While a larger student base can give New College a better chance to rectify its weaknesses, there is a risk that a school of 1200 students losses the strength of a smaller community and institution. This 2017-2018 school year, Joy Hamm, the new Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, headed the Enrollment Management Council (EMC) to better organize how New College will shape its student body over the near future.
“My role was in forming the committee,” Hamm said in an interview with the Tangent. “I have helped manage enrollment practices at a couple of other campuses before arriving at New College.”
With this experience, Hamm focuses not just on recruiting students, but on the whole life cycle of the student–from applicant to graduate.
“When establishing an enrollment management committee it’s always good to get a diversity of opinion across campus,” Hamm said. “You cannot let the committee get too large, because the work then becomes ineffective, but you do want to make sure you have as many pockets of the community as possible–like the faculty, student affairs, admissions, financial aid and the diversity and inclusion office.”
Hamm explained that the EMC is split into three subcommittees to help spread the wealth of the work, especially since the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is no one time project but rather designed to see its plan through into action. Of course, the subcommittee model allows more perspective throughout the committee.
“Our campus is small, and so we felt we would choose subcommittees that were particularly salient to New College’s needs,” Hamm said. “We picked recruitment, because we wanted to be sure that we were bringing in students who are going to be a good fit for New College. Bringing in more students alone does not take in mind retention, the students’ ability to succeed here or campus diversity.”
The enrollment council hopes to admit those that will succeed at New College.
“One of the things I like about New College, which we have been doing before I came here, is we used a holistic model in determining admissions decisions–not just grades and test scores,” Hamm said. “This meant we looked at the student’s essay, recommendations and involvement–which puts together a well rounded picture of who the student is. Looking forward, we are trying to fine tune that process and reach out to some of the populations that we historically have not done as well with.
“We do very well with Latino students,” Hamm said. “About 18 percent of our population is Latino. Other racial and ethnic groups or underserved groups like low socio-economic status or first generation college students are among those groups that we hope to increase in admittance.”
A part of the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is constituted by a ‘situational analysis,’ which looks at demographic data that New College already has.
“This looks into the number of students incoming each year and retention, among others along a five-year time span,” Hamm said. “The situational analysis also includes the information from our fact book and reported by the state of Florida, like our most popular majors and new areas of academic interest with growing employment opportunities.”
Another aspect of the Enrollment Council was to facilitate a community-wide reach out for perspective on New College’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats–where opportunities and threats refer to more external forces beyond the community of the school.
“The Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis is more campus and institutionally based, geared to pick up on the operational nuance of New College itself,” Hamm said. “We have a SWOT group for faculty, staff, students, alumni and high school guidance counselors in the region. We had an open session so that if someone could not make it to the other specific session, they could still express their perspective. We also posted a session online, which gathered around 20 extra perspectives. Then the enrollment management council sat down with a really long list of perspective and proceeded to look for the most common themes.”
If New College could find a way to capitalize on the strengths and opportunities and maybe overcome some of the weaknesses and threats, the school could be more successful in achieving its goals, according to Hamm.
“New College’s strengths are its strong faculty, the varied academic interests that they represent and the close relationships between students,” Hamm said. “There is also a lot of peer to peer learning that goes on here, and it’s just as important as the classroom learning. Lastly, New College provides research opportunities which students are able to do what appeals to them. Across the board, we heard these core strengths attributed to New College.
“A primary weakness of ours is internal communication,” Hamm said. “We communicate a lot but maybe not the most effectively. We get a lot of random emails. There is not a centralized location to go and find information. Another weakness is our use of technology–specifically, that we generally underutilize technology that we already have and we don’t always train faculty and staff well on the technology that is already used.”
The Enrollment Council’s second sub committee on student retention, was selected because New College already had an aggressive retention goal of 90 percent from the initial growth plan goals.
The third subcommittee was “data,” which was supposed to support the work of the other two subcommittees, to collect and analyze appropriate data.
“Two of our goals were already included in the growth plan, the 90 percent first to second year retention rate and the 80 percent four year graduation rate, Hamm said. “This meant that the rest of our time was placed in determining the proper class size each year ought to be to meet these goals, using data analysis.”
Hamm sees that there is a lot of optimism in the enrollment council already.
“This is the first time New College has embarked on something like this,” Hamm said. “And so I think that people feel good that there is a direction, that what we are doing is grounded in best practices and that there is data and research backing what we are doing.”
The Tangent also sat down with Computer Science professor, Matthew Lepinski, who shared his take as the Natural Science’s Division representative for the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.
“We tried to distill down what we heard people saying in these sessions into a set of trends,” Lepinski said in the interview. “We then sent around a draft of what we thought the community’s take on New College’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats were, so everyone could respond back to us about its accuracy of their actual perspective. We are in the process now of getting the feedback from the different perspectives. Once we have that feedback, we may have to update some strengths, weakness or goals. The next step in the process is developing tactics to put the goals into place.”
The EMC’s vision this is to try to get more people involved next year in tactically addressing these goals, according to Lepinski. This year, one committee was tasked to make that plan.
“My expertise is computer science and data analytics,” Lepinski said. “On the one hand, my role here has been to talk to the natural sciences faculty and be a representative on their behalf on the committee. I also bring expertise in data analysis, and one of the things I really like about Joy’s approach to thinking about enrollment is that it is very data driven. It’s good to see the school better utilizing data about what New College is doing well and poorly.”
Hui-Min Wen, Director of Institutional Research, is among those who have been involved with the data side of this project.
“Her office manages a lot of the key data stores about student success,” Lepinski said. “It has been exciting to work with them. It is important to open up opportunities of dialogue between different parts of the school, and now I have been able to know those at Institutional Research better.”
Lepinski added that the council has thus far been appreciative of the students who have participated in the planning process by sharing their perspective on New College’s strengths and weaknesses. The question is, however, when it comes to tactics to implementing these goals, what is the student role in that?
First-year Anna Lynn Winfrey chose to run for the ‘student representative to the Educational Policy Committee (EPC)’ volunteer position for the EPC as a write in on a whim.
“There’s supposed to be three of us students and six faculty—two from each division–but I think only one of the other student positions is filled and the other member doesn’t come very often,” Winfrey said in an email interview with the Tangent. “I’ve taken charge and tried to integrate student feedback.”
She noted that her survey on the students list and the forum got 138 responses which were taken into account when we were deciding on which faculty lines to recommend. Winfrey added that what had surprised her most, was that while the faculty and the students gave unrestrained feedback, the President and the Provost were the ultimate deciders of action.