Like pretty much every segment of society, the Enrollment Management team at William Woods has seen its world significantly impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic has created new challenges in reaching prospective students and has affected nearly every aspect of the team’s strategy and job. The office has continued to forge ahead while focusing on providing prospective families with a quality, personalized customer service experience.
Bringing a fresh new perspective to the enrollment management office is Jennifer Crump, the new Vice President of Enrollment Management. Since Crump’s arrival to WWU late last year, Enrollment Management has relied more on technology and digital means of connecting with prospective students, communicating more frequently via email and increasing online marketing.
“Those who are creative will come out on top,” Crump said. “Creating ways to connect with prospective students through social media, marketing emails, Zoom calls, videos and virtual tours are the means that we are using to connect with them. It is about being creative at this point. We are always open to trying new things.”
One innovative campaign was with yard signs for newly-admitted students to display in their front yard. The signs show that a prospective student living at that residence has been accepted to William Woods and that they are attending WWU in the Fall 2021. The signs were sent out in the summer for students to put out in the yard, since they could not get together with people outside their household but could post on social media photos of the sign indicating where they are going to college.
On the job, Crump finds one of the biggest strengths of the office is working with undergraduate admissions representatives, who are all alumni to recruit future Owls to WWU.
“Who better to share what it is like to be a WWU student than a former student?” Crump said. “It is going to be a huge benefit for my team that we have people who are speaking about the institution who have great knowledge and good experiences to share.”
One of those alumni present in the office is Nicole Elliott, Director of Undergraduate Enrollment. Over the past four years working in Enrollment Management/Admissions, Elliott has felt like she has found her place.
“I am a proud aluma,” Elliott said. “I love to be challenged, to find creative solutions and to promote WWU to families and prospective students. I love having a small part in a young people’s development, helping international students find a “home away from home” in my hometown of Fulton and helping the adult learner return to college and complete their degree to help them achieve their career goal. Those are the things that fill my cup.”
During COVID-19, Elliott and the team had to pivot their entire approach to a virtual outreach for the most part. WWU has also created a test optional option for fall 2021 and admit students off of their high school academic performance, or transfer students based on their previous university GPA. SAT and ACT scores are also taken into consideration when awarding the institutional scholarships as well.
Because of the pandemic, Enrollment Management has not been able to meet prospective students at their locations since most fairs were cancelled, but were present at virtual events. Students can still visit campus via in-person visits, but they are more limited than normal. For example, lunch prepared by the dining hall for perspective students is actually picked up at the Enrollment Management office during visits, abiding by COVID-19 guidelines. And before a prospective student comes to visit WWU, faculty will set up a Zoom call to meet with them virtually.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to present to high schools and community colleges virtually,” Elliott said. “We attend regional and school virtual admissions fairs, host virtual panels to showcase our assets at WWU and continue to reach out to our community partners to help us identify key populations that would be interested in attending WWU. “
Elliott believes the best way to experience WWU is to visit campus, meet with the faculty, and see the campus culture.
“At WWU, you will see the benefits of our small class sizes, tight-knit campus culture and extensive networking opportunities you have with our successful alumni,” Elliott said. “We are able to offer safe, on campus visits along with accommodating a virtual visit experience as well.”
In the office, the staff is on a rotating a remote work schedule and are not currently traveling. Prior to COVID-19, some admissions counselors would be on the road traveling most days of the week.
“COVID-19 has provided opportunities for us to encourage creative solutions to traditional undergraduate recruitment that we will continue post COVID-19 as well,” Elliott said. “Never before COVID did we use Zoom in our strategy, now we can show prospective families across the globe our beautiful campus and what it can offer them. These are practices we will keep post COVID as well. “
Elliott also has the responsibility of overseeing the University Ambassador program. Students like university ambassador Andrew Fyffe serve as a liaison between prospective students and the campus community. He believes the office personnel during COVID-19 had to work on trying to be flexible with each student interested in WWU including showing off as much of WWU as possible without the benefit of a physical tour.
“We have upped our game in providing resources to see campus and get an idea about our programs before ever visiting.” Fyffe said. “Tours around campus are more custom than ever before and are tailored to individual’s interests and majors. We try to avoid going into every building and keep it geared toward the buildings that hold classes around their major.”
Continuing to bring students to WWU, increasing enrollment and bringing vibrance back to campus is the post-COVID-19 vision of the Enrollment Management office. The office has illustrated by its flexibility and creativity during the past year that, one day soon when the world returns to “normal,” they’ll be more than ready.