Update - The newsletter for the University of Memphis
More November Features:

Picture Perfect
Power of Soul
U of M recruiting efforts
Bausch lands award
Lending a hand
Talking Head
Revved up research


February 2010 Briefs

Bygone Days, The 1940s had its share of ups and downs with celebrity visit, WW II. Read more

Brain Drain? Healthy lunch habits can mean a more productive day at the office. Read more

Ring Container Technologies Inc. has made a $300,000 gift to establish the Ring Companies Professorship Fund in the Herff College of Engineering at the U of M. The Professorships will allow the Herff College to retain highcaliber faculty.

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U of M intensifies recruiting efforts

By: Greg Russell

In 1970, a small number of students at then Memphis State University gathered around the flagpole in front of the Administration Building in an attempt to lower the flag in memory of four Kent State students who were killed by members of the Ohio National Guard during an anti-Vietnam war demonstration. On the University’s campus, fisticuffs soon followed as other students who didn’t want to see the flag at half-staff protested. After a tense 24 hours of meetings, skirmishes and arguments, a memorial service the following day put to rest most of the conflict.

Protests were a major part of student life for Baby Boomers of the early 1970s. But as times changed, so did students, from Generation X’ers to youth of the millennium.

Betty Huff
Betty Huff
And as young people have changed through the years, so have the ways they are recruited to college: youth rely more on electronic communications.

Enter new Vice Provost of Enrollment Services, Betty Huff, who left a similar position at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to lead the U of M’s vigorous new recruitment, admissions and financial aid efforts. With the increased focus and resources being devoted to recruitment, a decision was made to elevate the position from associate vice provost to vice provost.

Huff, hired in October, brings sparkling credentials to the table: she is president of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), the national organization for admissions and recruitment officers.

“That is a huge position and it means she brings added credentials and contacts to the table for us,” said Linda Bonnin, associate vice president of communications, public relations and marketing at the U of M.

Huff’s hiring comes just months after the U of M began dramatically increasing its focus on student recruitment: the University entered into a four-year contract with Hobsons EMT last year. Hobsons is an industry leader in providing enrollment technology solutions to colleges and universities across the globe. The product allows the U of M to reach prospective students using the latest technology. The University went live with its undergraduate module in April and its graduate module in October. In the spring of 2010, the module designed for student retention will go live.

“Our commitment to Hobsons is already beginning to pay off,” said Bonnin, who spearheaded the original audit of recruitment processes, which resulted in the decision to contract with Hobsons. “We are not only able to communicate with students more often and more effectively, but we are also able to track the actions prospective students take as a result of our communications with them. It’s a powerful system that gives us an edge in this increasingly competitive environment. We are less than one year into the contract and we know the dividends will continue to increase over the next several years, both with student recruitment as well as student retention.”

Hobsons allows U of M recruiters to focus more on students who are likely to come here by tracking their interactions with electronic dispatches from the University. Among other things, it allows the University to send e-mail blasts to prospective students and to hold live chat sessions with students and parents.

Enrollment at the University this Fall is 21,424, an increase of more than 1,200 students from a year ago. This is the biggest increase in 10 years and the largest enrollment at the U of M since 1986. Freshman enrollment continues to increase.

Huff comes to the U of M noted for her innovative recruiting efforts, which include watching trends in students themselves.

“Students are always changing,” said Huff, a native of Mobile, Ala. “You’ve gone from the Baby Boomers to Generation X to the millennium. Each group brings with it a different expectation and a different experience. If you go back to the Baby Boomers, their primary goal was to get a job and have a career. Then you moved to people who were going to change the world, children of the 1960s. Then you move to the “me” generation of the MBA and BMW kind of thing

“Research across the country shows that this generation is bringing with them not only an expectation of degree and career, but they are bringing with them a sense of contribution to the world and a greater sense of globalization. As you look at students who are being admitted to institutions now, not only are they bringing the academic, but they are bringing community service, with nonprofits, with their churches — bringing a whole different dimension. They have much longer-term goals than students used to have. Rather than just saying, ‘I want to get my bachelor’s and I want to get a job,’ they are thinking in much longer terms of graduate work.

“They also think in much more experimental terms. Instead of coming in as a freshman and thinking, ‘I want to do this major,’ they are really exploring and doing more interdisciplinary approaches. These are national trends. They are much more sophisticated with the Internet. They know so much more. Even if they have lived in just one town, they know so much more about the world.”

So what does this mean for the University?

“We are constantly having to adjust and take a look at how we deliver the (recruitment) message, how we communicate with students and what their goals are. It is not only about the value of the education, it is also about the value of the lifetime that they spend at the institution.

“One of my roles is that of strategic planner, to come up with innovative ideas about how to meet the enrollment goals of the institution, how to be sure that the students that the University wants to see, that we do the best job we can to recruit them and we are recruiting the types of students that meet all the goals of the institution.”

Huff said the overall goal includes having good graduation rates and good student, geographic and ethnic diversity.

“Part of it, too, is enhancing the reputation of the University regionally, statewide, nationally and internationally.”

As students have changed, so has how they receive information.

“It is no longer about just going out to the college fair night and setting up the table with the brochures — we still do that and it is certainly a piece of it. But students do much broader searches now. Once-upon-a-time, you just knew about the schools that sent recruiters. Now, students are out there on the Internet exploring institutions all over the world. They want small pieces of information and they want it pretty matter of fact.”

Huff said faculty plays a role in how the University’s recruitment and overall message gets communicated to students.

“We want to be sure we are communicating what the faculty wants us to communicate about their programs. Ten years ago, having interaction with a faculty member didn’t usually happen until students were actually an enrolled student. Now, not only do they want that chance, they want to experience that before they make their college decision.”

Letting potential students know about the expanding opportunities on campus is a major part of the recruiting effort, too.

“Students used to think that when they came to a university, they would go to class and have some social activities,” said Huff. “But now you’ve got all the wellness activities that are going on, and the student leadership and the student development activities taking place on campus. It is really a much larger portfolio you want to put out there to students on what is available to them when they get here.”

She says students need to visit campus and connect.

Huff stresses that increased reputation and enrollment efforts will take a wide effort.

“There is a lot of energy here She says students need to visit campus and connect.

Huff stresses that increased reputation and enrollment efforts will take a wide effort.

“There is a lot of energy here. We need ideas flowing from all areas of the campus.”

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