“Strategic” doesn’t mean static

In unpredictable times, institutions must be able to plan and respond nimbly. A well-developed Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plan can be enormously helpful in this undertaking.

“SEM isn’t chiseled in stone. In fact, SEM tools like collaboration, data-driven decision making, and relationship building offer flexibility and are particularly applicable during changeful times,” said Christine Kerlin, AACRAO Senior Consultant and faculty for the online Essentials of SEM course

SEM is change management 

Kerlin and co-faculty Reid Kisling (Western Seminary) and Amanda Yale (Slippery Rock University) shared some of the keys to agile planning during such an uncertain time. They include:

1. Use the data you have.

Likely your institution already has collected information from various initiatives, housed in different areas. Find that data and make it work for you, extending it toward a coherent, flexible vision of enrollment that allows for change.  

“Right now we’re all in a ‘multiple scenarios’ mode, trying to gather facts while also making decisions,” Kerlin said. "Data collection and analysis for decision-making is itself a complex job, and made more challenging by the shifting environment. To ease that process, be attentive to data you already have. Link and integrate it with new input for a better understanding of how various initiatives and plans are working toward your enrollment future."

2. Act with intention.  

“Institutions by nature tend toward inertia, with static planning processes,” Kisling said. But good SEM planning is dynamic and intentional, enabling agile response to economic, cultural, and political shifts. 

“With SEM you are developing a culture of change,” said Yale. “Make sure everything you do is intentional, meaningful and relevant, with an eye not just on today but looking down the road — 20, 30 years from now. Institutions with a good SEM culture are ideally suited to foster conversations around diversity and equity.” 

Yale, Kerlin, and Kisling look forward to sharing a wealth of SEM wisdom and resources with participants in AACRAO’s Essentials of SEM online course, beginning in September. Learn more.