By Jody Gordon, Senior Consultant, AACRAO Consulting & Vice President, Students and Enrollment Management at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C. Canada
Post-secondary institutions who are highly engaged in Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) planning understand the value of participation by both Student Affairs (i.e., Student Life, Residence, Advising, Career Centre, Counselling, Athletics, Judicial Affairs, and Accessibility Services) and Enrollment Services (i.e., Recruitment, Admissions, Financial Aid, Scheduling, Timetabling, Registration, Records and Graduation). If we are committed to supporting the success of the whole student (academic, emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual) then the entire campus must be involved in SEM planning and in the implementation and execution of the strategic enrollment goals within the plan. How these two particular units are aligned, however, is critical to the success of our students.
At my University, the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), we adopted a definition of SEM that recognized the importance of institution wide participation:
Strategic enrollment management (SEM) is a concept and process that [through strategic planning of enrollments] enables the fulfillment of institutional mission and students’ educational goals (Bontrager, 2004).
For our purposes this included viewing SEM within a larger planning process:
[Strategic] Enrollment management is a comprehensive and coordinated process that enables a college to identify enrollment goals that are allied with its mission, its strategic plan, its environment, and its resources, and to reach those goals through the effective integration of administrative processes, student services, curriculum planning, and market analysis (Kerlin, 2008, emphasis my own).
Whether aligned under the direction of one senior leader (as we are at UFV) or separated within two or more divisions under multiple senior leaders, Student Affairs and Enrollment Services must work closely together to ensure student success.
At UFV, our SEM plan included 9 strategic enrollment goals (see the UFV SEM plan at http://www.ufv.ca/media/assets/institutional-research/planning/strategic-initiatives/UFV-SEM-2014-Plan.pdf). These goals focused the tactical work that needed to be done within the Student Affairs and Enrollment Services division as well as across the institution. The SEM Plan acted as a focal point for determining where our division needed to exert its energies and spend it’s limited resources. This has had a profound impact on planning in Student Affairs and Enrollment Services.
As an example, at UFV, prior to having a SEM plan, we had over 19 different new student orientation offerings. Academic Faculties and Service areas were not aligned in our orientation offerings. As an initiative to improve retention (an enrollment goal set out in our SEM plan), a number of Academic Faculties and Service areas (primarily within Student Affairs and Enrollment services) came together to create one comprehensive new student orientation program for both in person and on-line delivery. The new orientation program allows for just-in-time delivery of key registration information (part 1) for both incoming students and their supporters, followed by easing student transition into university (part 2). Once a student is attending university they can then take advantage of the third part to orientation which is focused on the prevention of sexualized violence through a suite of workshops on the fundamentals of how to engage in healthy, consensual relationships; how to safely and effectively intervene in situations that may lead to harm; and how to respond sensitively and appropriately to someone who is disclosing an experience of sexualized violence.
While SEM is not a quick fix or an overnight process, it is about establishing clear enrollment goals for the number and types of students needed to fulfill the institutional mission and it is about promoting students’ academic success by improving access, transition, persistence, and graduation (Gordon and Sigler, 2012/2013). All units across the institution, including Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, must be engaged in SEM planning in order for student success (and thereby institutional mission) to be achieved.
Bontrager, Bob (2004). “Enrollment Management: An Introduction to Concepts and Structures”, College and University Journal, Vol. 79, No. 3, Winter 2004, p. 12.
Gordon, Jody and Sigler, Wayne (2012/2013), “SEM Core Concepts”, Presentation at the AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management conference November 4, 2012 and at the AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management conference November 10, 2013.
Kerlin, Christine (2008), “Community College Roadmap for the Enrollment Management Journey,” College and University Journal, Vol. 83, No. 4, p. 11.