After landing a new admission office hire or replacing someone who has left, the onboarding process begins—navigating the first day of school traditions, getting the right paperwork to HR, understanding the overall operations, learning the nuances of the database system, and so on. Orienting new staff can be time consuming and often misses the critical lessons of enrollment management strategy, data-driven decision making, and competitive analysis.
With a newly-expanded admission team, Tyler Hart, Director of Admission at Villanova Preparatory School (CA), saw an opportunity to look at the enrollment big picture. Like any good leader with big plans, Hart endeavored to get his new team off on the right foot, and to continue his own learning as well.
In that spirit, he decided to leverage the 2015 The Enrollment Management Association Admission Training Institute (ATI) as a “beginner’s retreat” for his entire team—not only Maggie Colburn and Art Flores, associate directors of admission who started in July 2015 , but also himself. He saw attending together as an important opportunity for a shared experience that would help the team grow closer. And attending it himself gave him the chance to walk again in a newcomer’s shoes.
As Hart describes, attending ATI brought him back five years to when he was a first-time attendee. It allowed him to take stock, and he felt a sense of affirmation that the admission program at Villanova has “checked off” many of the boxes for the best practices he learned about that first year. He left feeling poised to zero in on next steps for improvement and expansion.
Now Hart is focused on helping his new team members to survive and thrive in their first year. First, he will lead them through the busy admission cycle. “It can be hard to wrap your head around that the first year, if you’re not even sure what is coming around the corner,” he explains. He will also focus them inward on the school itself. When Hart started in the admission role, he already had a key in his pocket: “From my time as a teacher in the classroom, I was already telling stories about the school, even before I learned that stories are the best way to resonate with families,” he says.
He is confident that for Maggie and Art, being immersed in the school through the student mentor program will help them build their own stories.
Beyond the basics and the school focus, Hart also wanted to provide his team best-practice guidance and a support network on a national level. He hoped that attending the ATI as a team would help them maximize and contextualize their learning.
“I knew my new staff members would have questions based on what they were learning in sessions—like “What is our attrition rate?”—and that I could answer them most readily on site,” says Hart. “We had an opportunity to debrief after each session. I could elaborate and clarify information for them and set it within the context of Villanova.” After debriefing about the session on communication touchpoints, the whole team felt they understood the importance of a communication plan and now had a framework to work with.
Hart’s team approach went a long way with his staff. “I thought that it was great that Tyler attended ATI with us, because it shows that he is always willing to relearn the basics and stay current with the admission trends,” says Maggie Colburn. Art Flores adds, “The general session on ‘So You Think You Know Your School’ was a very humbling experience for me as a new staff member, so having Tyler with us to get immediate feedback was important.”
Attending also reminded Hart of the support provided by the admission community, which can be especially valuable for newcomers. “Admission is often an island on campus. When admission professionals come together, we’re able to poke, prod, support, control, hear what works, and think about ways to improve.”
Now back on campus, with shared learning experience to build on, each team member will be working on individual skill development and interests throughout the year. Hart says he hopes to turn the The Enrollment Management Association experience into an annual tradition, allowing them to continue to grow together as a team.