifer Jones (JJ): Yes. Definitely. I was fairly new to GEM, and this gave me the ability to be in a room with people who were like-minded and looking for the same sort of opportunities that I was looking for.

Henry Cantu (HC): I respect and see the value in online interactions, but for me, I feel more of an impact with faceto-face experiences.

Trista Wdziekonski (TW): I think it was my favorite part of the whole piece! We got to know the people

in our cohort, and we got such great face-to-face time with our coordinator. That was also when examples of higher ed were brought into play along with what we were learning.

Ellen Lloyd (EL): It was so valuable to be back in-person to do something together. It was like a refresher for me with my career goals and how I wanted to evolve my position.

Scott Eubanks (SE): I’m in many zoom meetings where, if they’re not high-quality, I drift away. In person, I’m forced to focus and forced to engage. I also enjoyed making new friends!

Kristin McAuliffe (KM): The size of our cohort was good, it gave us the opportunity to spend more time with each other and get to know each other. We also had smaller break-out groups where we could bounce ideas off one another and begin to value one another.

Members of the second cohort spoke about the size of their group and how reasonable it was to get to know one another more. There was a range of titles and years’ experience, yet no stuffiness behind that. Everyone was there for the same reason. They are in a rare industry, and there was a lot to learn from one another.

Was there something that you’ve taken away from the Leadership Academy and since implemented at your university?

SE: A lot of our facilitator’s training on how to manage people has been useful. I hadn’t managed full-time staff

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives26

CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

before and I refer to the training in our book often. My team went from, like a 2.3 or 3 on the happiness scale to a 6. They talk more at meetings, look out for one another, and I’ve learned how to manage behaviors better. We’re becoming a happy, functional group and I owe it to the leadership training.

AH: Since finishing the program, I’ve moved into a managerial role. I’ve been using my management strategies to work with them and make things more productive. I’ve also learned how to have difficult conversations and approach it from the servant-leadership style. I’ve learned to take a step back, look at the overall picture, and then tackle the situation.

JJ: For me, it taught me how to interact. My previous career was in K-12 education, and I had to learn all over again how to interact with people. This gave me the ability to be more comfortable at the table and gave me the confidence to walk into a room with Ph.D.’s and say I know this job and I do it well.

KM: My capstone! Because I put it in writing and on paper, it was sort of an internal gauge for me to accomplish what I wanted to with this training. It made something that I knew was important have a tangible value to it.

EL: I took and ran with my capstone project too! I co-chair our quality assurance committee and through that I’ve been able to speak up more for our graduate population to iron out bumps along the road that didn’t need to be bumps. For instance, I’ve helped to coordinate virtual sessions with Financial Aid for the graduate students.

How have you applied other aspects of this experience?

KM: Going through this training has empowered me to take the lead on things that I know are important and I want to see all the way through.

JJ: I took on the role of CAPGAP Chapter President and have been getting more involved with NAGAP.

HC: From working with my coach, who encouraged and taught me to see things through different angles and other lenses, I was able to change my approach with a particular employee.

EL: I valued the 360-degree assessment that we had. I learned a lot about my communication style and have implemented changes to help me communicate better with my colleagues.

The conversation continues! In the next issue, read what else your colleagues have to say about the NAGAP Leadership Academy. As you read this, consider applying for the next cohort. Find out more at https://www.nagap. org/leadership-academy n

Kittie Pain serves as the director of graduate admissions at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. She holds a bachelor’s degree from McDaniel College and a master’s degree from Drew University. She likes good books and a stiff Manhattan.

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CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Q&A

with NAGAP Committee Chairs

Katie-Ann Mason, EdM, Chair of the Chapters Committee

Graduate Application Workshops, but my favorite part of my role is projects. I have the privilege of taking on many projects that seek to eliminate barriers to application or admission. When a project is able to change a policy or requirement, I know I am making an impact.

How long have you been involved in NAGAP, and what led you to becoming involved?

In a nutshell, what does your committee work on (or are responsible for)?

The Chapters Committee provides chapter mentorship and support for chapter initiatives. We keep chapters informed of NAGAP initiatives and activities and collaborate with chapter presidents to encourage future NAGAP membership and leadership participation, and engagement from chapter leaders and members.

What led you to your career in graduate enrollment management (for instance, how did you find your first role in GEM? Why have you continued in this field since?)

My first role in GEM was part-time as an admissions representative for the Boston University School of Social Work. I applied after a year exploring the field of Social Work. While I did enjoy helping people, I missed the energy of a college campus. I was very active as an undergraduate student. I was an RA, Peer Health Educator, and Senior Interviewer for Undergraduate Admissions. Recalling these experiences, I began to seek postings in the higher education field and took the part-time role to get my foot in the door. I was a server at a diner after a two-hour commute home each day to make ends meet. Thankfully after 5 months they promoted me to full-time. I remain in this field because I understand that higher education opens the door for people to support themselves doing something they truly love. It never gets old being a part of the process that propels people toward their future.

Tell us about your current role in graduate enrollment management. What do you enjoy most about it?

In my current role as associate director of graduate admissions at Bridgewater State University I help manage the application and review process. I work to create efficiencies in processes, I meet with students and host

I attended my first NAGAP Annual Conference in April 2015. That was also my first year as an official member through my institution. I had participated in NEGAP since 2011 and been on the Board and those who came before me naturally were becoming more involved and active in NAGAP activities and then leadership. Colleagues in the field who had been attending were also sure to encourage me to go and participate. My participation is the product of their strong ambassadorship.

What are you most excited to work on or accomplish in your committee chair position?

I am most looking forward to using my time as chair to support chapter leaders and strengthen the link between them and NAGAP and chapter members and NAGAP. I think it is important that we get the word out about how NAGAP membership and PD opportunities will be valuable and necessary to GEM professionals in this new landscape.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love the theatre. For fun I enjoy seeing plays and musicals as often as possible. When I can I like to participate in arts & crafts. Coming up I am doing a Hocus Pocus 2 cookie decorating class. And I am always happy snuggling up on the couch with my family to watch a movie with some popcorn.

What is one thing you would want people to know about you and GEM?

While I am a higher education professional, I believe that there are many different paths to success and many different paces. It is critical that individuals weigh all their options when considering the way forward for them and most importantly that we remember it is never too late to start down a new path toward a new dream.

What is one thing about you people would never suspect?

Hmmm, although I consider myself to be somewhat adventurous, I am a picky eater. n

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives28

Q&Awith NAGAP Committee Chairs

In a nutshell, what does your committee work on (or are responsible for)?

The Education committee is responsible for providing a broad education curriculum for NAGAP and GEM professionals. The committee coordinates educational content with Publications, Professional Development, and Conference Committees.

What led you to your career in graduate enrollment management (for instance, how did you find your first role in GEM? Why have you continued in this field since?)

I started working in higher education in my early 20’s.

I never thought I would make a career out of it! I first started working with adult students at The Catholic University of America, from there I was hired in my first role as a Graduate Coordinator at Marymount University.

I loved working with the adult population and at that time was also attending graduate school, so it made sense. I had not initially planned to stay in the field after I graduated but once I was looped into NAGAP I knew this was the profession I wanted to be in and would thrive.

I was fortunate enough to progress in my career and not only work in GEM but gain experience in Undergraduate enrollment as well.

Tell us about your current role in graduate enrollment management. What do you enjoy most about it?

I am currently the Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing at Neumann University.

I not only oversee Graduate and Degree completion, but Undergraduate Admissions, Financial Aid, Operations, Marketing/PR, and Neumann Media. In this role I have the opportunity to bridge the gaps between Undergrad and

Grad and help create synergy between these areas. In this tight and competitive marketplace, we need to be thinking “big picture” all the time. I still very much enjoy attending our Graduate Open House and orientation events. Even 20+ years later, it never gets old seeing the excitement of students considering graduate education and choosing your university.

How long have you been involved in NAGAP, and what led you to becoming involved?

I have been involved with NAGAP since 2001. I had a colleague that told be about NAGAP and said if I wanted to learn the ins and out of grad, I needed to be part of this organization. So glad I listened to her! Joanne CanyonHeller, a former NAGAP President, was the first person that approached me about getting involved. I was attending the Annual conference and she told me to check out the marketing committee meeting as they were looking for new committee members. That’s how it all started.

What are you most excited to work on or accomplish in your committee chair position?

The committee already had a great foundation, so our goal is to keep the momentum and continue to introduce new content and provide our membership and other GEM professionals with great resources. We recently just launched the NAGAP Blog, Insights, which I am extremely excited to introduce. It is a long time coming! I have a committee with extraordinary talents, we are excited to be working together.

What do you like to do for fun?

I always enjoy hanging with my family. Now that my kids are older and one is already out of the house, I enjoy traveling to new places and visiting wineries and breweries with my husband and friends near our home.

What is one thing about you people would never suspect?

I am a pretty open book for the most part. I have a history of traveling great distances to work and that hasn’t changed (Home base is about 2 ½ hours away from my work). Also, people tend to be surprised when I tell them I am an only child. n

29NAGAP .org Fall 2022 CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

2022 Summer PDI Fellowship Essay

NAGAP’s Summer Professional Development Institute was a whirlwind forty-eight hours, filled with new learning, ideas, and connections from all across the country. I was so grateful for the opportunity to attend as a NAGAP Summer Fellow, as the fellowship not only enabled me to attend this conference but also allowed my school to fund my colleague’s trip. Together, we were able to attend both the Early Career Track and the Advanced Career Track, and we are excited to bring everything we learned back to our team in St. Louis.

My school (the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis) houses programs in social work, public health, and social policy, and I came to this role last year after working in the social work field for about ten years. The Summer PDI served as a great introduction to GEM and helped me understand how many elements of the field fit together. Our first session covered a broad overview of NAGAP and dove into current trends in graduate school enrollment. We learned that the majority of graduate schools have struggled to meet enrollment goals this year; more than ever, students are weighing the cost of school with projected salaries and job placement, looking for strong relationships with faculty, and viewing accreditation as a non-negotiable element of their graduate school choice. As the presenter cited these statistics, you could feel the collective head nods and sighs of relief throughout the room. We have almost all felt the heaviness of the past year! Fortunately, the sessions that followed contained great, tangible ideas for pivoting along with our prospective students. In “Strategic Use of Financial Aid for Graduate Student Recruitment,” we brainstormed ideas (note: tuition discounts are apparently very underutilized) and touched on potential consequences of using financial aid for recruitment, such as the lack of true price transparency and the reality of some students feeling that they are subsidizing their

classmates’ degrees. In the afternoon, I took pages of notes in our “SEO Fundamentals for GEM” session, as the presenter stressed the importance of unbranded content and convincingly explained that organically-sourced leads are twelve times more likely to enroll than leads from paid advertising. He introduced us to a free SEO tool (a website called Semrush) and then used two schools in attendance as examples as he showed us how to use the website to analyze our own content. We closed out the day in a session that taught us how to identify data points and use them to tell stories, analyze trends, and ask important questions. And then we truly ended the day with a happy hour networking reception. Day two was a bit shorter but still full of great information. In the morning, we learned how to use language and processes carefully so as to avoid legal issues in GEM; our speaker also offered fascinating thoughts on where greater GEM legal issues are heading based on current Supreme Court rulings and trends. In the afternoon, our speaker showcased her school’s efforts to incorporate social justice and equity into every corner of their work. The most interesting session of the day to me, though, was our joint session with the Advanced Career Track members, which offered the opportunity to meet others, discuss common challenges, and brainstorm ideas together. I walked away from this session with several

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives30
We learned that the majority of graduate schools have struggled to meet enrollment goals this year…
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great ideas to take back to my team. And this brings me to the highlight of this conference: the people. The opportunity to meet and gather with other professionals in the same field – whether we discussed work challenges or just exchanged travel stories from each other’s cities – filled my cup. Because at the end of the day, while we are all working towards similar professional goals, we are also all just humans bringing our own histories and perspectives and experiences to this work.

I always appreciate conferences as an opportunity to not only dig into concrete, tangible ideas – but also to take a step back, take a breath, and have a moment of reprieve before diving into the next year. The Summer PDI conference offered opportunities for both, and I am immensely grateful to NAGAP for the opportunity to attend. n

Shaina Peterson joined the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis in 2021 after working in the social work field for ten years. As an admissions & recruitment specialist with the Brown School, Shaina supports all aspects of the admissions process to engage highly qualified candidates for the school’s graduate programs in social work, public health, and social policy. Shaina earned her BA in International Studies from Centre College, and prior to the Brown School, most recently served as the volunteer enrollment manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri. Shaina is excited to be at the Brown School and to work alongside colleagues who are doing incredible, impactful work in the field. As a new GEM professional, Shaina is eager to take advantage of every opportunity to learn and apply her prior knowledge and experience to her new role.

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...We are also all just humans bringing our own histories and perspectives and experiences to this work.
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Post NAGAP Conference Essay

Iamvery grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the Early Career PDI! This was my first ever NAGAP event, and I can confidently say that the sessions were all extremely impactful and provided me with concrete ideas I will aim to implement in my department upon my return.

engine optimization (SEO), and data tools that support enrollment management. Additionally, gaining a greater understanding of legalities that surround GEM, and DEI work specific to GEM will help better inform future recruitment and admissions strategies in the future.

I am so thankful for all the insight I gained from the friends and colleagues I made during my short time at the PDI!

The connections I made are invaluable, and I hope to attend additional NAGAP events in the future to continue building on my knowledge as a GEM professional. n

As someone who has been in Higher Ed for almost four years now, there were challenges I faced pivoting from undergraduate admissions to graduate admissions. After having the opportunity to connect with my colleagues at the Early and Advanced PDI, I was comforted to discover that many other professionals have made a similar pivot in their careers and faced similar challenges.

All information sessions at the PDI were applicable not only to American institutions, but all information was also relevant for Canadian professionals such as myself. I would encourage any of my Canadian colleagues who are looking for additional professional development opportunities to pursue both PDI and conference opportunities with NAGAP. The PDI served as a great refresher at the perfect time as departments work to implement new initiatives for the fall travel schedule.

I am looking forward to returning to my department to implement initiatives that were discussed during the PDI. I am eager to utilize the knowledge I gained on topics such as strategic financial aid initiatives, search

Katelyn MacCormac is a driven young professional who has been immersed in the higher education industry since the completion of her undergraduate degree in 2018. Katelyn began her career in higher education at her alma mater Carleton University located in Ottawa, Ontario, where she started in student recruitment efforts at the undergraduate level. As her interest in enrollment managementeffortsgrew,Katelyneventuallyfoundherselfinan enrollment management position at the graduate level. For the past 11 months, Katelyn has been acting in the role of graduate enrollment management officer at Carleton University, where she currently oversees strategic initiatives for over 100 unique graduate-level programs. As she approaches the 1 year mark in her GEM career, Katelyn is looking forward to networking with other graduate enrollment professionals as she works to rebuild Carleton’s graduate recruitment efforts.

Outside of her graduate enrollment work, Katelyn is currently pursuing a Master’s degree herself in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. When she’s not working or completing schoolwork, Katelyn loves cycling, or tackling a good hiking trail on nice days!

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives32
...There were challenges I faced pivoting from undergraduate admissions to graduate admissions.

New Job, New Baby: What I’ve Learned About Supporting Working Parents and New Hires

This spring, I achieved a professional goal I had set for myself – to accept a director-level position in a graduate admissions office. The timing for accepting my new position was unique – I received my job offer on a Tuesday. The following day, my daughter was born. (Side note: Later that week, my coworkers told me her birth was announced at the NAGAP Annual Summit, an event I am excited to share with her one day.) A week after she was born (and while she was napping), I negotiated my salary and signed the paperwork accepting the offer.

I returned from maternity leave in July to pack up my office at my former position. The next day, I started as the director of admissions and recruitment at The Graduate School at Northwestern University. My experiences for the past two months with a new job and new baby have led me to reflect on ways new working parents as well as new graduate admissions directors can transition successfully into their new roles. Here are my insights:

Onboarding: Setting up introductory meetings

Introductory meetings are a staple of onboarding, but I wanted to share my experiences in my current position that have made my transition easier. Instead of just encouraging departments to welcome a new hire, within my first two weeks, meetings were scheduled for me with every team at The Graduate School. These were introductory, get-to-know-you conversations that were scheduled for 30 minutes each, and I really appreciated them as a kick-off to learning my new position. I was able to get a sense of how the school was organized and how each team would partner with me in admissions work. These meetings also helped me feel very welcomed by my new graduate school community. I was given a copy of the school’s organization chart, which made this exercise especially helpful (connecting the dots of who works with who and on what team was a lot easier this way!). I highly recommend departments establish this model, and for

you to ask for these meetings if your department has not set them up for you already.

An additional layer of my introductory meetings was meeting with faculty and staff from the academic programs we support. An invite had gone out weeks

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Like the introductory meetings with various teams at my school, I would recommend setting these up soon after starting a new director position.
CAREER,

CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

before I started inviting our 100+ PhD and master’s programs to schedule a time to meet the new admissions director. We had a great response – all of the 30+ slots we offered filled quickly, so we have continued to offer more. Programs have said they really appreciate the opportunity to speak with administration, to ask questions and to have a chance to air any concerns. For me, these meetings have allowed me to begin building relationships with our stakeholders, to get a sense of how each of our academic departments approach their PhD and/or master’s admissions and to learn about best practices that we can share largely to help our staff be most effective in their work. Like the introductory meetings with various teams at my school, I would recommend setting these up soon after starting a new director position. However, make sure you are also giving yourself time for other meetings during the day (your days can easily get booked solid if you already have a few one-hour meetings lined up).

Given the volume of the meetings we attended (about 40 meetings in six weeks), taking notes was crucial to keep a record of these conversations and remember which topics we talked about with which program. We also sent out an agenda for each meeting (and invited programs to add agenda items if they had any) and a thank you note following the meeting highlighting key topics we discussed and any action items. Though these meetings were incredibly helpful, I did face a challenge

with managing meetings set up on my calendar before I started, which I will address next.

Managing your calendar as a working parent

One piece of advice I had seen for working parents, and specifically for managing pumping at work, was to block off time on your calendar and to honor that time. However, as a new hire, you may have meetings scheduled for you before you have the chance to begin managing your calendar. It becomes even more difficult to request rescheduling these meetings with faculty or staff who have already committed to those meeting times. For me, I needed to navigate how to request rescheduling some meetings scheduled during my pumping time and how to adjust pumping around meetings we couldn’t reschedule. My lesson learned from this experience is it’s important to speak with a new hire before they start to get a sense of their schedule before reserving any time on their calendar. This saves you the headaches of rescheduling later and also honors any time the new hire needs to reserve for a variety of reasons, whether they be due to religious, health or other reasons.

Call on your predecessor if possible

When you start a new job, there is so much of not knowing what you don’t know. As you are beginning to grasp how your school works and how your role fits into

The NAGAP Experts Bureau

The NAGAP Experts Bureau provides members, as well as outside media, with valuable and reliable resources in the matters of GEM. NAGAP members benefit from having well-respected colleagues within the organization who can confidently and respectfully respond to their best-practice questions or concerns.

Areas of expertise include, but are not limited to:

• Recruitment & Marketing

• Graduate & Adult Student Services

• Ethical Issues in GEM

• International Recruitment & Retention

• Staff Professional Development

• Admissions Policies & Procedures and Operations & Technologies

• Diversity & Inclusion in GEM

• Academic Program Development

• STEM, Biomedical, Medical School Recruitment and Retention

Questions, concerns, or feedback for the Experts Bureau may be directed to nagapmedia @ gmail.com

Fall 2022 NAGAP Perspectives34
A great resource to help you get up to speed can be the person who held the position before you.

CAREER, STAFF, & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Try to be patient with yourself as you transition into this new role and new routine.

that, it can be very difficult to hit the ground running if you are unaware of the context you are working within. A great resource to help you get up to speed can be the person who held the position before you. Having previously worked at Northwestern but in a different school, I had become acquainted with my predecessor. This made reaching out to them once I started much easier. Since taking on this position, we have already spoken twice. These conversations have been invaluable and have served as a crash course into the role. I’ve been able to better approach our budget and better determine policies because of information that I received from these conversations (information I do not believe I would have been able to find elsewhere without investing a lot of time and effort). This can be more difficult if you do not know your predecessor, but I think this is a practice I will try in the future as well. If nothing else, it’s a great networking opportunity to reach out to someone who has been in your shoes and to give you a glimpse into what your next step could be in your career.

Utilizing resources for working parents at your institution

Sometimes, like our students, we may not be aware of the resources available to us at our institutions. After I worked with HR to process my maternity leave, an HR representative reached out to me to see if I wanted to schedule a call to go over resources our institution offers for working parents. We talked about assistance for finding childcare, the lactation rooms offered on campus, flexible work arrangements and some best practices to avoid burnout after returning to work. While the resources each institution may be able to offer will vary, having someone walk you through what is available was very

helpful – especially as your mind is occupied with trying to wrap up as much work as possible and preparing to welcome a new member to your family! I would also recommend seeing if there is a group for working parents or caregivers on your campus. I’ve been told there is a listserv for working parents at Northwestern (now I need to figure out how to get on it!).

Be patient with yourself

This is advice I’ve received from more than one colleague, and it is comforting. It’s also hard to do at times, especially when you receive emails from faculty about a topic you don’t know much about and are expected to make a decision quickly, or when you’re trying to run a report in your CRM system and have no idea where to start. The best I can say is remind yourself that starting a new position or returning to work after leave (or doing both concurrently) is hard. Try to be patient with yourself as you transition into this new role and new routine. And also try to be patient with yourself when you find yourself being impatient. n

Melissa Sersland is the director of graduate admissions and recruitment at The Graduate School at Northwestern University. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s in journalism and master’s in higher education administration and policy from Northwestern.

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