Bob Bontrager, Ph.D.
Within the SEM community we frequently muse about whether our discipline can rightly be referred to as that—a discipline. That is, is there enough substance in our theory, research, literature, and vital institutional practice to assert that we are a defined, unique, and relevant body of knowledge that is worthy of standing alongside its ostensible peers in higher education, such as institutional advancement, student affairs, and finance. Frankly, even with SEM having been on the scene for nearly 40 years, the jury is still out to some degree. After all, higher education’s history in the United States extends to almost 400 years and centuries more globally. Beyond that, colleges and universities—as all large-scale, long-standing institutions—are slow to change. Many institutions carry on today without an organizational structure named enrollment management.
Within this context, it is useful to hear writers from outside the SEM ranks reflect on the practice of improving recruitment and student success. In this issue of SEMQ, we hear from Judith Maxwell Greig, President of Notre Dame de Namur University. Her cogent description of her university’s efforts to reverse an enrollment decline reminds us that SEM is based on basic tenets of effective administration. Even without prior exposure to SEM principles, she recounts many of them with clarity and insight. Her article is made even more pertinent by key points imbedded in the principles themselves. Citing the importance of strategic planning, she highlights the importance of “brutal honesty” in assessing institutional mission and purpose. Dr. Maxwell also notes that “recognizing the need for change is one thing, knowing what one needs to change is something else entirely,” which may be the best single argument for adopting a SEM approach.
Also from outside the ranks of SEM practitioners, Eric Stoller reviews the rapidly evolving landscape of social media as a tool for communications and transactions between students, the public, and institutions. With several live examples, his article helps make sense of the ways social media can contribute most effectively to recruitment and retention efforts.
While such assertions are difficult to prove empirically, it seems that the practice of SEM may be growing most rapidly in the community college sector. From the perspective of AACRAO activities, community college presence at SEM conferences and among our consulting inquiries has grown dramatically. Thus, Landon K. Pirius’s article on using data to inform SEM at North Hennepin Community College is especially timely.
Finally, in this issue of SEMQ, we have the benefit of hearing from two seasoned SEM professionals. Angela Peterson illustrates the all-important partnership approach to achieving SEM goals. She describes an impressive program in Florida that has brought together the University of Central Florida and several community colleges to better assist students in meeting their goals. Scot Lingrell notes—correctly in the opinion of this editor—that SEM practitioners are called to be not so much managers as leaders. His is an especially useful reminder as we continue to work with institutions to bring about substantive change.