5: Emerson College’s Approach to Integrating Adult Education on Campus w/ Lesley Nichols

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Lesley Nichols, Executive Director of Professional Studies at Emerson College, discusses the integration and shared resource benefits of bringing adult and continuing education departments off their own island and into the fold.

Find a breakdown of this episode here.

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 Ericleson, AVP of marketing at Helix...

Education, and we're here today withLeslie Nichols, Executive Director of professional studies at Emerson College. Leslie, thanksfor joining us today. Thank you, Eric. We're going to have agreat conversation today about Emerson was able to take their professional and continuing a departmentand fully integrated into the rest of the college and the awesome results that moveshad. But before we get into that, Leslie, can you do the listthere's a little bit better understanding of both Emerson College and your role there. Sure. So, for those of you who are not familiar, EmersonCollege is a small private Liberal Arts Institution located in the heart of Boston Massachusetts. We are really known for communication and the arts. So it's a liberalarts school that combines communication and really innovative and creative ways. We're probably bestknown for our film program which was actually just named one of the top tenin the country just a couple of days ago, which is fantastic. Alsoknown for our journalism program our writing programs,...

...performing arts, everything from musical theaterto acting, our political communications program last year during the elections, youmay have heard our polling society on television trying to predict some of those results. Sure, we have just under five thousand students for our enrollment. Themajority of those are undergraduate, but one of our big initiatives is trying togrow our graduate population. So my role in professional studies at Emerson is reallyto help integrate what we would call professional or continuing education for working professionals,adult learners, integrating that better with the rest of the colleges academic programs,so everything from graduate certificates and graduate degrees all the way through the student lifecycle. Me Even serving high school students with our pre college programs, whichserve as a pipeline into the UNDERGRAD programs at Emerson. Awesome. I'm soexcited to talk about this because I think...

...adult and continuing a departments are oftenoutliers on campus. They often have separate governance, often with separate resources.Talk about the benefits of integrating these continuing a departments into the rest of thecollege. You know, I think there are so many benefits to doing soand throughout my career I've worked in continuing ED probably over half of the timeI've spin and Higher Ed and, as you said, they definitely tend tobe the outliers, or the step children, to some people say, of themain campus. But one of the things that I found really exciting atEmerson with the initiative to try and bring professional studies more into the fold,is this notion of being able to work with a much broader audience and diversifythe audiences at Emerson. You know, so much of our population now isno longer the traditional residential, you know, eighteen year old to twenty two yearold student. That's still exists, but we're seeing more and more peopleeven of that age range who have full...

...time jobs and they're juggling work inschool and they really need some more flexibility and how they attend college. whichso I see this is a really great way to bring in adults of allages into the fold, bringing with them a variety of work experiences, opinions, culture, Different Ange ranges. It just brings so much diversity to theclassroom and also opens up brand new audiences for the college to serve. Yourpresident, provost, were critical to making this integration happened to Emerson, includingthe hiring of your position. Why do you think it was such a priorityfor them, given Emerson student breakdown of the time, and why is itso important for senior leaders to buy into this concept of bringing a dual educationinto the fold? Well, I think there's a couple of reasons. AsI mentioned, Emerson's traditional population has been comprised primarily of undergraduate students. Wedo have a graduate programs. But over...

...the years, you know, we'veseen some decline in graduate enrollment and a lot of that, I think,is around how our population has changed and trying to adapt to the Times.So adults are looking for something much more flexible that will fit their lifestyle andI think you know through some market research that the college had performed, theyfound very quickly that one very interesting fact about Emerson was even for our graduateprograms, the audience that we were attracting is much younger than the industry standard. So typical cle you know, most colleges and universities will see a graduatepopulation comprised primarily of individuals who maybe have been out of school for a fewyears, they are in their bachelors, they have some work experience and thenthey come back for their masters. But here at Emerson they were finding thatthe bulk of their graduate population was straight out of their undergraduate degrees. Sothere was definitely an opportunity from an audience...

...perspective that we were missing a lotof adults who are, you know, above the age of thirty, andespecially in a market like Boston, which is incredibly crowded. You know,I can't even count the number of colleges and universities we have here, butEmerson definitely has a very unique value proposition in the type of programming that weoffer and a type of hands on training that we provide. So I thinkthey saw a market opportunity and that was one thing, but I think alsoanother facet was trying to grow online programs and in most universities that I've seen, the professional or continuing education unit tends to be kind of an innovator inthat area and trying to bring in new technologies, new ways of delivering programming. So I think that's probably the crux of why they really wanted to havethis partnership. But I think as we build it will see even more benefitsalong the way. Let's say you're able to get executive support at your collegeor institution. Now let's talk about how...

...to do this when so much currentinfrastructure today is set up an organizer on the traditional student. Where did youstarted, Emerson, with this integration? So now we're getting to the hardpart. Yeah, actually implementing. You know, I think some of thechallenges, especially in this day and age, is that we're in a seven society. So any student, any customer, expects seven service and yet colleges acrossthe nation, even across the world, are really set up on a differentmodel, you know, where we have the Monday through Friday, youknow, eight to five type of business model. So I think you knowsome of the first stages in trying to make this a reality. We're onthe technology side, so trying to provide some solutions that enable students to havemore of a self service experience so that they have certain things they need toaccomplish off hours when a staff member may not be here to assist them.We're not preventing them from doing so, we're trying to enable them. Sothat's everything from being able to register and...

...pay for their classes, you know, from being able to put in a request for a transcript maybe, forit helps service after hours. So the technology, I think, is probablythe first area where we started and we still have a lot of work todo in that area. And then the other area, I think, isreally more the support, everything from student advising to student accounts and the registrar, you know, how can we better integrate those services for adult learners butalso make those in a way that it's convenient for someone who may have,you know, a day job and they can't necessarily get advised during the day, but you know, could we provide some services for them on the weekendsor after hours? That's awesome. And what one benefit that you talked aboutoffline that I love you to chat about is talk about the Roi Benefits ofshared resources and marketing spend when promoting your programs together with the rest of thecollege, versus off on an island or...

...even a separate department doing its ownthing. Yeah, there's so many benefits and I feel like things are justcoming together so nicely. embersons currently undergoing a complete brand revamping and one ofthe areas that we're working on is a complete website overhaul, and the excitingthing about that is I think everyone is on the same page about trying tohelp perspective students find what they're looking for. So let's just say someone is interestedin get screenwriting program you know, they may not know in advance ifthey want a graduate degree, maybe they just want a certificate or maybe theyeven want one course. You know, as we're set up right now,they really have to kind of dig through the website to try and find mindall of these different options. But part of the the new branding initiative willbe combining these resources so that someone who's looking for that topic could come tothe website and immediately see all the variety of options they would have within thatfield. So that's kind of one exciting...

...area that I feel will really benefitall of the programs that Emerson also from the Marketing Roi standpoint, as weare spending money to promote, you know, our new graduate certificates, we canpromote those alongside graduate degrees. So you know we're not spending extra moneyand resources from a staffing perspective or from an advertising perspective to advertise similar programsto possibly similar audiences and spending double the money. It's an awesome reminder tolet's let's give the student as seamless of an experience as they can without havingthem be whim to our internal organization or lower lack. They're a really goodreminder. If, finally, can you share some of the early successes you'veseen so far with your continuing a department being fully integrated with the rest ofthe college? Well, we'll stay say it's still a work in progress,but along the way I think probably one of our most exciting initiatives is thelaunch of our first graduate certificate, which...

...will be an entrepreneurship and that launchesthis January. Already we have over two hundred inquiries, so there's definitely someinterest out there. It's also primarily an online program as, so that's somethingthat kind of fits in with our mission of growing online and providing more flexibleoptions and graduate certificates. We really see as a growth area for the collegeand Professional Studies is really serving as the intermediary. So we're working with theacademic departments to develop, launch implement these programs and we have really strong partnershipsthat we've built with our enrollment management team and admissions, with the marketing team, with advising to really make this to seem less experience. So I thinkthat should be one of our early successes and we have several other Grad certificatesin the pipeline getting ready to launch next year. I think the other excitingthing is our pre college program, which...

...is a high school program of academicand Richmond in the summer that ties in directly with Emerson's undergraduate degrees and thatis serving as a really successful pipeline to bring new students into Emerson as undergraduates. We've seen a lot of success over the past year and integrating our applicationsystem for pre college with the undergraduate and graduate in mission system, so allof the students than are using the same resources, the same process, thesame systems to be able to enroll and we're getting able to then sort ofuse this crm to create a full life cycle for a student all the wayfrom high school through possibly a graduate degree if they stay with Emerson long enough. So I'm excited about that possibility and really growing that over time. Awesome, really really exciting stuff. Leslie, thank you so much for joining ustoday, sharing all the great things you're doing at Emerson and really being aninspiration and aspiration for all of us who...

...want to have a more integrated,structured are at our college and universities. What's the best place for listeners toconnect with you if they have any follow up questions? I'd welcome any listenersto connect with me either on twitter and my handle is leslie a my middleinitial underscore nichols. They can also connect with me via email. My emailaddress is leslie underscore nichols at Emerson Dot DDU. Awesome. Thanks so muchfor joining us today, Leslie. Thank you, K I appreciate it.You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that younever miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcastplayer. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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