By Ethan Penland, Director of Admissions Services
5 minute read
When I started in higher education, I kept hearing the word ‘silo.’ I remember the first time hearing it, in the hallway of my department’s office, and thinking, “What does a silo have to do with higher education?”
For those who may be in the position of thinking I was in at that time, a silo or silos refers to an individual, department, or even division within an institution that operates independently without seeking the opportunity for outside support or collaboration from other individuals, departments, or divisions.
The reason why silos are seen in a negative context, and, in my opinion, are fairly viewed that way, is because of how it stunts the ability for progressive growth or potential but also prevents the ability for areas to come together in a unified way to be better resources for students.
Many, many factors prevent silos from being torn down or even reconsidered – politics, personnel, existing practices and procedures, and culture to name a few. Sure, those are some lofty factors, but rather than accept defeat, why not make an effort to overcome those obstacles? There are plenty of excuses as to why not, but there are equally as many great reasons to try.
So, if you are like many institutions around the country who are looking to initiate, mend or build campus partnerships, here are a few ways and perspectives to get you going.
- Start with self-reflection. Before we start pointing too many fingers outwardly, we need to do some introspection. Ask yourself, or the department, if you have equally been open to collaboration or campus partnerships. The default thought is typically “yes,” but is that truly the case? Many times, even in my own experiences, someone from across campus comes to admissions with a thought or idea, and they are immediately met with a “thanks but no thanks” mentality. Rather than taking time to examine and appreciate the opportunity, sometimes we default to sticking with what we believe works for us and not listening to outside perspectives. The best thing you can do is respect the idea shared, see how, or if, it can be molded to work, and if it cannot, explain why it is not possible right now. Then, and this is key, don’t stop there. Pivot the conversation to identify a potential opportunity to explore other initiatives and ideas together. You have a campus partner raising their hand to help, so take advantage of that opportunity.
- Set expectations, gather feedback, and share the data. I think about the many events, for example, that enrollment management provides to prospective students throughout a calendar year, and then I reflect on the perspective that many faculty and staff members share about them–it’s a way of their time. Three things need to happen in order for this perspective to change for potential campus partners to these events, or frankly any involvement you have or request from faculty and staff members. You need to set expectations for what their experience(s) could look when you request their involvement. Without doing so, they will create their own for how it should go. You need to collect their feedback post-involvement. As I said in my article about After Action Reviews, their, meaning campus partners, feedback matters, and in this case, the more you listen to their feedback, the better campus partners they will be because you are valuing them and their feedback. You need to share the data–be transparent. This is where you can really gain some partners. Too often, potential partners are never notified of the results of their contributions. The more you can be transparent with your partners, the more trust they will have in you.
- Help them understand recruitment. It’s no secret that recruitment is an icky word, especially to those who don’t fully grasp its meaning. Recruitment is not selling, if done right. Recruitment is an experience. So, consider this. Go to their academic meetings or request individual meetings with key stakeholders in their areas around the institution that you want to develop and explain to them how recruitment works in admissions or enrollment management. Let them know that a simple smile and/or wave to the tour group on a campus visit may seem minimal but delivers a huge impact on recruitment and the student experience. A personal success story I have with this is meeting with our school of business at one institution I served. I discussed the ways they can recruit without “recruiting,” and after, I had two faculty members come to me to see how they could use their curriculum in their class be a way to generate support for our student recruitment initiatives. The worry for many who are not directly associated with student recruitment is that it is something outside of their job description or that it is more work for them. You need to dispel the notion that recruitment is not exclusive to selling, and by helping them better understand recruitment and how it can take shape in so many ways, you will.
- Establish a partnership program. This can look and feel differently across institutions, but the purpose should be the same–expressing how you can help them and not how they can help you. I’ve seen partnership programming done in a variety of ways, but my personal favorite is the liaison approach. Instead of making one person the point of contact for your office, assigned everyone to a department(s) or division(s). This minimizes overstretching one person while creating networking opportunities, along with professional development, for everyone involved. The idea is that the liaison, or point of contact, serves as the bridge between your office and others around campus. They can set up meetings with their assigned areas for your team to learn about the latest updates from around those areas to help you be better equipped to recruit students. The liaison also can be the person who those areas communicate updates involving their policies and procedures. And the liaison can ultimately serve as the representative from your office who can provide resources and support to their assigned areas’ initiatives and programs. For those around campus, they feel they truly have someone they can lean on for support from admissions or enrollment management. In turn, you gain campus partners. Establishing campus partnerships takes time, effort, and even resources. But the return on investment outweighs it all, especially when you know that your prospective students are the ones who will benefit most.
If you found this article helpful, and you believe someone else could benefit from the read, pass it along. If you want to talk further about any points mentioned, or how to get a program started on your campus, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to start that conversation!