29: Enrollment Growth Simulation Modeling at Worcester Polytechnic Institute w/ Dr. Raafat Zaini

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Raafat Zaini, Research Scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Institute discusses the dynamic enrollment model for university expansion he created at WPI and the interdependence between enrollment factors and cost centers to create a scalable model for growth detailed in his research study, Let’s Talk Change in a University: A Simple Model for Addressing a Complex Agenda.

Dr. Raafat Zaini's research interest is in the area of organizational dynamics and innovation sustainability with a focus on a multi-perspective design approach and dynamic modeling of R&D organizations and higher education institutions. Raafat holds a B.S in mechanical engineering (KFUPM 1990), M.S. in aeronautical and industrial engineering (Purdue 1999) and Ph.D. in system dynamics and organization behavior (WPI 2017).

You can reach Dr. Zaini at rzaini@wpi.edu and on both Twitter and LinkedIn @raafatzaini

You're listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to growenrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniquesand strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud memberof the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketingat Helix Education, and we're here today with Dr Rafat Zany, research scientistsat Wooster Polytechnic Institute. DRS any, welcome to the show. Thank you, headanks, for having me. Perhaps more than anyone, drs any isuniquely qualified to be a guest on enrollman growth university because he actually built outin enrollment growth model simulator at WPI to better understand the interdependence of all thedifferent enrollment growth factors at an institution. But before we dig into that,drs any, can you get the listeners a little bit better understanding of bothWooster Polytechnic Institute and your role there? So what's to put a technic instituteor WPI? For sure, is a small engineering school that is located inthe heart of Massachusetts. It is very well known for it is project basedlearning for the undergraduate programs and it has also a strong and growing graduate programas well. We can call it a head in gym, if you will, and my role is a research scientist at the Social Science and policy studiesWPI, and during my studies I work at the interdisciplinary connection between the socialsciences, modeling and simulation and Group Organization behavior. Awesome doctors. Any whatwas the original goal behind this dynamic Roman...

...model for university expansion that you builtout at WPI? So the original goal was to create space for both ofthe Administration and faculty views to be represented around this important topic, that is, enrollment growth. And so your model simulation show that individual stakeholders and departmentsare very good at fighting for and getting what makes their world more efficient andmore profitable, a more effective in Roman growth engine for the university, butthat they don't always understand how their decisions impact the rest of the institution.How can an institution avoid these kinds of decisions made in isolation, and isit simply a greater awareness of things like your model and the interdependence between allthese enroman growth factors. So first of all, you know, such decisionsneed to be taken as a group. There's need to be more involvement ofmore stakeholders who are touched by such issues. I mean enrollment growth could be aquick decision. However, the implications of that would manifest itself over time. Some of them would be short term, that will show up and some ofthem will be long term. So the building the model is just makingthese interconnections more explicit and also helps each stakeholder around the table represent what theythink is going to happen or even describe the reality of the situation. Sothis is how we see too, like modeling and simulation is helping these stakeholdershave a better conversation. One of the most fascinating things I think I tookaway from your paper is that your model questions the very idea that in Romangrowth is truly a net revenue increase, because increase enrollment obviously does increase netrevenue, but also triggers other cost centers, such as needing additional faculty and facilitiesthat can have high price points.

Yes, you know, when addingstudents, students need services, but first of all they need professors to teachthem. And this is what was the core of the model, was thatthe faculty had fear that with a raw enrollment growth, quality will decline.And it took us a long time to figure out what this quality mean ofeducation and we ended up settling at doesn't have to do with reputation, doesn'thave to do with ranking. It has to do at the institution promised itsstudents to deliver to them. And when the university fails or short to deliverwhat it promises, like offering courses on time, getting them to at theright term or right semester, having the faculty available for Advising and also forquestions and office hours, having lab space for them to conduct experiments or newways of teaching, all these come and amplify. So, for example,if there is a student to faculty ratio that the university has operated over theyears with and suddenly changing that number, it's not just utilizing the time ofthe faculty more efficiently. It creates all sorts of issues. The least ofit probably would be the load on the faculty. If it is a mindit it's a relevant relatively small rate of growth, but going from a classof ten to twenty or maybe to an auditorium's size, without having even teasupport for them. This would be a huge issue and could up a shortterm policy could be, you know, let's hire more faculty quickly. Butthen if you hire faculty more quickly to...

...close the demand on them, areyou hiring faculty with the quality or you're hiding faculty to only fill the gapsand say that a new program was created in order to entice enrollment. Thisprogram and this new faculty maybe need lab space. So adding more faculty withoutbeing able to provide lab that lab space would takes longer time to provide wouldhave its negative consequences. So when facilities, faculty, enrollment people, and theyalso those who assess the quality of the education, don't talk at eachother and think about that decision, then at least prioritize the issues that theyhave to tackle each and one by one. Would create a chaos around campus andeverybody's trying to maximize or improve their performance to to the best. Andyou know, then it kicks a vicious cycle of trying again to up enrollmentin order to meet other issues that was created from just adding more students andwatch what's going to happen. It's absolutely fascinating. Did your model or simulationsfind any kind of ideal equilibrium in terms of what that ratio should look likebetween in Roman growth and new faculty and New Facility requirements that more institution shouldtry to target in order to maximize efficient and scale will growth? So Iwould say there is no, you know, prescription to give here. However,every institution knows how it operates and this is probably an tacit knowledge thatpeople have. When they make it explicit, they come to know what are theircapabilities are, for example, hiring...

...faculty. How long does it taketypically to higher faculty? These are like it depends people. Maybe take twoyears, maybe take five years or maybe a few months. So these infotdata are important. How long does it take to expand facility or modify facility? These numbers are important when the number of students is increased, how manyunits of lowid will be added to the faculty? Is The university teaching focusedor research focused, or both? How the performance is evaluated for faculty?Is it based on number of students they teach or number of papers they publishor service that they do to the university. When people start talking about all thesethings, they figure out the right mix, if you will. Whatthe model helps them to do is input all these values in the model andrun simulation and see what's going to happen and then run multiple scenarios with themaximum minimum values of these numbers. Look at the graduation rates and also decreasethem or increase them and see whether we are creating a short term issue thatwill be resolved or long term issue. Are we agreeing that, you knowwhat, we are increasing the faculty load by like ten percent, and thenhave agreement? Let it be discussed in within the faculty sphere, let itbe discussed in other spheres as well, but when they agree on these ratesor these issues, when they execute, people will be more committed to livewith the consequences and even try to improve them. So the short answer toyour question is no, I don't have...

...a hard or number or a certainyou know, values to or practices to suggest. Accept that you know,make these things explicit, put them on the table, talk about them,make decision, go and then re evaluate. It's terrific advice. Within Roman growth, such a primary topic and challenge for for so many institutions today.I'm curious the feedback you've received to your paper and your model, both throughoutthe industry, but but as well specifically and wooster, how it's been received. So we were lucky when we developed a model. We had a goodgroup of Faculty member, senior the Faculty member and from different schools and alsofrom the administration, and sitting on the table was vice president of enrollment andmarketing. So she was an instrumental to the success of building the mobile asfar as also the the faculty too, and we've spent, I mean anew number of sessions where we discussed important topics and explain what's happening in marketingand what's happening in faculty load and what's happening in facilities. We did nothave an inclusive team that also have people from fit, from other departments,but the prototype of the model was created to demonstrate whether we were able tofind interesting dynamics, finding interesting relationships. That is worth expanding and one anecdotalstory is that we were building the model, one of the Faculty member noticed thathe was advocating for decreasing the faculty load by adding more faculty, butwhat he noticed that when adding more faculty quickly, we are adding more loadson facilities. So that solution. Despite...

...that, it helped faculty, butit's hurting somewhere else and it it comes back to faculty because they would besuffering more from space. So the point is we were able to discover newvenues for discussion without even having more people on the table. The plan wasto to take this further and financials to it. There is a prototype withfinancials. visit has to go and, you know, meet the have thefinancial people also involved and also look at graduate student population as well, whichis not included right now. I have presented this model in several conferences andit was then published as a paper. The feedback that I got that itit is really describing, despite it's a very, very small model, thedynamics that's happening. We are advocating this model to be used in strategic planning. It's not used yet, but you know, I know that such wayof doing things is different and people need to be comfortable being involved and youin using it and for that reason it's still a prototype in terms of itsefficacy in influencing policies and, you know, making change through a model is justone step towards creating that conversation, but it doesn't create that change.We need agents who believe in using such tools and making them common practice inthe in the board room, and you know, and it's also starts inthe classroom by teaching people about it's such a great idea. Dr's any finally, what were the biggest takeaways from your...

...model simulations that other institutions should atleast consider when they're looking to increase in Roman at the institution and that theycan be aware of, you know, the independent factors of doing so.So I think the most important point is that improvements in one domain, sayin this case in Roman growth. It could be other things as well,but it's just our focus right now, could create issues in another domain.So the the outcome that would depot toor in isolations and make decisions independently thatsometimes this is inevatable. And growth decisions that are made at any time reallytake time him to recover from its their unintended consequences, and especially decisions,long term decisions and financial commitments to facilities constructions, when they're combined with limitationon hiring high quality faculty, could lead to negative consequences on the institution tothat. These are three important points that pertains to universities. Would also makeanother point regarding building simulation models, that they don't have to be sophisticated andinclude so many variables, but it's important to show the interdependence of the relationshipsand also this would help stakeholders to feel comfortable using such tools and seeing thembuilt gradually, because the essence of it is to be used for communication andexchange for views and creating scenarios that people can relate to and feel representative representedaround the table. And the final point is that, you know, gettinggood tools or models is not sufficient to create change. It's important that wehave people on the ground who are able...

...to take this and move forward withit. Touch as any. Thank you so much for joining us today.What is the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have anyfollow up questions or want to start a model at their own institution? Sothey can reach me at my email are Zeny WPI dot Etu, and alsoavailable on social media, twitter and Linkedin throut fits any so they can findme that and I'm happy to on set any question. Awesome thanks against somuch for your work and your incredible additions to the enrollment growth conversation that Ithink are just starting. Doctor's any thanks so much for your time. Thankyou for having me. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollmentstrategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquelyhelping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has justpublished the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new contenton how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today forfree at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to theshown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening.Until next time.

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