Breaking Down Campus Silos: A Case Study

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Dr..Jacquelyn D. Elliott

Chief Enrollment Specialist at Marion Military Institute

Breaking Down Campus Silos: A Case Study

Monday, October 27, 2014 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Was it difficult to get buy-in for this sort of institution-wide change as a new employee?

Well I have been in the enrollment profession for a long time. I was recruited for the position, and before I accepted, I met with the president. I said if the institution was seeking a true enrollment management division, and you want a campus culture that reflects that, I am going to need your backing and support to develop and chair a meaningful committee as a starting point.

Can you describe the committee that you developed and the kind of work it focused on?

To give you some context, this was a small private liberal arts school with a full-time enrollment of approximately 2800. I put one person from literally every institutional division on the committee, even grounds keeping, and I chaired it. The committee had 22 people altogether. In the first year, we handled historic issues, things that the institution had been dealing with for many years – new student orientation, setting up for classes, and registration to name a few. People were not happy with how they were handled, but we started working towards solutions, and fixed those problems by communicating how they worked and affected each different division. 

Over the course of 6 years, we got to a place where we were fine tuning really small things. For example, one division had some problems with online forms. It just so happened that the business office had developed a really good one that worked well for them, and they shared the form and made it work for other divisions. And that is really illustrative of how that committee became a nice collective body of knowledge. Before that, no one was communicating with each other, but eventually, those silos broke down.

The various divisions found out how many redundant or outdated practices and policies were in place, and they started outlining what their existing business practices were and the committee as a whole would examine them to see where they might be improved, where overlap existed, and so on.

We even instituted an inter-office exchange program where, for example, we would have someone from admissions work in the registrar’s office for a day. That gave people a really good idea of the workload and type of work everyone else was doing, and made the culture of the campus a lot more colloquial and efficient since people really knew how busy everyone else was. It was another way of breaking down the old silos since they could see how their work, and the work of others, affected student success and the overall health of the institution.

Can you elaborate on how the committee got its work done?

I’ll be talking about that a lot in the session itself. I plan on bringing some of the sample agendas and meeting minutes to show everyone what topics got tackled and how the committee got through them. I will also bring the opening meeting invitation just to demonstrate one way of getting everything started.

Broadly speaking though, it has to do  with making people on the committee accountable for their work. Tasks would be assigned out and they had to report back to the group on a regular basis on the status of that work. If you formalize communication in a strategic way, you can impact change; but if you expect it to happen loosely, there is no accountability.