4: Bridgewater State University’s Student Affairs Communications Technology w/ Dr. Ed Cabellon

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Ed Cabellon, Assistant to the VP of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Bridgewater State University discusses how to leverage technology to build capacity and more effectively engage with and retain current students.

Attracting today's new post traditional learners meansadopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollmentgrowth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, andHelix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percentbrand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges.Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Slash playbook. You're listening to enrollmentgrowth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaderslooking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for freshenrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the rightplace. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university.I'm Eric Olson, a VP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're heretoday with Dr Ed Ca Beellen, assistant to the VP of student affairs andenrollment management at Bridgewater State University at thanks so much for joining us today.You're very welcome. Thanks for having me. Absolutely we're thrilled I've known ad fora while now. He's an incredibly gracious and generous thought leader in thehighered community. He's also doing incredibly exciting things with student affairs at Bridgewater Stateas relates to student retention and therefore overall and home of growth. But beforewe dig deep into that, ed, can you get the listeners a littlebit better understanding of both Bridgewater State University and your rule? They're sure so. Bridgewater State University is the largest State University in Massachusetts outside of the UMass University Massachusetts System. So we have about eleven thousand students at Bridgewater Stateand about thirty five to forty percent of those folks live on campus and therest are commuters and graduate students. You know, we've experienced tremendous growth overthe last eleven years that I've been here. So I celebrate eleven years at Bridgewaterback in January I first started to hear as the associate director for thisfor this campus center, was promoted to the director position and then over thelast four years have served in this role as assistant to the vice president forStudent Affairs in the Central Office of a division that has taken on the enrollmentside of the house as part of the evolution of the division since I've beenhere. So it was division of Student Affairs and then it grew to thedivision of student affairs and enrollment management, and so now our colleagues from admissions, financial aid transfer services are part of our division and new student and familyprogram is also part of our enrollment focus as well. So it's a greatplace to work. Love it here and I'm so grateful for Bridgewater for allthe opportunity that's provided me over the last eleven years. I've been in thefield for twenty years as a hire it administrator. I also teach in theschool of business here at Bridgewater State. I teach a management a strategic managementcourse, and I teach principles of marketing and I also teach online at CaldwellUniversity in their higher Ed Masters Program I teach a curriculum and digital technology coursethere, which I'm actually in the middle of right now, which has beengreat. So that's all about bridgewater in me awesome. Well, one ofthe things that I'm really excited to talk with you today is is current studentnurturing and engagement strategies. I think a lot of universities have built out thesenurturing cadences and strategies to keep the perspective student engaged, getting them from ingree to the first class. Then, I think after graduation, advancement andalumni relations have been very good about creating nurturing cadences and strategies for alumni,keeping them engaged, happy and, best case scenario, participating or giving back. But can you talk about some of the weaknesses that you see kind ofglobally and high read in regards to current student nurturing strategies and, in youropinion, is it simply because it's hard to know who specifically owns that function? Yeah, it's a great question, Eric, and something we have,like most institutions, struggled with here at the university. So I think whenyou look at the landscape of marketing,...

...communications and digital engagement across the institute, any institution, why shouldn't say any most institutions. You know, theMarkom folks at most institutions are focused on the external message or the external brandand working with constituents and stakeholders that are connected to the institution, as wellas our admissions folks who do a lot of that marketing and communications to forrecruitment, for those recruitment cycles and you know, given the state of HighEd and the importance of enrollment, that makes a lot of sense. Andto your point around in alumni and development, you know, depending on the staffstructure, you know, some alumni development folks only have staff who doevent based marketing and communications for the alumni and not really someone who has afull time role in communications and engagement for those populations. I mean, giventhe generational span of those alumni, I can see why. But given thatmany of more of our alumni are becoming, you know, digitally aware and digitallyengaged, that may have to shift. But you're right. You know,who is really owning the day to day engagement of our student, ourcurrent students? And we saw the gap here at Bridgewater and so when Iwas moved up into this role as a division leader within our division of studentaffairs and enrollment, no one was really catering to those students daytoday, unlessit was a decentralized approach from departments. Right. So you might have anactivities office that definitely does engagement through events and and in community building around studentorganizations and so on and so forth. You might have residence halls, whohave our a's and Rd's and area coordinators who might be creating online communities toexpand upon conversation that are happening in the residence halls, you know. Butbeyond that, Oh, you think about athletics to, you know, withcoaches and things like that, but there's not one. It's hard to findguidance for best practice on, you know, what they should be doing. And, even more portnly, how do you partner with marketing communications so thatyou're not stepping on toes or taking the brand and in a direction that theymay not be comfortable with? And so, over the last four years we createdBSU LIFECOM and an integrated marketing team made up of students that focuses onengaging students daytoday, and it's led to many great opportunities to engage current students, particularly our first generation students, are students of color, and our commuterstudents, who are the majority at our campus. Because we when I whenI first started tinkering with this, with social media in particular, you know, in the late two thousands, when twitter and facebook were really ascending inHigher Ed you know, we started a blog, we started doing things isour commuters were coming in and leaving and we didn't really have a chance toreally engage with them. So we found that social media was the one wayto do that on a consistent basis. So we scaled that at the divisionlevel and really looked at opportunities to do that, and our student marketing teamhas been really a driver in a lot of that, because these students arecommunication majors, marketing majors, graphic design majors who are all looking to buildtheir portfolio anyway. So we've created this great co curricular experience for them tohelp engage our current students because, Eric, you and I both know that it'sit's cheaper to retain students and is to recruit students. And given thatfirst a second year attention rate, depending on your institution, this is wherefolks can really make some headway in that number if they really focus in ona digital strategy to engage current students. And so as you think about thelandscape of what could be done, you know we've bits, we've taken offbits and pieces along the way. We're the last four years to find andtinker what really works for us, because we have what works at Bridgewater ormay a hat work at another institution. But you know that engagement piece ofa constant flow of information and response to our to our current students, iscritical. Love it, super good aspirational thoughts, I think for a lotof our listeners. Now, last February you successfully defended Your Doctoral Dissertation RedefiningStudent Affairs Through Digital Technology, a ten...

...year historiography of digital technology use bystudent affairs administrators. So, first of all, huge congratulations to you.Oh, thank you very much. You cover a whole lot of interesting findingsand ask a lot of great questions. You focus on two benefits of increasedtechnology use that were fascinating to me and I was wondering if you could speakto both of them. One was how to use technology to better build capacityand then the second how to use technology to specifically better engage in the retentionand development of students. Yeah, so I'll start with their attention and engagementof students piece first. You know, I think many of us, particularlythose who have been living and growing through the explosion of the digital age,where technology, tools and access continue to grow and evolve at pace, ata pace that is head spinning. Right, you just get to understand one typeof tool, a one type of approached and technology and then something elsecomes out, and so that level of change from many people is challenging.So as I think about as I thought about the research and went into this, you know, my my slice of the academic resource that I wanted tofill in was, let's push pause for a second and say, all right, how have we use technology over the last ten years? How have webeen taught how to use technology, which was a huge question I asked inmy dissertation. And then what do I what did I see for the future? You know, how do we project what's going to happen over the nextten years that Student Affairs folks in particular, who work with students day in andday out in a variety of capacities to ensure that their their co curricularexperience there is a strong one and one that contributes to the academic mission ofthe institution. So in terms of engagement, you know, I I found alot of examples from the folks I interviewed about of cursory ways that theywere using technology. Right, so engagement through social media, engagement through maybea video chat, you know, looking at changing the way they took ininformation on an online form, and there's there's a ton of examples from frommy research, but the common thread was that it was cursory, that theidea that once we found something we were comfortable with as our own sort ofour own use of it, we just stuck with that and even though theremight be a new and better way to use it, folks found something andthey get stuck with it. And so, you know, my recommendations to colligsacross student affairs and really administrators throughout the academy anyway, you know,throughout the higher education or to really acknowledge your biases around technology and say look, just because you like something or just because it fits for you, ifthe student, at the end of the day, is our focus, right, if we're student centered, as many of my colleagues love to say,and if student and if students are the reason we're here, then we haveto embrace technologies capacity to provide us other different ways of doing things. Ithink we pause and we resist because it may require us to change the waywe do things and the way we're comfortable doing things. But at the endof the day, if it really is about students, then we have toreally rethink that, and I mean ere think of it this way, right. You think of our hours of operation. This is the most basic thing II always kind of have I love having arguments with my colleagues about this. We still operate a eight hundred and twenty five, nine to five,modality. Right. Why, given all of the evening and night students thatcome to our campus, given all the different ways that our students work andneed questions answered? You know, some students work until eleven o'clock and starttheir homework and then I have a question and they how do they contact books? That not I'm not saying they're going to. We have to have peoplework in seven, but in that same sort of thought process of why dowe still work our hours still in that format? We have to think abouthow technology can expand capacity. So part of the other part of the otherside of the research was, all right, how are people expanding their work capacitythrough the use of technology? And again it was just cursory. Itwasn't advanced, it wasn't sophisticated, it was just to get by. Andyou know, examples from that, you...

...know, include the ability to transformthe officer. You know where are you for work, you know, soyour office no longer is your physical office space, that your office can beanywhere. You have a laptop in the Internet connection. The idea that thingslike automated tasks, you know, whether it be through social through web orthrough email, where you, you know, auto send emails or auto reply emailsor schedule emails to go out. You know, like these are waysthat you know, our colleagues have figured out ways to expand their work capacityso they could take on more and do more in the interest of best servingour students. What I found in the research is that after they've hit that, they stopped and it's it was incredibly enlightening and in parts frustrating, whenyou think you know, if you just kept going down that you know thatpath a little bit more, you could discover more ways to do it.And I know that many of my colleagues plates are full, everyone is busy, everyone has you know, they're definitely doing it. There other duties,as a sign has growned, you know, to more and more and more becauseof the current climate. But given all of the technology that's out there, I think there has to be and I think I wrote this in Mygestationthat there has to be carved out time where you allow yourself to explore tech, other technologies or talk to folks on a regular base about what they're usingand in professional development opportunities, asking those questions, like what else can cloudbased technology do? What about our website? Are they mobile friendly or they mobileoptimize, like asking better questions about the technology and surrounding yourself with peoplewho might have a more of a digital mindset to explore some of these questions. Yeah, taking it back specifically to your thought about the eight to fivekind of traditional campus culture and environment, one participant in your study noted thatspecifically, when we're working with adult students, they are not going to be reachedthrough the traditional campus activities office and so we have to figure out somethingelse. What specifically have you figured out a bridgewater state for at least betterengaging with adult students? So, given the fact that our our student Ithink our average student age isn't the eighteen, tod and twenty four. I don'twant hate saying traditional age because I just don't think that's a thing anymore, but I think the average age of our adult students twenty five or twentysix. I have to verify that, so don't quote me on that,but I know it's older right, because of our bad student population, becauseof our turning student population and because many of our students work full time andare coming back for either completion of degree or they got their associates and arecoming back pipeline through the community college system. But for us it's the integrated marketingapproach where we have to figure out ways to partner with faculty, topartner with the deans and partner with, you know, the spaces on campusthat every student goes to, our classrooms, right. So you know, howdo we put messaging in the classrooms that enable us, whether it's throughblackboard, so physically in the classrooms on white boards where we were, weadvertise things written out or posted through a poster, but then also do somethingin blackboard where we ask faculty to include in their syllabuses. You know thehelp desk for it. There's ways you can get them besides phone, calland email. You can tweet them or you can send a message via facebookif they have a facebook page up. You know, I think it's justrethinking, you know, thinking about these adult students and they're coming from ayou know, with their family responsibilities and thinking about from from work. Wherethe best ways? And we know that email while you know, I Ithink I hear this, a lot of students don't check their email. Well, I actually don't think that's true. I think they do check their email. If they want to engage with them on email, our emails have tobecome better. I generally think our emails sucked, like I really do.Like if the emails three paragraphs, all text, who's going to read that? Right? But if it's, you know, an image that's embedded inthe email that's a meme or some kind of infographic that points to a linkto a mobile optimized web page that they can then do their own search on, I think they will open their email. I think they will engage with us, but I think we still look at email as still a text basetool when it doesn't have to be right. Sure, that's the prime use ofit, but I think if we're...

...talking about engaging students, it's encouragingfaculty to to try and think of new ways to engage them over either theblackboard system or the moodle whatever they're learning management system is, and find waysto integrate more video, more images, more things that, frankly, thisgeneration, regardless if they're older adults, Gen x baby boomer or older millennialsor even now, are, you know, our Gen Y and Gen z folks, and I think we need to rethink how we do that. Andfor adult students, particularly as they come in and out, because that's theirsort of Mo doubt they come in and out. Parking garage as I know, have been a spot for our folks, and transferring commuter services where they dowork, where they're physically out there talking to students. I think welose some of that art of like that facetoface because we are so busy.But if you can carve out time to whether it's at high touch points ofthe in the year, whether it's at orientation or where there's the first weekof classes, or whether it's doing mid terms or finals, you know,walking through the campus center, walking through the dining halls, making sure thatanything you put in dining halls, you know, has easy to follow linksfor people to get to. One thing that I know we've been trying todo more of is using bit bit Ley and other links shortening technologies to createbranded links so it's easy to remember. I know we have purchased Web urlsjust so it's easy to say it to people so they can remember. Yeah, you know we're in a fundraising campaign right now through the Founmouth road raceorganization. We're raising money for internships and scholarships. All fifteen of our runnershave their name runs foulmouthcom if they want to contribute to our fundraising effort.So and runs filmothcom is a thing and it's easy to remember that. Thensome, you know, are our friends and advancement use eye modules, whichis a nice it's a nice piece of software, but I wouldn't say it'slike it's easy to remember those links that are the actual link itself. Sosome of these things have helped us connect with our adults students a little bitbetter and, frankly, it connects with all students. So we've actually movedaway from the idea that we have to do something different for adult students andsomething different for our you know, our traditional quote, I'm using air quotesright now, traditional age students, because I think everyone's in that same boatwhere we are bombarded with so many messages the day, like how do weget our stuff to stand out, and it's really that integrated approach where there'sa poster, there's a flyer, there's facebook, there's social integration, there'sa story that's pointed to a mobile optimized site, there's a call to action, there's a sense of urgency. Like all of these things. We don'tseparate it, we don't target it to a certain population anymore, because whatwe found on our campus is that everyone's in the same boat and I loveit. Some really, really good ideas there on how student affairs divisions canchange to better serve the role of retention and development. How does the universityaround the division need to change from an organizational standpoint, or how does onego about getting university buying, because a lot of those activities that you mentionedare broader than just student affairs. How do you get cultural and university buyand I'm big initiatives like this. Yeah, so this is where I think alot of my colleagues struggle because it is sort of that navigating campus politics. It's it's being a change agent on a campus and it's hard for somefolks, depending on where they sit in the organizational structure, because the academyis hierarchical. I mean you're not going to be able to work around itlike you can in the other you know, in business or in nonprofit or othersectors of work. Higher it is. Is just naturally hierarchical. So dependingon where you sit in the organization, you know, the first thing Itell folks if they're really exploring this, is understanding organizational theory. And manyof my colleagues, who would live Pilo listen to this, have donethis in their Grad work, if they've taken Grad classes. One of myfavorite books is from Bollman and deal. It's an org theory book that manyof us known and it covers what's called the for organizational frames. And soI I tell folks a lot of time understand your frame of reference. Areyou someone who cares more? Are you a process person? Are you rulesperson? Then you're probably in the structural...

...frame. You care about people andhow they feel. I'm making sure everyone has a voice, then you're probablymore HR focused. Are you concerned about owning this and the sort of theresponsibility and power that comes with owning the message and messaging capabilities? Then you'reprobably political. Do you care more about the symbolic nature of how you knowand who does this work. Because, you know, you become that personon campus or that group on campus that's known as the people to get itdone, then you're probably symbolic. So just running through those, understanding whereyour supervisor fits in those frames, understanding how your cabinet and other leadership groupsoperate. You know, to me the best thing I ever did was getto know my marketing communications folks and my it folks through, you know,various cross divisional projects I was already working with them on anyway. And whenwe pitch the idea of creating our own website and something that was focused on, you know, student facing communication, current student you, we asked them, he said, what do you think about this? Do you think thatsomething you guys would want to do that we can help you with, orcan we own it and run with it, because it looks like you guys arereally you folks are really busy? And they were like no, youguys go, we got all this to worry about and and at the timethey were a little hesitant. And the way I approach it. At thetime, this is again three or four years ago, I said, look, can we just try it out for six months. Give us a sixmonthwindow, you know, because then at least people aren't like all this isa permanent change, and now people are going to ends like now we're not, you know, in my mind, yeah, it's going to be somethingpermanent, I hope, and something that will will be a legacy piece that, even if I were to leave tomorrow, will stay. But when you frameit in a way that's that's not threatening. Right. So it's aBeta three six months. Let me run with this, let's see what wecan do. Okay, Great. So we ran with it and we boughtBSU LIFECOM for like ten bucks, like it was low cost. You know, we had we had hired a firm at that point to help us buildout the site, our first very run version two of our site now,but our initial version, so they wouldn't put strain on our it. Folksor web boats have to build out infrastructure. I mean, again, you kindof have to know the language in the lingo, right. So whatkind of web infrastructure does your website use? Like for us it's droople. Ourinternal facing website is sharepoint, which I think is crap, but that'sthe whole nother. But, you know, like knowing that, I said,look, I want to use word press because that's what I was usedto using for myself and that's what I knew at so what I knew andif I was going to be doing a lot of the back end stuff,I and they didn't have a wordpresserver on campus, so they had to beokay with US hosting this stuff off campus and knowing that it's not Bridgeweedu Bsulife, it's Bsu Lifecom and making sure that they bought into that idea.To write. What we found at the end of it was I was ableto share so much data with them around engage a bit. What time we'repeople engaging with the content? What type of content were they really loving andeating up, like really, really well, you know, on social we wereable to look at demographic data around all right, so it looks likeGeo fencing most most of the folks looking at this are within a twenty totwenty five mile radius of bridgewater. That's good. Most of the people onsocial, on facebook and twitter, were in that eighteen to twenty nine yearold great, we're hitting that target. So it helped us really figure out, you know like, all right, who's our audience online? What kindof content, the scheduling of that content. We started taking phone calls and writingdown what would the content of those phone calls. So cyclically we wouldknow, all right, it's August, guess what people are going to betalking about? Moving in transitions, paying bills, finding a job on campus. So our content became focused on all of that. So, you know, people get overwhelm with this idea, but it's already happening around you.You just have to rethink that that point of contact where if you get aphone call about something, chances are there's probably thirty, forty other people whothink of the same thing but they haven't college yet. So let's figure outa way to put it out on social put it out on on a websitethat's engaging for people. And we just built off that. We just keptbuilding. So we had a we have...

...a content calendar. Now we have, you know, sort of our ebenflow, and then we're also now doing marketingfor other people. So we've expanded now into this. We've almost becomea little mini ad agency on campus where people outside of our division are usingour marketing team now because they know and they can see the the quality fromour students, number one, and the and to the fact it's coming fromtheir voice. It's not, you know, forty year old Ed Cabellen, who'snot cool at all, but it's but it's my students, who areabsolutely cooler than who can mimify it, who can, you know, createvideos that are really engaging and funny, and I find it funny, butI wouldn't have thought of that stuff. You know, like I get theconcept, I get the strategy, and so that those successes and even ourfailures too. I mean we look at you know, how do you costthis out? How do you scale it? There are years we've overspent our budget. We have to figure out ways to backfill things because we're hiring students, were hiring internships, we're doing practicums and sometimes we would overspend because wewould know, how much does it cost to create a video? How muchthe cost here graphic? So we've had to back, you know, takea step back and say, all right, so over the years we have thewe have a pricing guide online. Now we're able to share but it'sevolved Eric to a point now where it's pretty soft. Says Sustainable. Peopleknow the brand. We've found ways to integrate with Student Affairs Divisions at majortouch points, like I said earlier, at orientations a big one. Atconvocations another where they just say check out bsfcom and because of that are nowour student portal is now integrated with Bsu lifecom because of the content piece.So if you go to my bsu Dot bridgew dot edu now you can seeour student portals been evolved into something more more modern and the focus point ofthe student portal is our content from bsu lifecom, which is really cool.So certainly I'm not saying every Student Affairs Division used to do this, butmy advice to my colleagues who are in leadership in student affairs is that WHOis at the wheel monitoring and managing your student communications for your entire divisions efforts, not just student activities, not just residents life and housing, but forthe entire division? I'm not saying you take away that control from those departments. I'm saying you you help them, you augment it and you provide guidanceto them. We've provided guidance through social media handbooks. We provided guidance throughwriting job descriptions that they can then cut and paste and remix for themselves.That are learning outcomes based I just published a post on my blog at Cabellacomdigital training that I opened up my playbook. Here it is. This is whatwe do. Take it run with it, because that's a question Ijust kept getting from people. All right, how is a sausage made? Youknow, because the sausage looks great. You know, the the meal looksawesome. About how do you make it? So I wrote a post. I put it all the it's really dense, it's a lot, it'sheavy. It's definitely longer than I usually write, but I think based onthe response I've gotten, it's like this is exactly what I've been looking for. So my great take it, use in the end it's to help thatour profession get better and ultimately engage our students in a way that makes themwant to come back year after year until they graduate. Love it. Willmake sure we link to that blog in the show notes as well. Reallygood practical stuff. Anything else you want to make sure we cover before weclose today, or any practical next steps for listeners who are just looking toget started improving the effectiveness of student affairs at their own institution. Yeah,I would say, Eric, to folks listening, if you're in student affairsand student affairs and Enrollment Services Unit, you know I would start asking questionsto your digital folks in it, in the Web Services Division, in marketingcommunications, and just get their take on the work you do in Student Affairsand start offering stories that highlight some of your best work. Right so weknow in student affairs. I know in Student Affairs all of you are doingfantastic work and there's positive stories that are coming out and students are being impactedpositive because of the work you do.

Well, who better to tell thosestories than you? And who better to tell those stories to then you're marketingcommunication and your and your it folks, that they can put it up aspart of the news cycle. I don't think we take enough time to evenshare a quick email with our folks. They're saying, did you know thatthis student just lay in a killer internship in Washington or in in an apple, or this person studying abroad for the first time here, or you knowthe work you're doing in career services. Of We have to be better aboutsharing those stories and either we frame it and give them something digital the post, or they work with us to post something, because they are in controlof that messaging. So I think we need to do a better job oftuting our own horn, if you will, and creating and or augmenting digital channelson your campus is the best way to get started. Really great stuffthat. Thanks so much for joining us today. What's the best place forlisteners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Sure,obviously twitter for me is like the best place professionally to connect. So atEd Cabellen is great. Linkedin. You can search for me on linkedin andyou know email. You Know Ed Cabellen at Gmail. Everything's pretty much braintedfrom my name now. So if you need to find me on any ofthe socials, it's Ed Cabellen and then Ed Cabell in at Gmail. Awesomeand thanks so much for your time and for joining us today. You're welcome. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure thatyou never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favoritepodcast player. Thank you so much. For listening until next time,.

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