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    A Tale of Two Cities

    Today, I find myself reflecting on Charles Dickens’ 1859 historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, in which he tells the story of French doctor Alexandre Manette, released from the Bastille prison after an 18-year imprisonment, which was based on dubious charges. Dickens describes the conditions leading up to the French Revolution and the Revolution itself, that connects the arrogant behavior of the aristocracy to the revolutionaries’ political, social, and economic demands for justice. Dickens sets forth the idea that resurrection and transformation are both possible on personal level and societal levels. 

    In the opening sentence, Dickens writes:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

    Much of what Dickens saw in the 19th century is reflected in our discussions today regarding the crises facing higher education in North America.  Many of us continue to believe that through resurrection and transformation, we can change as individuals and as a society. What is increasingly clear is that we cannot go it alone.  We will need to find ways to join together to improve and transform our individual post-secondary educational institutions and the system of higher education as a whole.

    Let’s think on this within the context of the two major crises that are present in our world now.

    As of today, according to the World Health Organization, there are 8,708,008 confirmed cases (nearly 30% in North America alone) and 462,715 deaths attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting from an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.  Henry Chesbrough, Faculty Director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, writes that the pandemic “is placing many universities under extreme budget pressure, owing to the loss of high-margin international students” (para 1) that may result in some campuses not opening in the fall and others further discounting tuition to students.  Many other institutions have announced plans to offer online only or mostly online instruction.  Taken together this will likely impact educational access and success for first generation, marginalized and low-income students.

    On May 25th, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down, begging for his life and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.” (BBC, 2020) This has led to demonstrations in the U.S., Canada, and throughout the world against police brutality, police racism, and a lack of police accountability.  Post-secondary leaders responded by issuing statements that “condemned the killing of Floyd and implored the community to seek out opportunities for kindness.” (Burke, 2020, para 1) Conversations and actions to address systematic racism will likely dominate discussions at North American campuses in the months and years to come.

    The questions that are central to my reflection are these:

    • What is the role enrollment management should play in responding to these crises?
    • What can or will the enrollment management community do to address each of these crises?
    • How will we position ourselves to be ready to help our institutions with future crises?

    I believe that we are up to the tasks that lie ahead, but also believe it will take more than individual effort to make a difference.  We will need to come together as colleagues and caring persons to face these challenges and respond to these important questions.  Toward that end, our national association, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, has decided to face these questions by convening the 2020 Strategic Enrollment Management Conference virtually and focus on the theme, “Crises as Catalysts for Transformation: 2020’s Impact on Higher Education and Enrollment.”

    As the conference director, let me encourage you to submit a session, stop and share, poster, or roundtable proposal that highlights your experiences, best practices, and solutions.  The Call for Proposals is now open. The proposal due date is July 31, 2020.

    If I can be of any assistance, please write to me at smithc@aacrao.org.

    -Clayton Smith

    References

    BBC News (May 30, 2020).  George Floyd: What happened in the final moments of his life. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52861726

    Burke, L. (June 1, 2020).  College leaders respond to death of George Floyd.  Inside Higher Edhttps://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2020/06/01/college-leaders-respond-death-george-floyd

    Dickens, C. & Schama, S. (1990).  A tale of two cities, book the first, chapter 1.  New York: Vintage Books.

    Furber, M, Burch, Audra D. S., and Robles, F. (May 29, 2020). What happened in the chaotic moments before George Floyd died. The New York Times.   https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/29/us/derek-chauvin-george-floyd-worked-together.html

    World Health Organization (June 21, 2020).  WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) dashboard.  https://covid19.who.int/

    Achieving Personal Mastery with SEM

    In idealistic-pragmatist, Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline (1990), one of the five disciplines is personal mastery (the others are systems thinking, mental models, building shared vision, and team learning). Senge writes, “Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs” (p. 139)   So, for our institutions to grow, each of us must find our own path to personal mastery.

    Senge describes personal mastery as “the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively” (Ibid, p. 7).

    Kirsty Wadsley, head of widening participation at the London School of Economics and representative of the UK-based Association of University Administrators, presents a research poster at the 2017 AACRAO SEM Conference
    Kirsty Wadsley, head of widening participation at the London School of Economics and representative of the UK-based Association of University Administrators, presents a research poster at the 2017 AACRAO SEM Conference

    For enrollment managers, one of the ways of achieving personal mastery is through developing professional competencies and proficiencies in Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM).  For those new to SEM, here is one of my favorite definitions:

    Enrollment management is a comprehensive and coordinated process that enables a college [or university] to identify enrollment goals that are allied with its mission, its strategic plan, its environment, and its resources, and to reach those goals through the effective integration of administrative processes, student services, curriculum planning, and market analysis.” (Kerlin, 2008)

    This can be achieved by reading some of the SEM classics and the SEM Quarterly journal, or by continuing the development of personal mastery by engaging with colleagues engaged in their own professional development. 

    Some will choose graduate programs or courses/experiences that culminate in a certification of some type.  But for many of us, it is about coming to the AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management Conference, which is celebrating this year its 30th conference in Las Vegas on October 25-28, 2020.  Topics typically include: SEM culture, leveraging technology and data, career development, student success, and reaching optimal enrollment.

    An important way to contribute to your own personal mastery in SEM is to actively participate in the conference.  Currently, conference planners are promoting a Call for Proposals, where you can submit proposals for a best practice session, a poster, round-table, or a stop and share discussion on SEM hot topics, SEM research, or innovative ways institutions are implementing SEM. Proposals from multiple institutions or types of institutions are encouraged, as are proposals from Canadian and international institutions.

    If you are thinking of submitting a proposal and want to discuss some ideas, send me an email at Clayton.Smith@uwindsor.ca  (I am the director of the AACRAO SEM Conference!).

    Whether you submit a proposal or not, let me encourage you to join us in Las Vegas this fall to enhance your personal mastery with SEM.

    -Clayton Smith

    Kerlin, C. (2008).  Community college roadmap for the enrollment management journey.  College and University, 83(4,), p. 11.

    Seng. P. M. (1990).  The fifth discipline The art and practice of the learning organization.  New York: Currency, Doubleday.

    Providing SEM Leadership in Times of Disruption

    At this week’s Canadian Strategic Enrolment Management (SEM) Summit, we discussed SEM leadership in times of disruption.  We focused on how changes in institutional leadership, governments, and technologies affect SEM performance.  In particular, we discussed the impact of disruption on building community and international engagement.

    Sena Miitchell, University Registrar at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, speaks with the Canadian SEM Summit on international engagement
    Zena Mitchell, University Registrar at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, speaks with the Canadian SEM Summit about international student enrolment challenges

    Some of our discussion points included:

    • Who should be around the table when a disruption occurs? Are groups already formed, or is there a need to develop new groups?
    • How do we get the data needed for decision-making? Some may already exist, but new data may also be needed.
    • While disruption can leave us perplexed, we need to find ways to keep our sense of purpose while managing SEM during challenging and distracting times.
    • Disruption can be an opportunity to try something new or to focus the institution more clearly on its educational values and aspirations.
    • The growing challenge of maintaining data privacy and security in turbulent times.
    • The opportunity disruption provides to move from competition to collaboration across the higher education sector.

    For many, we are already in disruptive times in the area of international student enrolment and engagement.  Some talked about the near explosion of international student enrolment in recent years, especially for students from India.  We heard about how this challenge might be a way of bringing together budget and SEM; that sometimes disruption can be internal; that budget drives culture; and opportunities flow from effective brainstorming across institutional silos.  We were reminded of the importance of supporting international students, both personally and academically, as they enrich our institutions.

    Andrew Ness, Dean of International at Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning
    Andrew Ness, Dean of International at Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, speaks with the Canadian SEM Summit about building connections between budget and institutional culture

    Jason Hunter, Vice President, Student and Community Engagement, at Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning put it well when he said the Summit helped us “to frame critical issues” and “to build capacity” by developing a strong SEM network of administrators and educators across Canada.  We all experienced a little SEM therapy.

    For me the key take away is the importance of encouraging collaborative dialogue and planning for disruption as we work to enhance institutional health and student success through our SEM work.

    Feeling renewed!

    Clayton Smith