SEM & Assessment – Count everything that moves!

March 3, 2019
  • AACRAO Consulting
  • Competencies
  • Enrollment Management
  • Interpretation and Application of Data
  • Leadership and Management
  • Problem-Solving
  • Research & Data
  • SEM Assessment
  • SEM Leadership
Cartoon figure stands atop a giant question mark while looking out at the word "SEM" Portions of this article were adapted from a previously published article by this author titled “Leading within a SEM Environment: Five Lessons Learned” that appeared in SEMQ Volume 6(3), 2018.

by Jody Gordon, Senior Consultant, AACRAO Consulting

An evidence-rich environment is critical to sound decision making and is the foundation upon which all Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plans ought to be built. According to Harrington, Hoffhehr, and Reid (1998): "Numbers help you answer the three basic questions concerning every decision: (1) Am I getting the results I want? (2) Is there too much variation in the results I get? and (3) Are the results I get stable over time."

Lead through assessment
In a SEM-informed environment where student success is the ultimate goal, we are required to lead through assessment and data analysis. Or in other words, we must “count everything that moves.” Data analysis of institutional programs, services and even our enrollment decisions is a must. No new service or program should be offered without first asking how its impact on student success will be determined. Further, decisions about enrollment mix should ask how these decisions will enrich the learning environment. In other words, how will we ensure that we are doing no harm and furthering students’ success? What type of assessment needs to occur in order to measure the impact on student success?

To answer these questions, we must first ensure that a culture of assessment is occurring throughout our college and that evidence-based decision-making is being instilled among our teams. For effective decision making to occur, “analysis [has] to be a broad capability of employees, rather than the province of a few ‘rocket scientists’ with quantitative expertise” (Davenport & Harris, 2007, 16). This certainly can be taught, but we should make it a priority in hiring for certain positions within our division. 

In the end, without data derived through assessment aren’t we just another person with an opinion?

Telling the success story

The results of our assessments are also an effective tool when communicating our story of who we aspire to be as a college to prospective students. What to expect as a student studying within our learning environment, including both curricular and co-curricular, conveys our recruitment aspirations for why our college is the right fit for a prospective student. Generation Z students who are particularly driven by success, guided by passion, and value personal development (Lovell, 2017) seek out such information when selecting a college.

In the end, without data derived through assessment aren’t we just another person with an opinion?

Do you have any questions for the author or about Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) assessments?  If so, contact AACRAO Consulting

Davenport, Thomas H. and Jeanne G. Harris (2007), Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Harrington, H. J., Hoffherr, G. D., and Reid, Jr., R. P. (1998). Statistical analysis simplified: the easy-to-understand guide to SPC and data analysis. McGraw-Hill.

Lovell Corporation (2017), The Change Generation Report: How Millennials and Generation Z are Redefining Work, retrieved from:


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