Pandemic survival 101: Collaborate with IT to catalyze change

October 19, 2020
  • Collaborative Decision-Making
  • Enrollment Management
  • SEM Conference
  • Technology
three people in a business meeting wearing face masks

“This pandemic is probably the most unusual and worst crisis higher education has faced during my career,” said Michelle Brown-Nevers, Executive Director of Enrollment Management at Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) in Pennsylvania.

The key to surviving it, she said, was strong collaboration between enrollment management and IT. Here are a few of the collaborative efforts that made the difference:

Providing notebook computers. “We worked from desktops and began providing administrators with notebooks pre-COVID so they could work while attending meetings, etc.,” Brown-Nevers said. They use docking stations at work, and are able to take the computers home at the end of the day.

When the threat of shutdown was looming, staff were told to take computers home every night, just in case. Support staff did not have notebooks at that time, but were provided them soon after the shutdown began.

Cross-training. “We cross-trained staff for better coverage during peak times and allowed them to utilize those skills to stay current,” Brown-Nevers said. “That allowed staff to perform various jobs smoothly when the pandemic hit.”

Implementing a chatbot, going paperless, and using other virtual tools. The chatbot helps students more efficiently navigate the website to find the information they need, and provided necessary auxiliary help when the campus offices were shut down unexpectedly.

“When we close, students shouldn’t have to wait until we re-open to get services,” Brown-Nevers said. As work moved online, it was critical to go paperless, particularly with transcripts, and to leverage online tools such as Skype and Microsoft Teams to keep office communications running smoothly.

Fortunately,many of these mechanisms were in place pre-COVID and allowed MCCC’s team to pivot quickly. 

“We ended summer at 13 percent ahead for new student enrollment and 7.5 percent ahead for all students,” Brown-Nevers said.

Brown-Nevers will share more about MCCC’s challenges and successes, including:

  • Holding a successful virtual campus visit

  • Tips for communicating with staff remotely

  • How to work with academic departments

in her AACRAO SEM Conference presentation “Leading change during a pandemic.” Learn more about this month’s virtual meeting and register now.



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