SEM-EP Celebrates 50th Graduate - An interview with Patrick Tanner

September 7, 2021
  • AACRAO SEM-EP
  • Enrollment Management
  • Professional Development and Contributions to the Field

This week we were excited to interview our 50th SEM-EP graduate, Patrick Tanner, Assistant Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services at the College of Western Idaho.

In beginning our interview with Mr. Tanner, we discussed his experience in enrollment management and how he found himself in the role.

“I started in housing and residence life like so very many people do...and then as you move on and grow and learn in different institutions I just, found myself in it.”

“I appreciate my current role because it is not only that student affairs side of the house, and not only the trifecta of admissions, financial aid, and registrar, but then also advising. So while not overwhelming or institution-wide, it’s still a pretty comprehensive view and I would say, not only responsibility but the possibility to think about how these parts and pieces work well together.” 

“As opposed to “Gosh, we really have a different philosophical perspective than advising here in enrollment management,” So it’s none of that; we’ve got this great philosophy that binds us together that I think is really helpful. Coinciding with my time in the SEM-Endorsement Program, institutionally, we’ve had a number of different issues to be able to address, and so having those experts from all of those areas kind of “in my ear or on my shoulder” helping to understand some of the nuances here, or here’s how we should go there, what about this population of students, etc. So it’s that this role and this position allows for a deeper understanding, whether it’s student-level issues or institution-level issues.”

We reviewed the specific structure of enrollment management at his institution and how it fits into the greater institutional hierarchy. 

“This portfolio reports up through the provost. The provost has three areas: 1. Enrollment and Student Services, myself. 2. Workforce and Economic Development, and 3. Instruction. The provost has the vast majority of the institution under their responsibilities.

Next, we examined enrollment management strategy and the advantages and disadvantages of long-term vs. short-term enrollment strategy.

“I grew up under the notion that not only was enrollment the responsibility of every employee at the institution, but because of that, everything is enrollment. Short-term strategy, yes. Long-term strategy, yes. Mid-term strategy, yes. You can’t not have a strategy, and also, I can appreciate the notion that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” So you can make plans, but if your culture will not support that strategy, then it doesn’t matter if it’s the best strategy in the world; it’s going to fall on its face. So that’s why I think a great enrollment manager will have those connections throughout the institution. Whoever’s kind of in your orbit or out of your orbit, you’ve got to bring them into your orbit to make sure that things work.”

Finally, we moved into the SEM Endorsement Program, lessons learned, and how Mr. Tanner will use the knowledge gained through the program at his institution.

“I very much appreciated the program. I feel like I learned a tremendous amount. It’s hard to come away without some great learning because of the volume, high volume, and the quality of what you’re ingesting in terms of the webinars, articles, and the giants of the enrollment management field helping you to understand. Then you have your colleagues, from across the country, who are struggling with the same struggles, those sorts of things where you can bounce ideas off of each other.”

“It’s really, for me, it was the opportunity for those virtual field visits that were just amazing. To sit and listen, and then pick the brain, and then talk with colleagues, and see “wow they do that, that way, or I’d never thought about this” or whether it’s a siloed or collaborative environment. Whatever the case may be “oh they’re working with their business and industry leaders in this way that I hadn’t thought of before.” So that sort of stuff is of tremendous value, so I do think that I’ll come back to what I learned, whether it’s a particular nugget about onboarding students, once they go from suspect to prospect, they’re somewhere in the funnel. So that nugget of whether it’s an individualized/personalized approach or what have you, there are those pieces and those aha moments that will stick and keep coming back.”

“At CWI, we have this philosophical approach or narrative of “1 student at a time”, we have thousands of students, and not that that doesn’t matter, we all have bottom lines, but we do those thousand students at a time via the “1 student at a time” approach. I think that was hammered home for me throughout the program to understand that a process can be optimized for the masses and really throw off so many students in the process because of their particular demographics, situation, etc. So as professionals in the field, we need to realize that and not say “it’s good enough for most”; it has to work well for every last one of them.”

“I’m really appreciative of the institutional support for me to go through the program, and I would advocate for all higher education professionals to have enrollment management at the front of the brain at every conversation, in every meeting, we’re talking about every process, every department, every college, every classroom. If we don’t think about our individual students as we do that, we’re going to miss both the forest and the trees.”

Are you interested in strategic enrollment management? Explore our SEM-Endorsement Program page and learn more about the course, badge, and how you can enroll.