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.

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Education, and we're here today with Leslie Nichols, Executive Director of professional studies at Emerson College. Leslie, thanks for joining us today. Thank you, Eric. We're going to have a great conversation today about Emerson was able to take their professional and continuing a department and fully integrated into the rest of the college and the awesome results that moves had. But before we get into that, Leslie, can you do the list there's a little bit better understanding of both Emerson College and your role there. Sure. So, for those of you who are not familiar, Emerson College 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 liberal arts school that combines communication and really innovative and creative ways. We're probably best known for our film program which was actually just named one of the top ten in the country just a couple of days ago, which is fantastic. Also known for our journalism program our writing programs,...

...performing arts, everything from musical theater to acting, our political communications program last year during the elections, you may 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. The majority of those are undergraduate, but one of our big initiatives is trying to grow our graduate population. So my role in professional studies at Emerson is really to 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 life cycle. Me Even serving high school students with our pre college programs, which serve as a pipeline into the UNDERGRAD programs at Emerson. Awesome. I'm so excited to talk about this because I think...

...adult and continuing a departments are often outliers 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 the college. You know, I think there are so many benefits to doing so and throughout my career I've worked in continuing ED probably over half of the time I've spin and Higher Ed and, as you said, they definitely tend to be the outliers, or the step children, to some people say, of the main campus. But one of the things that I found really exciting at Emerson 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 diversify the audiences at Emerson. You know, so much of our population now is no longer the traditional residential, you know, eighteen year old to twenty two year old student. That's still exists, but we're seeing more and more people even of that age range who have full...

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

...the years, you know, we've seen 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 and I think you know through some market research that the college had performed, they found very quickly that one very interesting fact about Emerson was even for our graduate programs, 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 graduate population comprised primarily of individuals who maybe have been out of school for a few years, they are in their bachelors, they have some work experience and then they come back for their masters. But here at Emerson they were finding that the bulk of their graduate population was straight out of their undergraduate degrees. So there was definitely an opportunity from an audience...

...perspective that we were missing a lot of adults who are, you know, above the age of thirty, and especially 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, but Emerson definitely has a very unique value proposition in the type of programming that we offer and a type of hands on training that we provide. So I think they saw a market opportunity and that was one thing, but I think also another 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 in that 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 have this partnership. But I think as we build it will see even more benefits along the way. Let's say you're able to get executive support at your college or institution. Now let's talk about how...

...to do this when so much current infrastructure today is set up an organizer on the traditional student. Where did you started, Emerson, with this integration? So now we're getting to the hard part. Yeah, actually implementing. You know, I think some of the challenges, 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 across the nation, even across the world, are really set up on a different model, you know, where we have the Monday through Friday, you know, eight to five type of business model. So I think you know some of the first stages in trying to make this a reality. We're on the technology side, so trying to provide some solutions that enable students to have more of a self service experience so that they have certain things they need to accomplish 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. So that'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, for it helps service after hours. So the technology, I think, is probably the first area where we started and we still have a lot of work to do in that area. And then the other area, I think, is really 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 but also 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 weekends or after hours? That's awesome. And what one benefit that you talked about offline that I love you to chat about is talk about the Roi Benefits of shared resources and marketing spend when promoting your programs together with the rest of the college, versus off on an island or...

...even a separate department doing its own thing. Yeah, there's so many benefits and I feel like things are just coming together so nicely. embersons currently undergoing a complete brand revamping and one of the areas that we're working on is a complete website overhaul, and the exciting thing about that is I think everyone is on the same page about trying to help perspective students find what they're looking for. So let's just say someone is interested in get screenwriting program you know, they may not know in advance if they want a graduate degree, maybe they just want a certificate or maybe they even 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 mind all of these different options. But part of the the new branding initiative will be combining these resources so that someone who's looking for that topic could come to the website and immediately see all the variety of options they would have within that field. So that's kind of one exciting...

...area that I feel will really benefit all of the programs that Emerson also from the Marketing Roi standpoint, as we are spending money to promote, you know, our new graduate certificates, we can promote those alongside graduate degrees. So you know we're not spending extra money and resources from a staffing perspective or from an advertising perspective to advertise similar programs to possibly similar audiences and spending double the money. It's an awesome reminder to let's let's give the student as seamless of an experience as they can without having them be whim to our internal organization or lower lack. They're a really good reminder. If, finally, can you share some of the early successes you've seen so far with your continuing a department being fully integrated with the rest of the 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 the launch of our first graduate certificate, which...

...will be an entrepreneurship and that launches this January. Already we have over two hundred inquiries, so there's definitely some interest out there. It's also primarily an online program as, so that's something that kind of fits in with our mission of growing online and providing more flexible options and graduate certificates. We really see as a growth area for the college and Professional Studies is really serving as the intermediary. So we're working with the academic departments to develop, launch implement these programs and we have really strong partnerships that 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 think that should be one of our early successes and we have several other Grad certificates in the pipeline getting ready to launch next year. I think the other exciting thing is our pre college program, which...

...is a high school program of academic and Richmond in the summer that ties in directly with Emerson's undergraduate degrees and that is 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 application system for pre college with the undergraduate and graduate in mission system, so all of the students than are using the same resources, the same process, the same systems to be able to enroll and we're getting able to then sort of use this crm to create a full life cycle for a student all the way from 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 us today, sharing all the great things you're doing at Emerson and really being an inspiration 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 to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? I'd welcome any listeners to connect with me either on twitter and my handle is leslie a my middle initial underscore nichols. They can also connect with me via email. My email address is leslie underscore nichols at Emerson Dot DDU. Awesome. Thanks so much for joining us today, Leslie. Thank you, K I appreciate it. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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