If you’re anything like me and have invested your career in university settings, it’s easy to affirm the sarcasm found in the old joke that the best thing about being in higher education is we are so far behind the times that when the world ends, we will have at least 10 more years together.
Sometimes, it just feels like a never-ending, uphill climb, and when we are in the moment, it’s hard to see what we’ve actually accomplished unless we look back. And as familiar as that punchline sounds, over the past several months, we innovated and adapted quickly—as quickly as any other industry, in fact—to multiple challenges. We should celebrate that.
As we close out 2021 and anticipate what’s next in the coming year, intentionally moving away from obsessing about the numbers (and compartmentalizing the pressures associated with the numbers) toward a thoughtful evaluation of things that have gone well is a healthy exercise. Here are a few things I think we as an industry should be celebrating:
To be certain, COVID-19 did a lot to impede progress, absorb our collective attention, and divert resources. Although it disrupted work flows and the student experience in profound ways, it also allowed many campuses to realize just how nimble and resilient they can actually be. When there’s a shared urgency that requires an “all in” mentality, so many campuses rose to the occasion (and continue to do so) despite our collective pandemic fatigue. We’re still here.
It’s hard to underestimate the power of collaboration. We all have experienced a version of faux synergy that’s really disguised indecision through over-meeting, resistance to change, and the carousel of surface-level commitments. This year, many of you have gone beyond the status quo and jumped into best practices that require dynamic teamwork. Many have enhanced their CRM, cleaned up the data stocks for better attribution and reporting, and done more with less time and time again. We need each other.
It’s worth noting that although enrollment data varies by region and institution type, there are wins to be found within our application and admit pools. Seeing more elasticity with student access—be it economic, welcoming more students of color, or serving more first-generation students—should be recognized. Our campuses increasingly foster incredible potential for realizing broader representation with a shared dream of upward mobility for all students. We are building the future.
As we approach the holiday break, think about those deeply tangible, missional elements of our work that sustain our motivation and give us the endurance to keep trudging up that climb. Think about the successes, the meaningful shared experiences with students and coworkers, and the intangible results not often seen on enrollment reports. You’ve invested yourself into a worthy cause, and that is no small thing. Collectively, we are moving the industry forward, so enjoy this much needed and hard-earned break!
Look back on all the higher education news and insights our enrollment experts covered over the past year on the Carnegie blog.
Ben Arendt is the Vice President, Enrollment Strategy at Carnegie. With more than 20 years of higher education experience, Ben knows how to transform clients’ unique challenges into opportunities for success. Ben is an imaginative and enthusiastic problem solver, with expertise in everything from student affairs and teaching to visit programs and enrollment programs. He is motivated by understanding the people, goals, and priorities that make up the unique identity of each client community– connecting them to the Carnegie strategies that drive results.
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