The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 1 year ago

Authenticity: Aligning the Online Message w/ the On-Campus Feel


A university website is often families’ first look into the university itself. If you haven’t updated your website in three, six, or twelve months, then you aren’t being authentic online.

In this episode, we interview Donnell Wiggins , Associate VP for Strategic Enrollment Management & Dean of Admission at University of Dayton , about the importance of the website in communicating both authenticity and the truth that recruitment is everyone’s job.

Join us as we discuss:

- The continued importance of a four-year college experience

- Why the website matters to families so much

- Updating academic program pages to aid in recruitment

- How every staff and faculty member is a recruiter

- Diversity, inclusion, and equity as indicators of excellence

Check out this resource we mentioned:

Donnell’s TEDxDaytonSalon Talk, “Yes You Can” 

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts , Spotify , or your preferred podcast platform. 

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Higher Ed Marketer in your favorite podcast player.

You are listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, don'tor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the Higher Ed Marketer podcast, where, each week we bring interesting people within the Higher Ed Marketing Community to you to share ideas and hopefully spur new things in your world for the better met of the community. Today I have someone, I should say we have someone. Sorry, barred, for kicking you to the curve. We have someone that I have been a fan of for a while. He's from the University of Dayton, the city that I live in, donel wiggins, who's the associate vice president of strategic enrollment management and Dean of admission that the University of Dayton, and I first was introduced to this young man through a Ted x Dayton speech that kind of went viral locally, where he was very authentic and very passionate and shared his background with Dyslexia, and how that transformed into his passion for Higher Ed and making sure that people like him, first generation students, had people that believed in him and then, as I followed him, realize that he's doing great things for the university and thought he would be an excellent person to have a conversation with. So today we get to talk about authenticity and some other things that University of daton is doing here locally. Yeah, I think it's a great conversation and troy, you kind of really set it in summarize it very well. Is that Danielle has a passion for and what he's doing. You can get that, you can sense that as he talks. But he also has a passion for authenticity and really living out what we believe and making sure that comes out in our marketing, whether that's through our website, whether that's in the way that we, you know, lead enrollment and the way that we lead the messaging and the conversations, just everything about authenticity, even down to how we live out our beliefs with you know, especially like a school like University of Dayton, Catholic marianist institution, many of our schools that a lot of you that are listening the ones that I work with, the Troy works with. A lot of them are faith based and we have this belief in diversity and equity and inclusion. We believe in that. DONELL talks a lot about how to authentically live that out and make that a part of of the campus life, and so it's a great conversation. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it. Let's bring donell into the conversation. It is my pleasure to welcome into the podcast Donnell Wiggins, associated vice as president for strategic enrollment management and the dean of admissions at the University of Dayton, and I must say I'm a fan of this young man. He's local here, so I've seen him on social media and it's a treat to have a conversation with him. Good afternoon, doneel. Good afternoon, Jory. How are you doing today? You know I'm doing great. We're looking forward to our conversation with you. Before we get into it, could you give us a little bit about you and your role at the University of Dayton? Yes, sir, again, my name is done wiggins. A service as social vice president for strateging and Roman management and dean of admission and really have the pleasure of overseeing our recruitment and a mission operation at the University of Dayton for undergraduate students, both domestically and internationally, as well as our transfer students, and so it really is an honor and privilege to help students get to college and really create a pathway for them, whatever journey they may be on as a first time freshman, as a transfer student, as an international student. So it is really an honor and privilege to be with you all today. Thanks for now. It's wonderful to have you here. Really looking forward to our conversation. I know that when we kind of did the pre interview we talked about a number of different things...

...and I think that one thing that we discovered that the three of us are all firsten students and sometimes having that in context with a lot of our conversation is important. But I think that one of the things that really stuck out in our initial conversations was this idea of specially now that the pandemic has happened and you know, a lot of people are used to virtual online there's still this importance of being able to really kind of sell this four year college experience the full four year college experience, and I think that this idea of doing that is something that I think more and more schools have to grapple with, because I think we've taken it for granted, honestly, for so long that, especially campuses that are traditional in that like like U D and and other ones that have beautiful campus as. They have the resources, they have everything online. There's so much about the importance of full for your experience that I think we don't want to miss. So tell me a little bit about your feelings on that and how how you're trying to communicate that to your perspective students. Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think one of the things that we're at this inflection point and higher education where we as institutions must ensure that we are highlighting our value proposition in a way that connects with families and students. And so many families are making decisions not just based on those typical things that we've seen before in the past, but they're also looking at a variety of things from a coca rickular standpoint. How will my mental health be manage how will, you know, my sense of belonging come through as it pertains to a community. Many families have a variety of options. Now they have the option to maybe get a certificate and maybe get a skill or trait, and so we, as institute two she's, must be really diligent in terms of making sure that our communication strategy really aligns with the on campus experience. And that's from a digital perspective. So how do we communicate digitally to our families on the web and do we do that in the same way when they're on campus in person? And so it's so essential that we are aligning the message that we have on the web with on campus as well. And I and I think it's important that we as institutions highlight who we are not stray away from it. And so at the University of dating we're Catholic maryings institution committed to developing the whole person, and so we are true to that in our communication. We're true to that when students come on campus and it's just so important that those messages line up really well for each other. And so the four year experience is crucial and we're at a point where, you know, some people don't feel like higher education is worth it. And as a first generation college student, I can absolutely positively tell you that higher education is worth it and we as institutions have to do a better job of making sure that our value and our mission lineup with our actions, particularly online as well as in person. That's great, and I guess I'm curious when you talk about the fact that you know the digital world has to match up with the culture of the physical world, the real world, how do you guys do that with University of dating? Like the website? I mean so many people I talk about. Okay, the website is the first and foremost impression that people are going to have on your campus. I mean, you know they're going to discover you through the web. They're going to either then, I often like to tell people that you know, either they're going to discover you or they're going to authenticate what they've heard about you, and if a website is in discongruency with with that of what they've heard or that of what they're expecting, there's a problem. So how does the school like you did, I mean your larger institution, how do you kind of maintain that authenticity on the website? Absolutely one of the things is anytime you're doing any managing of the website. You have to be diligent to make sure that it's up to date on a regular basis and oftentime and many institutions nobody's checking the website. You have checked the website in a year. We haven't checked it in six months, and so it's so important that every three to six months institutions are updated websites. Many, many students are using the website as a first line...

...of defense and it is the first point of contact. And so not only is it the first one of contact, but it's the follow up point of contact, because after I came to campus, I don't want to verify what I saw on campus or what I heard on campus is also on the website. So it's essential that institutions are paying close attention to their website, but not only from a mission perspective, but then also from a faculty perspective as well as in other areas throughout campus, Co curricular. So one of the things that we did is spending significant amount of time with our faculty members and are in our academic units saying how can we strategically align our academic websites with our recruiting in emission website from the standpoint of how do we make sure that our academic websites are sufficient for external audience, and that external audience is our first year students, are transfer students, are international students, and so making sure that we have the same message is just so critical and not having the same message shows that there's a disconnect. And so really spending that time with your faculty, really spending time with, you know, other academic units, other units on campus, from your co curricular entities that you may work with on campus, student development and other entities, to ensure that everybody understands that recruitment and enrollment is everybody's shop. And so how do we align our website in a way that positions the institution to help everyone across campus knows that recruitment and enrollment is everyone's job, because you never know when you as a faculty member, you as a staff member, you as an administrator, will walk in that grocery store or walk in that department store and someone sees that ud shirt. How you engage with them, how you connect with them, is really so important. Did that student, Michael, back to the website right, and so it's just the website is so important in the age of JEN Z in the age of digital media, we have to do I'll standing job as institution making sure that that message is carry through. I love that. I love that because I've I've often talked to schools. I mean I did helped with my first website with my Alma materern in one thousand nine hundred and ninety seven. So that kind of shows how old I am. But I think that the one of the things that you know, back then, a lot of times the website grew out of the advancement in the development office because it was like an extension of the alumni magazine. And so you know audience is. Back then we're kind of this mix match of well, we're talking to the alumni and we're talking to the donors and maybe the students. And but I think in the last few years it's become so critical that everybody needs to be aligned on enrollment, especially with self applicants and and just the challenge of being able to get the students these days, because, I mean the students can find a lot of information out and they're never on the on the radar of a school many times until they apply. And so it's still critical that everything they need to get that experience and self identify as on the web and it has to be from an enrollment standpoint. So I think those are some great, great perspectives. Thank you, Donald. Yeah, thank you for agree one hundred percent. Donel the piggyback on reasons why you should have a great presence online is I believe you said that for this incoming class of freshman, upwards of thirty percent of them have never set foot on Ud's campus. Could you kind of explain that? Yeah, absolutely, Try and it's quite interesting because we're living in unique times and so students are strategically evaluating institutions, you know, on campus, from a standpoint of virtually virtually on campus. And so they've evaluated US based on our virtual experience. They've evaluated as based on our website and then our virtual events and programming is that we did over the past yere and so, as we see, many institutions have to quickly adapt to the virtual experience. Many students have decided that, you know,...

...because of the pandemic, I'm unsure if I want to set foot on campus. Some of them have decided because of their family situations they may not be able to get to campus financially. Some of them just don't have the bandwidth because of their schedule, because of all the things are involved in, or maybe because they live across country and are unable to get to campus. And so what we found is that many students use our website, are virtual tool, and many of our other platforms, from our events, to decide whether or not the university date is a good fit for them. And so this mantra of not visiting campus isn't going anywhere. Many families are going to evaluate institutions based on their website, based on their virtual experience, based on virtual opportunities, and so we as institutions, must and shoot or that we have a platform set up that families can truly evaluate who we are in order to make sound decisions. And we're blessed of the University of Dayton that students were able to do just that. They were able to evaluate us and say, you know what, I'm not able to step foot on campus, but I've seen enough and I know enough and I've been engaged enough with faculty, staff and administration, and particularly the recruitment in the mission team, to make a decision to attend the University of Dayton. And so we have to continue to make sure that our digital presidence is that is really one of the best things that we can offer the students and families across the country. Well, I think you must be successful at it, because I've read that the incoming class is the largest in, you know, the few the University of Dayton's history. Is that correct? It is, and so we're really excited about, you know, the income and freshman class and really are overall class that we brought in from first year students to transfer to international students. And so, you know, there was some uncertainty, as for many institutions last year, just given the environment, giving all the things that we have to go to. But again, you know, we really were very diligent about making sure that our digital presence was key and it lined up with our own campus experience and so we wanted to make sure that we did everything we can to meet students where they are, to understand that this was a difficult year for them, that they maybe didn't get to go to that high school prom at high school homecoming, they were doing learning virtually, and so really understanding all of the different impacts and challenges that they face throughout this year, but to really be intentional, to create a strong sense of belonging, I believe really allowed us to have a record class this year. That's great, that's so encouraging. Yes, also, it wasn't only the largest, but I also believe it was the most diverse. And I think you just mentioned meeting students where they are, and I believe that diversity is something that you are diving into a little deeper than maybe others have had in the past, or maybe there's an emphasis. I don't want to go speak too much for you, but could you let us know some of the work that either you or the campus is doing in order to attract and have a focus on diversity and inclusion? Absolutely, yeah, the University of dating, as a Catholic maryness institution, is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and it is it's truly represents who we are as a Catholic marianess institution. And so why is that important? Because what we know is that diversity represents excellence. So the more diversity that we have on campus, the more excellent we will be as an institution. And so, under the leadership of our president, Dr Er expin and we've been very diligent to make sure that we have one, a plan that really outlines our strategic plan around diversity, equally inclusion. Right now, as an institution, we're going through having unit based diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan by unit, all seventeen different units on campus really leading the charge to make sure that we're meeting the needs of the time and really meeting the needs of students, knowing that, you know, diversity is really essential to who...

...we are, but it's also essential because our world is changing, that we live in and continues to change, and we want to be able to connect with all students. So those two things are happening. We also are very diligent about becoming an anti racist institution, eliminating racist practices that may have existed through our history, through our time as an institution, and because of that, many of us we have eleven steps as an institution. That number one we have committed to, and one of those steps is becoming a more diverse institution through our recruitment and enrollment strategies. And so over the last five years we've been very diligent about becoming more strategic about how we recruit students, how we engage with students and making sure that we eliminate barriers that would impede students from choosing the University of dating and really finding that strong sense of belonging. In addition to that, the recruitment and a mission team has been significant amount of time having monthly dialogs around becoming an anti racist institution and what does that mean for our work as an institution? What does that mean for us as a recruitment and the mission enrollment staff and how do we engage with students across the country across the world? And so what we've seen is the fruits of that Labor has really paid off in terms of how students and families evaluate the University of Dayton. So, over the over this time we've been really diligent to do everything we can to ensure that we are connecting with families where intentional that were becoming more of an inclusive campus, and a part of that is making sure that, you know, everybody value diversity, equity inclusion. So it's not just historically underrepresented families, but it's all of our families and really enlighting families to see the value of diversity and how it makes us better as an institution, but I'll be the first to tell you we made significant strides and we're we've done a lot of great things, but they're still more work to be done and so as we move towards the future, we're going to continue to push forward. We're going to continue to have high level conversations at the president's cabinet level, but then also in the classroom with students, also in the office, with administration and staff, and so we're doing everything we can to continue to grow as an institution and continue to learn, but also continue to meet the needs of the time to make sure that we are a campus that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion at a high level. I love that, Dunnell, and I think that it's so important because I meet with a lot of schools, and especially I think this ends up a smaller schools and sometimes smaller faith based schools who recognize that it's this is an important thing. I mean, this is certainly a part of our faith and a part of who we are and what we want to be. I mean you kind of made that pretty clear with the Catholic Marianist, you know background. I mean, it's who we are and we want to live that out. But I think sometimes, and what I really appreciate about what you've been talking about, and maybe you can go in a little bit deeper with your monthly meetings with your staff and the intentionality internally, because it's one thing to say, well, we want to be a more diverse and equitable and inclusive campus and so let's try to recruit more of those types of students. Well, that's a little bit backwards, because just because you have those students on campus does not make you a diverse, inclusive and an equitable campus. It's because you are already that and that that starts with recruiting staff and faculty that reflect who you want to be well before you start recruiting the students. And so tell me a little bit about that and how that plays out at Youd and and how those monthly intentional meetings, even internally, help change that as opposed to just trying to create a new enrollment strategy, if you will. Absolutely they're critical because, one, they're critical to creating a culture where we can have intentional conversations about things that are happening in higher education in our work that affect how we recruit students. That affect how students view us as an institution, and so we must create spaces in our offices are cross campus, or we...

...can have training and we can have true dialog to really live out the work. And it's not just even about living out the work and having dialog, but it's in about producing results. You know, diversifying our staff, it's about diversifying our faculty member it's about diversifying our administration, and the institution has done a good job of really aligning these metrics across campus two ensure that we do have more diverse staff, we do have more diverse faculty, we do have more diverse administration, because one can't go without the other, as you stated, barred, and so at the university dating we're committed to that and we're committed to that because that's of who we are, and so our Catholic married is values. Challenge us to live that out and while we've made some mistakes along the way and because we're not perfect, but we've done an outstanding job of challenging ourselves to continue to have the conversation, to continue to do the work, and we find ourselves in the monthly meetings, particularly with the recruitment and admission team identify key metrics and key incidents that maybe have happened. How do we address that? How do we navigate that? One student bring those questions to us, and that's critical because, you know, we're all at different places on this journey, but what we can do together is much greater than what we can do separately and we find ourselves having really great, intentional conversations that ultimately impact how we recruit all students, how we recruit students who are, you know, White and Caucasian, how we were crew students who are African, American, Malt tirads. We want everybody to see the value of diversity, equity and inclusion through the lands of the University of dating commitment to the common good. So it's great. It's really appreciate you sharing that and, as Bard said, there are many campuses that are facing that obstacle or looking on how to improve themselves within diversity and inclusion. As we close our conversation, we usually ask if there's a nugget or a tidbit something that you could offer that another admission professional could implement right away that has either been helpful or maybe, in theories, something that you're going to be applying shortly. Anything that you can share with us? Yeah, I think you know, one of the things that I've been telling you know, many teams and many entities that I work with, particularly our team, is that, you know, we're in a strategic inflection point. So it's going to require us to be flexible and so we as educators, particularly in higher education, have to have the ability to act, to change, excuse me, and really adapt to the current times. And so for too long we have allowed status coal behavior to lead us as institutions but then also impact our work, and so we're now in environment where time is on our side. You know, the pandemic taught us that, and so it's time for us to make sure that status qual work isn't acceptable and that we we make sure that the value of the institution matches up with the value of the work that we're delivering to students and families. So I just would encourage many of my colleagues across the country, across the world that we do everything we can to present the best experience possible for our families who are making a significant investment in our institutions, and we do that by being flexible. We do that being by being able to change. We do that by adapting to current situations and we do that by putting a smile on our face every time we get a chance to engage with them, and if we do, that will be much better for our families, would be much better for our institutions and we'll see a lot of great things happen for many of us across the country. That is a great note to end on. Done Ell, thank you very much for your time and the wisdom that you shared. Someone would like to get in touch with you, what would the best way for them to do that be?...

Yeah, I would encourage you to connect with me on Linkedin. You know at Donielle wiggins on Linkedin and you'll you can definitely find me. That's a great way to connect. You should. You can also go to the University of dating website. If you go to meet the recruitment and emission team, you will find my picture and information there to connect with and I would love to connect with you and really get to know you and help in anyway I can, and I wish you all the best on your journey. I want to thank you, Chry and bar for having me this afternoon and I really appreciate the time it really appreciate connecting and talking with you both and look forward to doing it in the future. Again great, thank you. Thank you very much, bar do you have any parting words? Yeah, just a couple things that I wanted to kind of point out to everybody, and I guess if I'm going to put a title on this episode, it would be something around authenticity and enrollment, and I think that so much of what we talked about, whether it's the website and the importance of making sure that what we're communicating on the website, with the importance of the four year degree or the or the idea of making sure that the website is authentically representing the on campus experience, even down to the point of being authentic and what we say. We believe in authentic and what we're doing by really tackling this hard issue of diversity, equity and inclusion and making that part of our our daily life. I really love the point that done health pointed out with the idea that, you know, we put that smile on, we change, we make that a moment by moment type of thing, and so really that authenticity of making that a big part of everything that we're doing, in the way we present ourselves digitally, in the way way that people experiences when they arrive on campus, in the way that we live out our beliefs. I think is so important. So I really appreciate everything that Donne has said today and it's been an honor to have this conversation. Thank you, Bart. I'll also add that if our listeners would, if you would like to spend a wonderful ten minutes getting to know the character in person that donnel is, is to Google Donell wiggins, ted x Dayton and it'll show you the reason why he has a passion for higher education. The High Ed Marketer podcast is sponsored by Kaylor solutions and education marketing and branding agency and by Think, patented, a marketing, execution, printing and provider of mailing solutions to hire at institutions. On behalf of my cohost Bard Taylor, I'm troy singer. Thank you very much for joining us today. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show, simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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