Mapping the Student Lifecycle

Mapping the Student Lifecycle
Author’s note: This post is a transcription of a presentation given at CALEM 2016 titled: The Lifecycle Map – A Student’s Journey. To view the video recording of this presentation please visit: Mapping the Student Lifecycle

Kimbrea Browning
: Well, good afternoon. My name is Kimbrea Browning. I’m the vice-president of enrollment management at Union Institute and University, and I have joining me today my wonderful director of marketing, Ashley Finkus, because when I was… When I made this proposal, when I was telling her about it, I was like, “You’ve got to be a part of this,” because she has been a huge part of a lot of the things that we implemented with doing this, so I’m very excited have her here today. So, we’re going to talk about the lifecycle map, a student’s journey, and outlining that pathway. I know that there’s been a lot of conversation about student service and really knowing the funnel and recognizing that and outlining that, so we’re going to talk about a little bit of that today, but before I do, Ashley, I want you to introduce yourself and give a little background, and then I’ll do the same.

Ashley Finkes: Yeah. Ashley Finkes, director of marketing, walked in the door at Union January 4th, a day after everyone’s back from holiday break, and I’m ready to go, ready to learn, and nobody wants to talk to me. So, that happened, but I’ve been at Union now for about literally 6 months, 5 minutes, and I have a lot on my plate to do. It’s been a lot of cleaning out the closet, figuring out what’s been done, what’s been hiding under shelves, what’s been neglected, what’s been working, and kind of coming up with some kind of plan to please be brief, so that’s definitely our goal moving forward. Coming from a media publishing background, I have been in [not sure] marketing and direct marketing now for about 12 years, now it’s my time to bring my non-profit heart and my for-profit mind into the university world.

Kimbrea Browning: Fantastic. Well, I’ve been with Union Institute University—it’s a year, today. Today is my one-year anniversary officially. I unofficially started at Union about a month prior, as soon as I accepted the position I had email, I had access to everything, and I was being sent reports, and I was on conference calls. I had no idea what I was doing. So, I appreciate their excitement for having me on board. So, it was extremely great, and a great opportunity to be a part of. And so, for the last year I have been really working through a lot of pieces and complexities of our institution. I’m sure none of you all work for complex institutions, right? No, everybody’s pretty simple and easy? Okay. Well, ours is not. Very complex, a lot of moving parts, all in different directions, and so actually, I want to give you an opportunity. You and I can talk about Union and give you a little insight about our institution and go from there.


Click Here to Watch the Mapping the Student Lifecycle Presentation


Ashley Finkes: Yeah, Union Institute University, if you haven’t heard of us, now’s your time. That’s my job, making sure you have heard of us—not only you, but every consumer out there. I’m sure you marketing people in the room, that’s also your job, so you guys can relate. We’re a nonprofit, private institution started in 1964. We actually are headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. We actually have also 4 other central locations. These are our bread and butter. These locations are in Sacramento, LA, Vermont, and Miami. Those are our tree branches of the tree, which means it’s also mainly focused on our job to making sure that they’re producing the same exact student experience that we’re producing in the center of the tree. And I think that’s one of the biggest goals of this project is to find out that journey and making sure everyone’s experiencing it in the same way.

Kimbrea Browning: And when you have that many branches, as Ashley calls it, it is challenging to make sure everyone’s kind of doing the same thing the same way. Our groups become silo, so I’ll talk about that in just a second. Another thing that’s important to know about Union is that we are—have been, I should say, traditionally a degree completion institution. So, although, as Carol’s talked about age restrictions, we don’t necessarily have an age restriction. However, we do have, in the minds of faculty and some staff, a credit restriction. So, we take up to 90 transfer credits at our institution. And so, if a student who is an adult learner by all definitions comes to us with no college credits, there are some administration who will say, “No, Kimbrea, that student can’t go here.” Right? So, we’re closing the door on some great opportunities there. And so, that’s one of the many conversations that I’ll be continuing to have with a lot of the administration and staff, because we really have to figure that part out because we’re missing the boat on a lot of potential students there. So, that being said, what I want to do now is just show a quick video. I like videos. This isn’t one that’s going to make you cry or there are no fluffy bunnies in it or anything like that, but it just gives you a visual of how your institutions run and how the departments work together, right?

So, I don’t know about you, but my days are a race, okay? I get to work and I’m gone, I’m running. And I wear 4-inch heels every single day, so that’s kind of difficult to do. So, I’m running, I’m always going, and when I work with different departments, we have to make sure that we’re passing the baton and we don’t drop it, right? Because the moment we drop that baton, it breaks the cycle, it breaks the process, and that can impact the student. And so, actually if you want to go ahead and play just a little bit of that…You’ve all seen these races, right? They’re prepping, they’re getting ready, getting their mind right, so they can run really, really fast. I don’t run, I’m not a runner, I don’t like running, but they’re off, right? They’re running. They’re going, they’re going, they’re going, right? And the key here is that they have a partner, and they’re passing that baton, and they don’t break it. There’s focus, there’s concentration, there’s team work. They can’t talk, but they know that person is there. They’re just going to pick it up, right? So, think about your institutions and departments and how they work together, and are we working together where we’re not dropping the baton? Are we passing it? Is it pretty seamless? Is it a little rocky? I don’t know, but this is just a visual of your day-to-day operations at your institution.

So, when I thought about that, and when I arrived at Union, I knew nothing, obviously, other than what was in the catalog that’s—what?—900 pages long. And I’m not reading all that, so that’s the first thing I was sent was a big catalog. And I walked in really trying to understand, “How does Union work?” Right? “How do we do what we do?” Not just in enrollment, but in every single department. And I spent time observing and talking to people and asking questions, and I still couldn’t get a firm answer. I was so confused, right? So, not only am I dealing with the Cincinnati Academic Center, but I have 4 others. And as I visited these centers, I would go to LA and I’m like, “Tell me how you work with students.” “Well, Kimbrea, I don’t know what they told you in Cincinnati, but here in LA, this is what we do and this is the right way.” Okay, cool. Then I fly to Sacramento, right? And I sit down with the group, I said, “Hey, talk to me about enrollment, enrollment process.” “Kimbrea, listen, LA and Cincinnati wrong. I don’t know what they told you, but it’s wrong. This is what we do in Sacramento, right?”

So, I was getting all these different stories about how we do what we do, but not only enrollment, but in every single department that I talked to. It was to the point where I would talk to a department in a group setting, so with all the members, and I would ask simple questions, and registrar would talk to me about registrar process. And two members of the same department would, in a sense, argue about a process. “No, that’s not how we do it.” “Well, yes, it is.” “Well, no, it’s not. So, they don’t even know internally what they do in their own department. That was fun, right? So, I’m new, I’m trying to figure all this out because I don’t know what the heck is going on, because my role is to grow enrollment and sustain it, but I can’t do that if the internal operations are quite fuzzy to me. I don’t get it, and I need to get it, so that I can figure out how we can amplify that and things like that. So, again, a lot of different versions. So, it was finding the “don’t know” answers, what are the inconsistencies? How can we create efficiencies? The connection points, and also showing the connection points between growth and revenue. Huge, huge. But I couldn’t do that because there were just so many inconsistencies and stories. It’s kind of like the circle with the children and they tell a story and it comes out different in the end. That’s exactly what I was getting. And it was not fun for me, so the how.


Click Here to Watch the Mapping the Student Lifecycle Presentation


How did we put this map-outline thing together, and what do we do? It was simple, and really this process—and Ashley laughs when I say this—was really selfish on my part. It was all about me in the beginning, because I just wanted to know how the heck we did what we did, but I knew that once we completed this, this was going to be about the university. And it was going to be beneficial to everyone at the university, not just me, so the first is the university president. And we’re a small enough institution where I can talk to my president every day. His office is right around the corner. And he is extremely supportive of me and my department and what I want to do, and so, I sat him down, I said, “Roger, look, here’s the deal. I want to explain to you what’s happening in our institution. It’s silo. People are confused on who does what when, where, and how and the timing. It’s just a lot.” He said, “Kimbrea, do whatever you need to do. Figure it out, because we’ve got to make sure the university gets back on track.” Great! So he gave me the green light to go and do my thing. Be vulnerable. And I say that because I had to be vulnerable because I’m digging into my own department, so granted, I’m new and I’m coming into it, but I had to be very vulnerable in that process. And I had to ask my staff members to be vulnerable as well. So, telling you the truth, even if I may make a face or two at some things that are occurring in our department, but I still wanted that vulnerability to be there and I didn’t want them to feel bad for being vulnerable. This is a process we’re all going through. Defining the pathways. Talking to all team members, not just the leaders, because what you find is that some leaders don’t even know what’s going on in their own department. Whoa, whoa, right? So, you talk to the leader, and then you get a different answer than what you would receive from the team member, so don’t just talk to the leaders. And asking the tough questions, the really tough questions, and then digging in from there and not being afraid of that.

This is a lot, so I’ll let you handle that, Ashley.

Ashley Finkes: Yes. This is not a subway map. I know that’s probably what it may look like, but if your map at the end of this process doesn’t look something like this, then you’re not doing enough work. You’re not asking enough questions, you’re not touching enough departments, you need the details. This is trying to get everything out of the closet and putting it into a visual format. I think that’s the one thing that we’re so focused on in higher ed is we’re focused on those reports—“Tell me more, tell me more”—we need to show it. We need a visual format… To maybe each of these departments outlined, so you’re not going to be able to see all the details because if I did span that out, it would be down… Probably across the whole wall.

Kimbrea Browning: Yeah, that’s what it would look like. That’s what it looked like when we did this. We put it up on a wall and it covered the whole entire thing basically. It was just so…

Ashley Finkes: Yeah, over [inaudible].

Kimbrea Browning: Yeah.

Ashley Finkes: Take a moment to write down three departments in your school or university that you know that you can connect with right away, starting Monday, that you can start and kick off this project.

Kimbrea Browning: Basically, what you’re doing is trying to understand—and this was for me, new students—what happens when a new student hits your department. What is the process? So, after they leave enrollment and go to registrar, after they leave registrar and go to program, what happens to them when they get to you? Right? And that’s what you’re trying to outline and that’s what you’re trying to figure out to see—are there any gaps? Are there any holes? Are there any inconsistencies? Because my main goal at Union is… Several. So, number one, to be more effective, be more efficient, and break down the barriers that we have created on our own. Most institutions, we’re our own worst enemy. Just saying. We create things and create things and recreate things and build our own walls to success, and we have to break that down, right? But the only way we’re going to do that is understanding where we are, where the gaps are, and filling the gaps or eliminating them and bringing them together.

Ashley Finkes: Does anybody want to share their three?

1: Three departments?

Ashley Finkes: Yes, three departments.

1: Financial aid, advising, business office…

Kimbrea Browning: Yes!

Ashley Finkes: That’s great. And honestly, that’s where you’ve got to start. There’s a lot of departments that could be added to this journey map. Of course, when I walk in, I wanted to meet your department, what does everybody do? How do you communicate? We’ve got to start somewhere. So, start with three and work your way up.

Kimbrea Browning: We did every single one. Because I’m just crazy that way. I was like, “I want them all, and I want to see it all, and I want to see it all right now.” But, I know that there are some institutions that are larger than others, so I know that they can’t do it that way. So, pick two or three that touch your department directly. Financial aid is huge. They’re my next step at my institution. They’re a festive, festive group, and I’m so excited to really dig into that because I think there’s a lot of opportunity there in terms of abating processes, eliminating some, and just bringing the group closer together, so be working on that.

Ashley Finkes: How we first started this project was to, of course, identify the flow points to which a student is experiencing Union, starting with “the student is interested in college,” moving to “student applies to Union,” “student completes application,” “student is accepted to Union,” “student connects with a PA (program advisor),” “student registers for classes,” “term begins,” “term ends,” cycle starts over, hopefully they graduate and become an alum.

Kimbrea Browning: Of course, in between there is conversation, right? The student’s not just going to go to our website and apply. Well, they do. We have plenty of those that do. They go to the website and apply and they’ve never heard of us before, but they saw our website and thought, “This is great! I want to go to Union!” Fantastic! I love those students. Keep them coming. But in between there, obviously there’s a conversation and some engagement that happens as well.


Click Here to Watch the Mapping the Student Lifecycle Presentation


Ashley Finkes: So, of course, this is where the conversation… This is where we’re able to outline which departments, which as you can see, we highlighted our departments as these 6: enrollment, registration, financial aid, program advisors, IT, and business office. There’s probably about 6 more that I would love to add to this, but this is where we started with. Marketing/communication isn’t on here. That’s because it touches every department, so that’s my goal is to making sure that enrollment emails that I’m sending out, I know when they’re happening and what they involve. Financial aid packets and information that are sent out—nobody knew when they were sent out. I had somebody sent it at 2 weeks, “Oh, I send it the minute I get that person’s file on my desk.” Inconsistency right there. Timing is very important to notice. So, when we actually broke everything down, these were the actual color codes of the departments that were touching the students in between each of our flow points. As you can see, big exclamation point—we found the largest hole in our program was in between our program advising and when they’re registering for classes are only being touched by two different departments when it’s the most important time for every single department to be reaching out to them.

Kimbrea Browning: But reaching out to them with a purpose, not just reaching out to them for reaching out’s sake, right? So, what we have is we have an email being sent from this department, another email being sent from this department, and something else being sent from this department. Well, that’s three different emails. That can be confusing to students, right? But, we want to make sure that we’re kind of creating some centralization there where it makes sense for the student, right? Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I wanted to add.

Ashley Finkes: No, you’re good. That’s great. So, a department breakdown. Where do we start? We start of course with ourselves because we know the most about ourselves. So, kicked off with enrollment. And this was really creating the outline of the flow points which are the actions the student’s taking, and then how are we contacting them? Inside each of these bullets are strategies. Is it an email or phone call? What day did that happen? Just writing all those details down on one map, based on this enrollment feature. This also allowed us to kind of focus on the roles and processes that involved enrollment but that didn’t come from us. There’s a lot of times in enrollment that other departments are doing efforts for enrollment that we don’t know about. If we don’t write them down, or “Oh, enrollment counselors didn’t know that all this time a program advisor was calling a student because they weren’t in the know.” This goal is to get your team members in the know.

Kimbrea Browning: And it also really helps us understand the roles and processes and the communication. One of the big things that we noticed throughout this entire process is that there’s a lot of student-to-university communication, not enough university-to-student. However, do you know the one department where we found the most consistent communication? You want to guess?

2: [inaudible]?

Kimbrea Browning: Wrong. I wish! Wrong. Close. Business office. Do you know why? We’re sending them bills. So, the only time we reach out consistently to our students is for them to pay a bill? Not good, right? Not good. And the student may feel like, “Oh, I’m just a number to you,” right? “You only want my money.” And that’s not the case, and we’ve got to change that narrative, and we’ve got to do it quickly. So, these are the holes and inconsistencies that we found. Number one: the timing of communications. Huge, and I’ll talk about that in just a second. The types of communications that were going out—letter, email, versus phone call, which I’ll talk about phone calls in just a second. When I arrived at Union, my enrollment counselors did not like making phone calls at all. “I’m going to enroll the student through email.” No, it’s not going to work. That’s not how we’re going to roll around here, okay? Think of reasons to connect with the student, right? We are in the process of creating some engagement pieces for students, especially as it relates to a gap that I know that I’m working on is the admit-to-enroll. One thing that’s extremely important to this process is you’ve got to have some data to help you determine some of the gaps that you already know to be true before you start this process, so conversions, all that stuff is going to be extremely important to you. I know, for me, our huge gap is admit-to-enroll. We have a lot of students that are admitted into our program that never register—Why? Right? The key to enrollment is not so much getting a bunch of new applications. It’s who do we have, and how are we helping them retain, right? It’s kind of the same concept as when you hire people. It’s a lot less expensive, more cost-effective to keep who you have and retain them, coach them, than to re-career them, then hire new and train again, right? Same concept with students, right?

Ashley Finkes: With timing of communications, some people may know every single letter that goes out. They may have a list of every time there’s a phone call, but the biggest part that you need to make sure is that there’s an actual set timing that’s being consistent with every student. If a graduate student in one program and all of a sudden a graduate student in another program are receiving letters on two different days, that’s an inconsistency in the student experience. So, while in your institutions and in your colleges you may have this knowledge already on file, you need to make sure that it’s happening with every student, and the only way to do that is to get everyone on the same page with when that’s supposed to be going out.

Kimbrea Browning: And the consistency of what it’s saying. Hello! So, another fun fact about when I arrived at Union is that I’m sitting with an enrollment counselor, and she was emailing a student because that’s all she wanted to do—she didn’t want to make a phone call—and she had this email, and I said, “Okay, well, talk to me about this email.” And she kept scrolling and scrolling and scrolling, scrolling, and then there was a glamour shot, and then she kept scrolling and scrolling, and there was another glamour shot, and I said, “Stop. What is this?” “Oh, this is my email to the student. I haven’t talked to him yet, but this is the email I sent.” It had cost information in there, had all kinds of stuff in there. It was too much. Then I sat with another enrollment counselor. They had a very similar email with a different head shot and stars and fireworks coming out of it, I don’t know. We didn’t have any consistency of what was being sent out, and the messaging, and the content, and the brand. So, everybody was just kind of all over the place. It was good times. Alright so, enrollment, so I’m going to pick on myself here. So, the touch points to students—and you all within enrollment and admissions know this—our goal is to match students to programs that fit their need, assist them through the entire admissions process, on to advising—I’m working on extending that significantly, one step at a time—and serve as the student’s connection point through the full student experience. So, Carol has talked about… Several have talked about that kind of one-stop shop, and I truly love that concept and idea, and I’d love to explore it a little bit more. So, here’s what I found: specialized enrollment counselors were assigned by programs, and inquiries were falling through the cracks.


Click Here to Watch the Mapping the Student Lifecycle Presentation


So, here’s the scoop. Specialization, I think, works well, for some institutions. For mine, it did not. Here’s why: we had one or two enrollment counselors that were focused in the graduate program, so our Master’s of Arts and our Master’s of Organization. No one else knew anything about that program. So, if they were out for the day, sick, the inquiries would sit for days, and no one was contacting them. What do we know about inquiries that sit? We all know this, right? And this was happening across all of our programs. So, I said, “Okay, that’s not going to work. It’s not going to work.” So, specialization in our case did not work, and I saw that it was allowing for some breaks in the contact. Mismanagement of inquiry distribution plan among the enrollment staff. So, no one was really managing inquiries and where they go and who they go to and kind of managing that part. Enrollment counselors would receive an email, and they would look at it or not. There was no [cuts out] to that. And then little to no outbound communication. Again, like I said, my enrollment counselors were not making phone calls. They were out recruiting for hours, and then they would come in, and they would make a phone call, and then, “Oh, it’s 5 o’clock, it’s time for me to go home.” So, all these inquiries they received while recruiting sat on their desk for another day or two. So, no active recruitment was happening at that time.

So, here’s what I’ve done. There’s a lot more, but this is what I’ve done to address those three things. We have created a stacked contact strategy for inquires at any stage in the process. So, Larita talked about this yesterday in a session where having a very structured contact strategy is helpful for making sure that inquiries are being contacted within hours or a day of receiving them, but also to make sure that there is a nice, steady flow of contact. Now, once the student is contacted, I haven’t made it to that side yet, but I’m on my way. One of the things I told the enrollment counselors, I said, “Here’s the scoop, this is for brand new inquiries that you receive that you don’t receive contact with now. Once you contact them, I’m going to allow you the flexibility to create your own contact strategy. The moment I see that not happening, we’re going to have to change it.” Right? Because we all know that keeping contact with the students is key. All program training. Every single enrollment counselor has gone through round 1 of program training for every single program that we have. And that was challenging because faculty weren’t really too excited about that. Not shocking, right? I think they got used to having one or two enrollment counselors that they worked with at all times. Once I talked to the faculty on a conference call, talked to the dean, said, “Look, this is what we have to do and why. This is a business case. We’re losing inquiries, we’re losing opportunities, and we can’t afford as an institution to lose any opportunity with any inquiry.”

So, we are going into round two of our program training, and it’s going to continue and continue and continue and continue. Another thing we’re working on is thanks to Jodi Ashbrook, who is in the room. Educators Serving Educators I’m partnering with to serve competency-based sales training. Unfortunately, I don’t have the bandwidth to create that, and she’s amazing, so I said, “Jodi, could you do it?” And she absolutely stepped up to the task. I’m excited to roll that out soon. Our enrollment counselors, when I arrived, there was no new hire training. Yeah. My first day on the job, I’m in my office, sitting there, trying get my stuff together, and I had two new enrollment counselors come to my door and they said, “Hey, good morning!” And I said, “Hey!” And they were looking at me because they were thinking, “Okay, so where do I go?” “I don’t know. There’s no new hire training. There’s no new hire binder. There’s nothing.” So, we’re in the process of creating onboarding and training and all of that, so I’m putting myself out there today. So, being very vulnerable. So, don’t mind it.

New student review meetings. This brings the advisors and academic advisors—so program advisors—and our enrollment counselors together two to three times per month to talk about students who have been admitted or are in the pipeline. The purpose for this is that these two groups don’t talk enough. And they’re the two most important individuals to a student’s start, right? So, we sit in a room, we have this huge spreadsheet, and we go through every single student. What are the challenges? What are the issues? Where are they? Where are the transcripts? So, we’re doing a constant check of what’s going on with the student because that impacts the start percentages significantly. So, I’m all about early interception. I don’t like being reactive. This allows us to be proactive in every way, so working out very well for us. So, that’s how we’re addressing the three inconsistencies. There are more than that, trust me. I’ve found, I don’t know, 30-40. So, we’re going to work on those over time. Yes, ma’am?

3: Just really quick. How much time do you spend for that last meeting that you just mentioned between advisors and outreach folks? How much time are you spending on that spreadsheet, and how much of that time is duplicated each time you meet? Is the frequency once a week, did you say?

Kimbrea Browning: It’s bi-weekly.

3: Okay. How long does the meeting last?

Kimbrea Browning: It depends. It depends on how many counselors you have, depends on how many students you have.

3: Did you already share what your population and ratios were?

Kimbrea Browning: Our student population?

3: Yes.

Kimbrea Browning: Our student population right now is around 1,250, so we’re small.

3: Yeah.

Kimbrea Browning: We’re small. I have 13 enrollment counselors, and of course, 13 spread across 5 academic centers. So, for instance, Cincinnati Academic Center has 5 enrollment counselors.

3: Okay.

Kimbrea Browning: So, it really depends on the target, how many students they have, will dictate the time it will take for you to go through all of it. So, typically what happens is my senior director of enrollment, who manages the enrollment counselor group in Cincinnati but she also helps me with national initiatives and things like that, will have a spreadsheet, a report, from our student information system that she runs I think every day because she’s just that way, she wants to know what’s going on every moment with her student. She’ll run that report and then she’ll go through and highlight, put notes in on what’s going on, but the purpose of that meeting is to have a conversation with the enrollment counselor and program advisor because we don’t know everything that’s happening other than what’s in our student information system if enrollment counselors and all the staff are documenting appropriately, which they should.


Click Here to Watch the Mapping the Student Lifecycle Presentation


3: Right.

Kimbrea Browning: So, it really depends. And after this, if you want to connect, I can give you some ideas on the best way to do it. At my previous institutions, I would do this once a week, and it took all day because I had 16 enrollment counselors, right? And I was working with starts of 2 and 300 students, so it takes a while, but it’s a huge, huge opportunity to be proactive with students because you don’t know how to help them if you don’t know how to help them. You don’t know, period, right? Okay. It’s all you.

Ashley Finkes: Office of Student Services. This was, when I first started, the hidden office that we just had and people just went into the department if they needed to. Mm mm. I need to make this a benefit. This is a marketing benefit for me, so I need to know what they’re doing and how I can make sure that students are aware of our services. Our office of student services handles all of our library efforts. We’re lucky enough to have a fully online library that has thousands of materials that nobody knew about because nobody knew how to access or if they had a problem in it—“Well, who do I contact? Student services. Got it.” Nobody’s being marketed to these opportunities because it’s a hidden department.

Writing Center. This is a unique option that a lot of our students are taking advantage of. A lot of our students are coming to classes not prepared in writing. They’ve been working days and days in Excel, they’ve been writing emails. They’re not sitting there writing 7-page reports, they’re not used to APA style. These are the things they need from the Writing Center. They’re going to be hesitant. They’re adults. Who wants to sit there and say, “Hmm, I don’t know how to write. Can you go back to that idea?” And that’s where our Writing Center helps them. It’s more or less not called the tutoring because nobody really likes to say that they’re in tutoring. It’s called a Writing Center, so we have changed and adjusted the language so we could showcase that.

Tutoring and Disability Assistance. We need to say that we offer it, but we need to say it in a way that it’s an added benefit for our students and identifying that. Career Services. Working with this individual, I identified five things that I could tell a student right away that she didn’t tell anyone until they came to her. Again, more outbound communication that needs to happen—that’s on my radar now—that she never thought of. Just because it’s not her job to sit there and say, “Oh, I guess I should tell people about all this.” She’s too busy doing the work. She’s too busy making sure that these individuals that she does get are having the assistance that they need. So, it’s our job to kind of mold the departments together, making sure that I’m funneling her new people in the career services to account for.

Holes identified once we flowed through this process, students were provided little information about the career services available to them prior to graduation. We have to keep in mind, these are adult students mostly working. They still need career services. They’re not 18 that are going to think about career services in 4 years when they need to put a resume together. They might be putting a resume together right now, “Hey, I’m working on my bachelor’s degree.” That could be a standing point for their resume, but if they haven’t written a resume in 15 years, might need a little bit of work. The average Word doc resume is not going to work these days. As a marketing director, if I showed up with a Word doc with my name and what I’ve done, she probably would have flipped. It’s just not enough. So, our services allow that to build up your resume. Writing Center and tutoring offerings weren’t showcased to the students in a way that they connect and relate. Again, we give them real names. We gave them Stephanie’s name and Stephanie’s email, not Office of Student Services in this hidden cloud that we offer. We gave them people. That’s what they want. They just want an email. They want it in their phone, so if they have a Writing Center           question, and they have a paper due at 4 o’clock tomorrow, guess who’s going to be helpful right now? Not Google.

Missing welcome and introduction as a benefit to their experience at Union. I think that goes back to our overall structure of, “We’re your personal university.” We need to experience that as a student. I have our students experience that through. And I think the missing welcome, again, putting them with that real person, giving them the real people will allow them to relate back to your experience and feel like they belong. Solutions? Welcome email. Pretty basic. Email series sent to newly admitted students showcasing them the offerings of the student services and the benefits they incur. Intro to student services webinar event for all of our new students. This is, “Okay, I read the flyer, I read the email, now tell me more. I really want to know the details.” Or, “I want to ask a couple questions.” Early introduction to key department staff to help create lines of communication. The key department staff were introduced probably after the semester started, after maybe two papers were written, and they probably failed the papers because they haven’t been writing in a couple semesters, or if they haven’t been writing in 15 years. It was done too late. So, that item was actually being done, but, again, this is where the timing comes in. It’s not done early enough. Our students wanted that information way before. Or they could be taking that intro to student services webinar, maybe 3 weeks before they start classes when they’re doing nothing with you for 3 more weeks before they start that class.

Kimbrea Browning: Okay, so, for those that are looking at this and saying, “Whoa, this is a lot. There’s a big map, there’s a bunch of stuff, it’s kind of crazy, I have three departments I want to focus on, what do I do next?” Right? Well, number one, you need to talk to all the departments within your university separately, right? So, what I did… Well, first of all, I’ll tell you a funny story. Our building is a historic building. It used to be a tie factory, right? It’s really interesting. It’s just configured really weird, and it’s kind of like a maze. So, I would walk around and get lost, but I didn’t want to look lost, so I would pretend like I was meant to fall into your office. I’m like, “Hi, my name is Kimbrea!” That’s how I met people, so talk to all your departments separately. Get to know them, right? Get to know their processes, really try to understand how they do what they do, right? Layout steps each department takes to connect with students. So, it’s kind of like you’re going on a bit of a scavenger hunt. You really want to know what happens when a new student gets to them, what happens, right? Map out all the department steps from inquiry to enrolled. So, although a student reaches registrar after the inquiry stage, they’re still considered a new student, so what happens, right? Identify gaps within each department, identify the missing links, and then meet with department leaders to discuss areas of improvement and overall strategy. Before you get to here, there’s a little space here I want to add.

Before I did that, I met with the president and the president’s cabinet, so the other vice-presidents within the university. I wanted them to understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. And to help them see some of the gaps and some of the inconsistencies so they would understand, “Oh, we really need to work on that.” Yeah, absolutely we do. So, I didn’t want to start rolling these things out and start mapping out communications and adding things without really talking to the university administration first, so I did that.


Click Here to Watch the Mapping the Student Lifecycle Presentation


Ashley Finkes: And in that meeting, I think the biggest thing that came out of it from our perspective is they have this outline, what can actually be brought down first? What’s the most important to change? As you can see from that subway map, we have a lot of work to do, can’t do it all in one day. So that’s helping them prioritizing from the structure down. I’m in marketing. Yes, I will touch every department, but I do not know how every department is supposed to be functioning and if they have time to take on the personalized letter and so forth. That’s where including all of those leaders in that type of meeting will help not only see the bigger picture, but help out weed out the things that, maybe, they don’t matter. Just because you find them on this map doesn’t mean that they need to be changed.

Kimbrea Browning: Yeah, and that’s one thing you have to determine. Do you want to fight that battle? Is it that big of a deal, right? And there were some things in this process we saw, and I was like, “Oh, this is awful!” And then once we had it all out, I was like, “Aw, it’s not that big of a deal. I don’t feel like fighting that battle today. Let me focus on the big things.” Right? So, you always want to make sure that you identify the difference between the two. That’s it. Questions for us? Yes?

4: Do you use a CRM? If so, which one?

Kimbrea Browning: We… Funny story. Over the next day or two I have a lot of funny stories. So, we’re currently using Jenzabar EX. We were due to implement a CRM; however, it did not happen for a lot of reasons that I will keep to myself and I can tell you later. We just had some challenges with changing leadership and miscommunication, and, to be honest, we’re not ready for it, and I’m going to tell you why. Enrollment staff, even program advising staff, are not even using the system we have. So, there are things within Jenzabar. Am I a huge fan of it? Do I want something a little bit more slick? Sure. But there are things within Jenzabar that are pretty awesome if you unpack it and learn how to use it. So, my goal is to make sure that we’re using the system that we have consistently before. It’s kind of like, “Okay, you need to drive the Honda before you get the Bentley.” I want the Bentley.

4: So, for emails and [inaudible] you were talking about, do your counselors send those out on that system or do they do that manually?

Kimbrea Browning: It’s some of both.

Ashley Finkes: So, Jenzabar has a package system in there. It’s not as strong, so we do supplement with our own constant contact email database, and that’s where those unique auto spins go. But if a counselor Sally wants to send an email tomorrow, it’s throughout that system, but it was developed recently. That wasn’t done before. It was an Outlook inbox email that came to them that may have got into spam. It’s all those little factors that, without knowing where we’re sending these little personalized emails that I didn’t know about, now we created one—little bit more happy because it looks like my branding, little happier on that—without that system. They do still need to talk to each other, and I think that’s something we’re still trying to identify. Not everything needs to talk to each other, but those things do.

Kimbrea Browning: And, again, we’re unpacking components of Jenzabar I did not know existed. And we’ve had it for years. But I’m the one that came in and said, “Well, can it do this?” “Well, I don’t know. Let me check.” And they checked, and miraculously, we could do it. Fantastic! Well, let’s use it. If we’re paying for it, let’s use it, right?

4: Thank you.

Kimbrea Browning: You’re welcome. Any other questions? Well, thank you so much for joining us. If you have any other questions, we’re here. Not going anywhere. I’m going to Jodi’s session next, next door. Thank you so much. We appreciate your time. Have a great day.  

The Conference on Adult Learner Enrollment Management (CALEM 2017)

Anthony Levato

Anthony Levato

I'm the Director of Marketing at EducationDynamics. I enjoy taking classes online, reading and writing about marketing, and riding my bicycle in New York City. You may contact me directly at

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