Planning for the Future

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Dr. Katelyn Sanders
Director of Admission
& Alumni Affairs
Bernard J Dunn School of Pharmacy
Shenandoah University

Dr. Scott D. Miller
Virginia Wesleyan University

For many years, this space has been occupied by strategies and best practices in the marketing and enrollment fields, written in the context of The Dysart Group Model — a model that we have advocated for 25 years.

For the first time in many years, this communication about strategies in higher education is being released without our esteemed partner and friend, Marylouise “Weezie” Fennell.  Weezie had an incredible impact on the higher education industry, the communities she loved and the institutions she served.  She was a mentor, a friend and a collaborator.  She peacefully left this world on Wednesday, October 12, but her legacy remains.

The picture is Katie, Weezie and Scott at the 2006 MLB All-Star Game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Several months before she passed away, Weezie suggested who should succeed her as the writing partner for this publication.  As such, Dr. Katelyn “Katie” Sanders, Director of Admissions and Alumni Affairs at the Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy of Shenandoah University, is the new co-author of this series.  Katie was handpicked by Weezie as her successor and has shared our philosophy espoused by The Dysart Group having experienced this enrollment philosophy over the past 25 years.

The Dysart Group Model asserts that comprehensive private colleges, typically those with endowments under $250 million, should have an eight-part enrollment plan to guarantee long term stability and success.  Short term declines in any one of these areas can be offset by strength in the others.

A successful enrollment plan will include recruiting students who fall into one of the following eight categories: traditional undergraduate, online undergraduate, evening and weekend, transfer, graduate, international, early enrollment, and continuing education. While traditional undergraduate students may be the bread-and-butter of comprehensive private colleges, bolstering enrollment in the other seven categories will pay dividends when the Enrollment Cliff of 2025 hits enrollment offices hard.

So how do you do that?

Be strategic.  Three marketing objectives well executed are better than a dozen implemented haphazardly.  Ask yourself, “What is the biggest single need in our marketplace?”  Then, “What can our college do better than anyone else?”  Marry the two and you have a recipe for success.

Do it first.  The marketing adage “It’s more important to be the first to do it than do it the best,” runs counter to campus tradition with its endless committees.  We are often reluctant to roll out a new course, major, or service until it’s been talked to death.  By then, the window of opportunity may have closed.

Strike quickly, making necessary modifications and adaptations along the way.  Capitalize on institutional strengths.  Successful organizations and leaders build on their areas of strength.  What is your strongest feature? It’s often more effective to add value to it rather than trying to introduce a new one.

Above all, keep it simple.  Good marketing need not be complicated to motivate its audience.  Have clear messages for each of the target recruiting audiences to differentiate your university that make a compelling case for enrollment.

We look to continue in this space the commentary on marketing and enrollment strategies, with special emphasis on recruiting underrepresented and non-traditional populations, as was the lifelong passion and pursuit of our dear friend, Weezie.

Dr. Scott D. Miller is President of Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Dr. Katelyn “Katie” Sanders is Director of Admissions and Alumni Affairs at the Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.

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