Concordia University, Texas – Transitioning to a New Enrollment Role

The transition to a new enrollment role in higher education isn’t easy.

You’re expected to change things—fast. Yet, if you move too fast, you’ll make critical mistakes that could’ve been avoided with a little more contemplation.

In the most recent episode of Enrollment Growth University Jennielle Strother, Chief Enrollment Officer at Concordia University, Texas and co-founder of #EMchat, shared some of what she learned when she returned to Concordia after 10 years. She also gave some great advice for enrollment professionals making her same transition. This post is based on her interview.

Two Things Jennielle Has Learned About Entering New Enrollment Roles

As she transitioned to her new role at Concordia, Jennielle spent a lot of time reflecting on how to come back to a place where many people she knew 10 years ago were still working. She had kept up relationships, but not on a day-to-day basis. How should she go back?

She had learned two lessons over the years about how she wanted to do things differently this time around:

  1. Listening – You hear this a lot, but it’s really hard to do when you have a short amount of time to make an impact, especially when it comes to enrollment. You want to get things done the way you want, but Jennielle highly encourages listening and going on a “listening tour.” Gather people’s thoughts about enrollment and the direction of the university.
  2. Trying not to walk in with assumptions from 10 years ago, and approaching the position with new eyes. She walked in thinking she knew a lot about the institution that she didn’t actually know. At the same time, there were things she thought she didn’t know that she actually did.

“Be patient, but also be kind to yourself,” Jennielle said. “You’re trying to do a lot in a short amount of time.”

How to Balance Learning and Making Decisions

In the enrollment game, you have to move quickly. What does the balance look like between learning fast and making swift decisions?

When you start at a place, folks will come and ask you your opinion on things because they want to see a quick change that may not have happened before your arrival. Sometimes you learn the hard way: you make that quick decision and you realize three months down the road that you should have slowed down.

Enrollment managers are doers. It’s in their genes. They get out there and make things happen.

For Jennielle, it’s important to coach herself and say, “Yes, I know they want to see a change immediately, but it’s not going to be smart if I make that change quickly without thinking.”

She had to make sure she was thoughtful and was bringing the right people to the table. Sometimes that’s the hardest part: not even knowing in the organization who the people are who need to be at the table when you’re new. Still, it’s one of the first things you need to figure out.

Balancing the Institution’s Vision and Yours

It’s fair to ask: How do you embrace the institution’s vision for growth while bringing your own ideas for how to get there?

Jennielle coaches other folks in search of new positions with this advice: “I hope you’re looking at alignment before you accept a new position.” Look at the institution’s vision and where they want to go for the future. See if that aligns with your view of enrollment. How can you best serve the institution and your staff?

That was the main goal for her in choosing past positions: whether or not her style would work there.

Next Steps for Those About to Make a Career Transition

The best advice for anyone transitioning to a new enrollment role is to reach out to your friends and colleagues for help. Ask them: “What did you do when you prepared for a new position, what was the reality, and what would you have done differently?”

Slow down and pick three priorities that you want to focus on in your first 30 days, then maybe six months after that. But also, take time to think. You are going to be meeting so many people; take time to reflect and think about what you’ve heard and process it.

Those first 30 days are precious.

For anyone out there in the middle of a transition, or about to be, Jennielle and others like her are available to reach out to. If you’d like to connect with her, find her on Twitter (@EMJennielle) or at jennielle.strother@concordia.edu.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Jennielle Strother from Concordia University, Texas. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.