Episode #16

Campus culture that differentiates from competition

Featuring Lauren Findley and Noelle Stovall Director and Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Jacksonville State University
Campus culture that differentiates from competition
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In This Episode

You’ll hear from Lauren Findley who is the Director of Admissions at Jacksonville State University, and she's joined by Noelle Stovall, Associate Director.

You'll hear them discuss:

  • the working relationship between them and their relationship with university leadership
  • how they differentiate their school in a state with such heavy competition
  • the positive impacts for student access that were brought on by the pandemic
Lauren Findley and Noelle Stovall

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Host: You're listening to filling seats, the state of enrollment, marketing, and higher ed. Hosted by StudentBridge. In this podcast. You'll learn, what's working to grow shape and sustain enrollment. At colleges and universities directly for marketers thought leaders and ed tech innovators, because anyone can design a brochure, but not anyone can fill seats.

[00:00:30] Host: Welcome to episode 16 of filling seats. In this episode, you'll hear from Lauren Findley, who is the director of admissions at Jacksonville state university. And she's also joined by Noelle Stovall associate director.

[00:00:44] Host: Jacksonville state is a public institution in Alabama. You'll hear them discuss the working relationship between them and their relationship with university leadership. How they differentiate their school in a state with such heavy competition. And the positive impacts for student access that were brought on by the pandemic let's meet lauren first and then Noelle.

[00:01:05] Lauren Findley: I am originally from Alabama. I'm not too far away from Jacksonville state university. We're located in Northeast, Alabama. And I graduated from Auburn university, which is, a larger four year public school. And, looked for a position a little bit closer to home and a little bit on the smaller.

[00:01:25] Lauren Findley: Scale. So I found that at Jacksonville state university , we are a four year public university with about 9,500 students. definitely attracted to JSU for the size and, being that it's . A regional serving institution. That was, I felt like a good fit for me, but started as an admissions counselor, was an admissions counselor for about two years and then had the opportunity to be promoted to assistant director.

[00:01:51] Lauren Findley: And then interestingly enough, a year into being assistant director, I became the director. in an interim status. And then,they removed the interim tag and have been director for three years. So definitely an interesting trajectory.

[00:02:07] Lauren Findley: . and it was, all on the same time we had a tornado hit our campus and we had COVID.

[00:02:11] Lauren Findley: So it's been an interesting ride, but, it's been fun. It's been challenging, but I've learned a.

[00:02:17] Host: Noelle, tell me a little bit about what you do in your background.

[00:02:21] at JSU, I'm the associate director for undergraduate admissions and recruitment. So I get to manage our recruitment teams, our admissions counselors, and some of our coordinators. That have roles around recruitment under Lauren's, leadership, my career so far. So I like to always start like when I was a grad student, because that's when I really fell in love with higher ed, had the student leader background and became a graduate student for our office of student life.

[00:02:48] mainly doing orientation and first year student programs, after graduating, went on to work at a local community. College started as a career coach. So focusing on career planning for students with. whatever they're going to, whether it was post-secondary education, the workforce, or technical training.

[00:03:07] Noelle Stovall: So was there for a couple years and then was hired at JSU as the assistant director under Lauren, for recruitment and then moved to associate director about a year after that.

[00:03:19] Host: Since we don't typically have two people on a podcast, I don't always ask, what's your working relationship, but I would love to know a little bit about, how the two of you. Work together.

[00:03:29] Lauren Findley: , I'll say just as far as our division goes, for the past few years, I have reported directly to our vice president for enrollment management who reported directly to our president. we just actually hired an associate vice president because our current vice president was promoted into a different role.

[00:03:46] so she's actually a dual vice president. I guess the reason I wanted to share that is because at JSU, we have a pretty direct line to the president. And Noelle and I work very closely together and I think that we have support from the top, which is helpful. and she's very transparent and direct as,As really a coworker.

[00:04:08] Lauren Findley: And, that helps me tremendously when I go and ask for anything, of my associate director or my VP. within my role, I also oversee student, tours, campus tours, campus visits, dual enrollment and processing.

[00:04:24] Lauren Findley: and then of course Noelle's role and she's an associate director of she's overseeing, a much larger scope of our office's work, which is recruitment.

[00:04:32] Lauren Findley: So my title is technically admissions and recruitment, so I oversee processing and all of the other aspects. And she's, our go-to for all of their recruitment. No.

[00:04:41] Host: Noel, tell me a little bit about, your working relationship with Lauren and any of the members of your team and some of the people that you work with.

[00:04:48] Noelle Stovall: Lauren and I feel like have a really good working relationship. We've both been in higher ed around the same amount of time. So we've seen a lot of the. Change in higher ed and the change in admissions over the last several years kind of together. and I think that. Has informed a lot of what we do, Lauren is definitely like an ideas person.

[00:05:08] Noelle Stovall: She comes up with great ideas. She's given, tasks from above her. She comes up with, how can we do this? never really wants to like always do the same thing, always looking for how can we do this? How can we do it better? How can we do it more efficiently? and she's fantastic at that and motivating our team to want to be there as well.

[00:05:26] Noelle Stovall: I always call myself the backup dancer. Because I just am the one in the background, like making everything like work, just making sure, everything looks good holistically that we're taking the ideas, we're taking our initiatives and we're making them happen.

[00:05:40] so I get to manage our team of admissions counselors. we have admissions counselors that are broken up, in geographic territories in the state of Alabama. predominantly and then in Georgia and then our out-of-state students are also served, by our team. We have one transfer admissions counselor, and then we have two coordinators on our team.

[00:05:59] Noelle Stovall: One is a coordinator for out-of-state recruitment and we partner up on all of the initiatives for out-of-state recruitment. And then we have a coordinator for recruitment, communication and technology who takes all of these ideas of how we can. Connect with students and communicate with them and really makes them happen.

[00:06:18] keeps us up to date with best practices and what the students want, and really lays the groundwork for the admissions counselors, as far as communication, whether it's print materials or texting students or emailing students communicating with counselors so that when we're going into the schools or when we're going to events, a lot of that.

[00:06:36] Noelle Stovall: Initial communication that initial, who we are is already set out there. another part of what I get to do with the assistance of my team is the print marketing, for all of JSU recruitment. and that's of course in partnership with our incredible marketing team and graphic designers at JSU.

[00:06:55] you're located in Alabama, you're a medium size institution just saying the state's name. You immediately think of one of the other big dogs and you've got two big dogs in the state

[00:07:07] Host: You've got a lot of competition so I would love to know how do you differentiate yourself when you're not a big dog in terms of size and you're up against, all this competition within your own.

[00:07:21] Lauren Findley: I'll start. And then Noelle, she's great at filling in my blank. And. Does a wonderful job leading our team of admissions counselors. I just wanted to throw that in there. right now we are positioning ourselves in a, campaign called the friendliness campus in the south.

[00:07:37] Lauren Findley: And it's really been a tagline for the campus since the sixties. That's really what we're known for is when you get on our campus, you're gonna have a very friendly atmosphere, an at home feel. And so with the friendliest campus in the south as our campaign slogan, I think it just is very fitting. And for us, we feel like.

[00:07:59] Lauren Findley: We can set ourselves apart from our competition, just through customer service and through providing, excellence in that regard and being friendly to our students. We just really take customer service very seriously on our campus.

[00:08:13] Noelle Stovall: And I feel like. It's a place we really believe in. And it makes a difference to work for a place that you truly believe in that you feel like is student focused and is a place where students from any background, whether they're a first generation college student, they've had several generations to go to JSU regardless of where they're coming from.

[00:08:32] Noelle Stovall: They can. Place in our community. And I think that sets us apart, because JSU is such a diverse and open community for anyone to be able to find their place, both academically and in the classroom and find what they need in order to pursue the career they want. But also just as they're, changing as a person and growing as a human, we offer a lot of resources for our students and we also offer.

[00:08:55] Noelle Stovall: Kind of a Goldilocks effect of it's not too big. It's not too small. You have all the opportunities of a larger university. At the same time, you're gonna get a really, small university in some cases one-on-one individualized experience as well. We do really good at striking that balance. and that starts with the way we serve our students in admissions and that recruitment process and making sure that they know.

[00:09:19] Noelle Stovall: That we don't just wanna get them here, but we want to have them here and have them be successful. so I think what, sets us apart is that we're not trying to be anything that we're not, we, try to stay true to that character. Lauren said that we've had since the sixties of the friendliest campus in the south, and what that kind of boils down to is there's a place for you here.

[00:09:38] Noelle Stovall: There's a place for who you are and there's a place for you to figure out who you're gonna be and where you're gonna.

[00:09:44] Host: during COVID, when so much was happening virtually, how did the school embrace? That student service friendly mentality during a time when everyone is frustrated in transitioning and, were any major lessons learned during that time

[00:10:02] Lauren Findley: so as director of admissions, I will say that, the first couple weeks it was definitely a transition, just getting our staff equipment and being able to work from home. But there was a lot of reassurance of our staff and that was very important from a leadership standpoint, just to make sure that our staff felt secure and were supported in the workplace.

[00:10:23] Lauren Findley: And now that it is at home, but I think the biggest thing that we learned from that experience is you just have to meet students where they are. And one thing, and I it's fitting that we're talking to you because I will say one of the things that we did is we implemented student bridge because we didn't have a wonderful online presence, our website wasn't and it, and to be honest, it still isn't.

[00:10:46] Lauren Findley: To the point where we probably wish it would be, but, we knew that immediately, what are some needs of our students so that we can be a friendly face if we are not face to face. And our website is that. And so we were able to implement student bridge and provide a very friendly, easy to navigate.

[00:11:06] Lauren Findley: Online view book. And so that was one of the things that we did during COVID, but just in general, trying to figure out how we can meet students, where they are and meet their needs. And so we just had to adjust accordingly and a lot of the things that we did during that time, we are still using today, specifically with communication, strategy with text messaging and things like.

[00:11:29] Noelle Stovall: Yes. And during that time, especially the beginning, we were trying to take all of our processes that we were doing in the office and take them, into our home. So a lot of things went digital or electronic, that increased our speed in some cases for processing. And we've kept a lot of those processes so that we are, Trying to be, one of the first in the mailbox for the students or the first in the, the inbox for the students when they're getting that admissions decision or that scholarship letter.

[00:11:55] and that's allowed us to have kind of a quicker process there. with the COVID 19 pandemic, we started test optional admissions and we have a no harm policy to where. Test scores can only help a student if they do decide to send them to us. That is something that we've kept around. And it's funny, we were just reading over some of our new student surveys from last year, and we asked them, how has the COVID 19 pandemic affected your college decision and your decision to choose JSU?

[00:12:24] Noelle Stovall: And several students said that us going test optional, made it more accessible to them, made university education more accessible to them. And that's always been a mission of. You to educate our region to be accessible to the people that live here, and in our surrounding communities surrounding counties, even within the Southeast.

[00:12:41] and that just kind of enhanced that for us.

[00:12:44] Host: What would you say is something that you struggle with or that you wish, that you could be doing better?

[00:12:53] Lauren Findley: Right now, our focus is a lot on transfer. Um, because we have seen a decrease because of the COVID team pandemic. we are seeing in our state a decrease in students going to community college straight from high school, even going to college straight from high school. So we have suffered with transfer recruitment.

[00:13:13] Lauren Findley: And so that would be an area I think. As we go into our next cycle, we're gonna really try to focus in more on, the good news is that we have a great team here. And we actually just hosted a transfer champions event, where we got some ideas from advisors at community colleges locally.

[00:13:32] Lauren Findley: And, they gave us some really good ideas of just how to meet students, where they are, because it is very competitive in transfer, especially. And so.a lot of the things that we are able to stand out on the freshman side from, with test optional admissions or test optional scholarships, we aren't able to stand out as much in the transfer market.

[00:13:54] Lauren Findley: So that's an area where we're hoping to really beef up, but it is a difficult market at this time in our state with community college enrollment being.

[00:14:03] Noelle Stovall: From the recruitment side,we have an incredible team and we have a really good process, but I feel like there are things like outside of our control that I wish I could just control that would help whether it's, having information sooner about center, about, Advance and how we can plan travel and what the schools are gonna do.

[00:14:21] Noelle Stovall: And that's of course been difficult the last couple years, cuz we've all had to been very reactive, to whatever was happening in front of us and our team on campus who were making decisions were super proactive. scientifically driven. And was great, but once you got off our campus, it was a little bit of light, wild, wild west.

[00:14:39] Noelle Stovall: What is each school doing? Everything's a little bit different. So controlling for all of those variables. definitely was a challenge in the last couple years, but I think it's made us more resilient, as always. In higher ed. You're like, I wish I had a bigger budget for travel or giveaways and things like that.

[00:14:56] Noelle Stovall: I feel like our team who makes those decisions at JSU do a really good job of allocating what's available, but that doesn't increase what's available in generals. So just more funding for higher ed. And, that trickles down into our recruitment and getting more students, having that accessibility for university education, which increases, their ability, to impact their communities and their ability to impact their lives for the rest of their lives.

[00:15:25] it helps everyone when we invest in education.

[00:15:28] Host: Noelle. I would love to know your thoughts on the future of that traditional high school recruitment, because pre COVID it. We kind of all had it very nailed down. Private visits, lunch visits. school fairs, NA act fairs, it was a very well oiled machine.

[00:15:48] Host: And then COVID happened and you've got all these different things. Some schools aren't letting you come in at all do you see being the future when the dust settles? do you think that will ever return to how it was, do you think students have lost interest for , colleges coming and being in their space?

[00:16:08] Noelle Stovall: We were super, super comfortable and then we all had to get real uncomfortable there for a little bit and figure out, I think it was a great challenge, but honestly I hope. Doesn't go back to the way it was, because I feel like even though it's been a challenge for us on our side, there has been more accessibility for our students.

[00:16:26] whether it's a virtual fair and they aren't able to travel to large fairs or it's, more fairs with smaller crowds that are closer to home for them, whether it's the test optional, allowing more students access to higher education, I feel like there are definit. Some structure, things that, could come back that would, make it easier as far as us as professionals.

[00:16:49] Noelle Stovall: But at the end of the day, I think what is best for the students is what we need to go for. So when the dust settles, I am hoping that a lot of these changes, a lot of this accessibility doesn't go away and I don't feel like it will. I feel like. The test optional is here to stay. that accessibility, I feel like is here to stay a little bit more than it was before.

[00:17:10] with that comes more competition. Students are able to. Apply to more places. They are applying to more places that means you've gotta get more personal with these students. You've gotta speak to them as an individual. Each, student group at a high school or in a certain territory is not gonna be a monolith.

[00:17:28] Noelle Stovall: And you've really got to have that personalized touch for those students. And that's where we've seen success is in that personalized communication we do, whether it's through text or email, Or a phone call, from the admissions counselor, from,someone else at JSU, whether it's our associate vice president or vice president, that personalization is making a difference for us.

[00:17:48] Noelle Stovall: And I'm not sure if that's something that we were doing as much before, because the students applied to a couple colleges. We figured we have a 50, 50% chance of getting them, so it's been more work, for us, but I think it's a good thing for the student in the end. And isn't that what we all want what's best for them.

[00:18:04] Host: Lauren, what do enrollment goals look like for JSU right now? Are y'all in growth mode. Are we trying to. A deficit, are we trying to maintain shape? what are the overall enrollment goals for your.

[00:18:18] Lauren Findley: We are certainly in a growth mode. We would love to continue to grow enrollment for freshmen and transfer. but we do understand that. That there are some limitations in the future in the next five to six years in regards to high school demographics. So I,believe that we are also looking at how to stand out in the market online or for adults.

[00:18:41] Lauren Findley: And so we are, are being pretty strategic in the sense of creating some, Some committees that are looking into goals specific to of course, undergraduate traditional recruitment, but also online and post-traditional recruitment because we feel like as we can continue to grow freshmen, that's great.

[00:19:00] Lauren Findley: But if we can en enhance our growth, among adults or among working population, that's where we're gonna see a lot of success.

[00:19:08] Host: How many online programs do you have currently?

[00:19:11] Lauren Findley: Undergrad, we only have truly one or two fully online programs, meaning, everything would be available online. We have several programs that you. You could get most of your coursework done online, but, that's what we're in the process of doing right now is identifying programs that could be shifted into an online format.

[00:19:31] Lauren Findley: And COVID certainly helped do that which is, as we're talking about COVID and, there are just certainly many negatives and, and all of that, but using, the positive outcomes from the pandemic, I can say that online education. having a very traditional campus. it really forced a lot of our faculty to think, okay, how can we be a little bit more innovative when it comes to this course?

[00:19:54] Lauren Findley: And that's really what we're seeing. And so we're able to capitalize on that and plug in new programs.

[00:20:00] Host: Noelle mentioned personalization. what does personalization mean to JSU and how does that look? The way that Noelle was referring to it was , I would refer to as white glove service,identifying those really warm students and communicating directly to them.

[00:20:20] Noelle Stovall: From the start with our students, . When we are sending their acceptance letter when we are sending text messages, anything like that, something that is really important to us is to use the students preferred name. And that is something that we have students come to events and they get their name tag, and they're like, oh my gosh, you're using my preferred name.

[00:20:40] Noelle Stovall: So that's something that we gather from students from the application point. And we use that preferred name in our. In event, name, tags and our emails. we also use the students preferred pronouns as well. And that is something again, important to us that we are communicating with that student the way that they want to be communicated with, and that we are honoring who they are, because we're trying to get them into a place where they're gonna grow and become more of who they are.

[00:21:06] Noelle Stovall: So certainly. by using the name they prefer, I think that's huge. but the personalization really comes into effect for us through those connections. We want to have those conversations. We're transparent, whether we're talking about cost of, The university education. If we're talking about what they can expect, any of those things, we're gonna be transparent.

[00:21:28] Noelle Stovall: We're gonna have that personal communication in a lot of our text messages, we are giving action items to students where it's not just us like. Throwing information at them, message after message, after message. but asking them questions and saying, here's a little bit of information, even just a reaction to this, do you want the link to learn more information about it?

[00:21:48] Noelle Stovall: Do you, have questions like. About financial aid, or do you have questions about social fit or do you have questions about getting involved? And we give them those options? Cuz sometimes the students are like, I don't know what I have questions about. So we try to help prompt those conversations, which leads to those personalized conversations and getting their questions answered.

[00:22:07] something fun that we do that, some univers. Likes others don't it fits really well for us. And that friendly, conversational vibe is the use of emojis when we're texting. So we tell a students send back a certain emoji, if you wanna talk about this topic, or if you want this link. And that has given us a really good, percentage of response when we are sending messages like that, rather than just sending like a, Uh, just a blurb or just here's a bit information, but they don't know what to do with that.

[00:22:35] so definitely give 'em that opportunity for it to be two way communication.

[00:22:39] Host: fun.

[00:22:40] Noelle Stovall: yes. And sometimes with our transfer students, cause we know some of them may be traditionally aged college students. Some of them may be adult learners. Sometimes we'll use emojis and sometimes we'll do a simple, yes, no. That still helps just to open that door of this is not just me talking at you.

[00:22:55] Noelle Stovall: This is us talking with each other. We recently helped our, graduate studies department with some of their communication planning, emails and text messages. and even amongst those students who are predominantly all adults, like they still want that two way communication. They still want the opportunity to say something.

[00:23:14] Lauren Findley: we do have specific staff for students. Whether they're freshman or transfer or dual enrollment so that every one of our students has an admissions counselor assigned to them. And in their acceptance email, it comes from their admissions counselor.

[00:23:31] Lauren Findley: They can respond. And so it feels very personal. although it,it is automated, but I will also say that we implemented. A position called our coordinator of recruitment communication. And that has been an incredible, drive for us to be able to be more personal with our outreach. We can be very specific to students based on where they are in the funnel, whether or not they've submitted their FAFSA.

[00:23:58] even if they've responded to a survey that we sent them to see how interested they are in attending JSU, we don't burden students with sending them communication. Is not relevant to them. We are very specific with our communication. We have over 80 communication plans and, we actually just created one for students, 25 or older. and that allows our 25 and older population not to be getting information. That would be more specific to a traditional undergrad student about getting involved on campus because it may not be as relevant to them. So we are just trying to segment our communication in a way that is very personal and it's not, We want them to know that we know who they are.

[00:24:41] Lauren Findley: We know where they are in the process. And we just, we want them to see that. So we utilize a lot of things that Noelle was saying with the emojis and are very specific in our outreach.

[00:24:52] Host: When a lot of these conversations come up with, other schools and talking about personalization, sometimes it's like, oh, we have a list of 50 things that we wanna do, but we can't do them because we, you know, don't have the budget, we don't have the staff. And so it seems like y'all have really made this a priority and you're truly doing it.

[00:25:12] Host: I mean, Props to y'all it seems like you're doing a great job. if you had to pick you could only do three things, what would those be?

[00:25:21] text messaging has transformed how we operate as an office. Not only is it great for students, but I think it's helped our admissions counselors have more joy in their job. because I will say I started as an admissions counselor before texting was a thing and the cold calls and just the emails without any kind.

[00:25:42] Lauren Findley: response. It just was frustrating, And it's time consuming. So text messaging has allowed our staff to, to have a burden lifted off from them and they can actually have meaningful conversations. So I would say texting number one,

[00:25:54] I will say students search. We do utilize a third party vendor for students search and, that is an implementation from 2018. And, it's allowed us to reach a much larger audience and really saved us. In the time of COVID when we weren't able to get out into schools and collect inquiries, we were able to already have inquiries.

[00:26:16] Lauren Findley: And so I don't know how we operated prior to student search, to be honest. but now that we have it, it just has really transformed. Our admissions counselors approach to setting up private visits because they can target schools where we have inquiries already versus having to go out and gather those.

[00:26:35] Noelle Stovall: And I would say as a third thing, it's kinda like a and B. So we do a couple things for our accepted students that. I love they are so fun. Our students seem to really enjoy it.

[00:26:47] one is having an accepted piece. That's Instagrammable that they can take a picture with, use the hashtag, put it up, show how excited they are, kind of make their announcement. So twofold. It's something fun for them. We even put a little confetti in there, so fun and then two, they put it out there and then that is, marketing JSU.

[00:27:07] Noelle Stovall: Second thing we do for our accepted students is a yard sign. So they can pick that up at their awards day or when they come to orientation and then them and their parents or their grandparents can put it out in their yard and, tell everybody that they're going to JSU. And again, it's something that we get to do to celebrate our students, which we love.

[00:27:26] Noelle Stovall: And it's also something that we can do to market for our next classes that are coming from those same communities as well.

[00:27:32] Host: Thinking about other institutions, what are some things that you think other schools are doing really well with?

[00:27:40] Lauren Findley: I would say out of state recruitment, ,we really only focus in on our region, specifically in the Southeast of Alabama and Georgia. And we have been able to branch into some markets where we've seen potential for growth, like in new Orleans or in the Florida panhandle.

[00:27:57] Lauren Findley: But I will say, as we are moving into conference USA, in athletics, which is a big deal in Alabama. we may, at some point, need to expand our outreach. And so,a lot of other schools are doing a really good job with expanding, just their marketability of their institution, out of state.

[00:28:15] Lauren Findley: And so we still, I think have that as a challenge. We really only have statewide and Georgia wide awareness and so brand awareness.

[00:28:25] Lauren Findley: In a much larger market is a challenge that hopefully we'll be able to accomplish in the next few years as we get into this new conference. But other schools, like you mentioned earlier, the larger schools within our state, they've been able to manage to do that. So that'll be something that we need to look at.

[00:28:43] Noelle Stovall: I was gonna say the branding aspect of it. I feel like that helps recruitment just when people know who you are by name. when people hear Jacksonville state university, if you ask, most people in Alabama, Georgia, they're gonna know Jacksonville, Alabama. but there's, other universities that have Jackson or Jacksonville in the name, we get their emails sometimes

[00:29:05] Noelle Stovall: so just that brand awareness and our in-house marketing team has done a fantastic job of gauging that. Putting in. Ways that we can grow that, brand awareness, as far as like the look of JSU, the friendliest campus in the south tagline, all of that, they do a really good job of getting that out, but of course that comes again with budgetary needs, to make all the print materials and have the billboards and have the Spotify ads and all of that, that creates brand awareness away from our backyard.

[00:29:34] Noelle Stovall: And. Backyard is certainly growing, which is really exciting. We're seeing more out-of-state students this year than in previous year. and those are students from every different kind of background, from these geographic locations coming to JSU. So we see that's growing, but to continue to have it grow, we definitely need that support.

[00:29:54] Host: And what are some things that you think other schools could be doing better?

[00:29:57] Noelle Stovall: we just recently got back from a conference, which is always so energizing, so exciting to connect with people from across the state. I think one thing that JSU does really well as a university is the connection between. Our employees and those that are at the cabinet level, I feel like we have support that other schools don't seem to have.

[00:30:21] Noelle Stovall: We have seats at tables and open doors that just don't seem to be there at other institutions as. Especially larger institutions. So to have the camaraderie that we have at all levels at JSU to have, the kind of working relationship that I have with Lauren as my director, but even, with the AVP and the VP to know those people and.

[00:30:43] to be able to have conversations with them or just with my team, having an open door and having weekly meetings and all of those things make a big difference in the culture of JSU. It lends to that friendliest campus in the south feeling that we have, and that, is so true to our character.

[00:31:01] Noelle Stovall: So I would say that JSU does really good when it comes to culture of the people who are working here higher ed is higher. Ed. There's always gonna be those challenges. there's always gonna be those frustrations, but we know at the end of the day, everybody on campus really cares about the student and we also care about each other and what we are doing here.

[00:31:21] we believe in.

[00:31:22] Lauren Findley: I definitely agree with that in the age, when we're seeing so many, vacancies in higher ed and just the difficulty of filling positions, I think we've done a good job, combating that I would add that we are very lucky that we do have. That position of communication coordinator. it's something that a lot of schools do not have yet, but I think in this age of digital recruitment, it's very important for campuses to consider adding that as an investment within their recruitment team, because.

[00:31:55] Lauren Findley: It's just honestly, so much more intentional. You can build so much, many more relationships via your automated communication. If you have someone who that is their primary job, they're not only setting up the communications, but they're just ensuring that the communications are accurate and relevant. So that is something that I definitely think we have.

[00:32:22] Lauren Findley: An edge over our competition on, and actually at the conference that Noelle was talking about, had many people coming up to me, asking me for that position description, because they feel like they need that assistance. And,we have a great person in that role and Noelle manages that role and she does a phenomenal job working with that role in ensuring that we are on track and we have a schedule.

[00:32:44] Lauren Findley: But just really investing in your outreach and making sure that it is consistent and correct is super important.

[00:32:52] Noelle Stovall: .

[00:32:52] Noelle Stovall: and also that was definitely an investment and also a sacrifice. So we,in trading for a communication person, that person still recruits a few high schools and we took out an admissions counselor position and a secretarial type position. for that, but it has certainly paid off for us in so many ways.

[00:33:11] Noelle Stovall: And we, and the thing for us too, was having the right person in that role. And we have a phenomenal team member in that role who truly loves technology, loves communication, loves people. And that makes a huge difference. She's very in tune to the voice of JSU. whether you're gonna text or an email, it's always gonna sound like it's coming from the same person, even though, different people on our team are writing that she's pulling it all together.

[00:33:37] Noelle Stovall: And GSU has a very distinct voice. and that has certainly paid off for us.

[00:33:42] Host: we just went through two and a half years of incredible change coming through the other side. What are some things that you think are going to change, a year, five years, 10 years from now?

[00:33:54] Lauren Findley: I would say the type of student that we're working with, it's not going to be a traditional student right out of high school. We're gonna have to adjust to this new era of students. Not only. Coming straight to college as adults, but returning to college and finishing degrees that they started years ago and wanting to come back and complete.

[00:34:15] Lauren Findley: It's also understanding that there's competition outside of higher education you have Google and you have these other companies offering certifications and, you. There are actually jobs paying almost more than students getting a degree out of higher ed. So understanding that the competition isn't just among other community colleges or other universities, we have to set ourselves apart in a corporate market as well.

[00:34:41] Lauren Findley: So being creative with considering what kind of certificates you can offer or micro credentials. many semesters business partnerships, all of those things I think will be the focus over the next five years. During a time when our traditional aged students will most likely be declining in quantity.

[00:35:01]

[00:35:01] Noelle Stovall: the students will be different in. Who they are, where they're coming from, but also what they want out of the workforce. I think with COVID you saw that people could work from home, that people can, have their own businesses and make their own living without so many of the traditional tracks that we've had in the past.

[00:35:18] Noelle Stovall: And I think that's a great thing. I think we do need to look at what the traditional work week looks like, what traditional jobs look like. And make our education system meet that. And what students are gonna be wanting five years from now, 10 years from now, 25 years from now and so on. Cause it's gonna be different than from us and from our parents

[00:35:39] what is an app or a tool that you could not live without?

[00:35:43] Noelle Stovall: Canva has been huge for us. Being able to. Have the major items in recruitment being created by our graphic designers in house is amazing. But being able to just put together a social media picture or post together by some of our team members in our office or putting together a postcard or something like that, just having that ability, has really been great and ,it's allowed us to have more autonomy and be even more control of the voice that we want recruitment to have. So Canva is awesome. We also use a texting app, from cadence mongoose, and we love it so much. It allows us to be available to our students when they need us.

[00:36:25] Lauren Findley: I will say teams, Microsoft office campus here. we not only use teams obviously to communicate back and forth, and meet of course, but we also use it to, connect with students. Virtually through what we call cocky chats. We use the Microsoft booking system for that, so they can, reserve time when we are available and it will not show up time if we're not available.

[00:36:48] Lauren Findley: And we've created a lot of different groups where we'll be able to communicate based on certain things and we've used it for electronic processing. So that has been huge for, offices, especially when we were, Away from the campus during COVID we would share spreadsheets or notes involving any kind of process if it involved,second level approval, maybe from our student conduct office.

[00:37:14] Lauren Findley: And so that has just been a game changer, post COVID of how we communicate across campus and really broken down a lot of silos. it is just it's just so much easier than an email. So we love teams.

[00:37:26] Host: If you could go back and give yourself advice, let's say maybe five years, maybe 10 years, what would it be? And we'll start with Lauren.

[00:37:34] Lauren Findley: I had a very interesting. trajectory to the position that I am in now. And I think being a young woman in a role that you know, is not typical for a young woman, especially at the trajectory that I was in, almost had a sense of imposter syndrome for a while.

[00:37:50] and so.probably overcompensated a lot and just tried to work myself harder, had to prove myself over others and things like that. obviously I learned a lot through that process and thankfully, thankfully, I ended up having a wonderful mentor and then having wonderful staff that formed around me after I became director.

[00:38:13] or during that whole process. My advice would be to. To believe in yourself, understand your worth. And then definitely challenge yourself and learn and grow. But don't feel like you have to overcompensate for anything, enjoy where you are and have goals and everything and be pushed to, to reach those goals.

[00:38:34] Lauren Findley: But don't feel like you have to prove anyone else if you're proving yourself. second I would say is to find mentors. as women, especially, we need to have good mentors, male mentors as well, but seek out people that you see are doing a wonderful job or that you look up to because they're not only doing a good job, but doing it with, integrity and all of that.

[00:38:55] and I think that's across the board. it's mentors who maybe have physicians above you or similar to you at other institutions and even, and just in the office.

[00:39:05] Host: Noel. What about you?

[00:39:08] Noelle Stovall: I had a mentor who once told me we can do anything, but we can't do everything. And. That has stayed with me so much because we can't do anything. And, I'm lucky that I had parents that told me, as a woman, you can do anything. You can be anything and that's wonderful.

[00:39:23] Noelle Stovall: And then you get into certain environments and you feel limited. and honestly, you're human. So you can't do everything. You can do anything that, that you put your mind to and all of that, but you can't do everything and it's okay to not do everything. something that I wish I had. Earlier in my career.

[00:39:40] Noelle Stovall: And then something, I try to tell the team members that I supervise is it's okay to have boundaries. It's okay to be human. Take your annual leave, take your sick leave. It's okay. You don't have to give me a great reason for the fact that you're taking an annual leave day. Like it's your day to take it.

[00:39:55] Noelle Stovall: Set those boundaries sometimes, especially when you get, into positions like I, or Lauren have you take some things home with you, that's just the nature of it. But as you're beginning of your career, and that's not as much pressure on you set those boundaries, then, don't take things home that you don't have to, there's definitely a balance and we certainly have a culture in our office of doing more of volunteering to help others of wanting to go the extra mile, but there can be balance in, I wanna go the extra mile, but when I need to recharge, I need to recharge. That's something that you can absolutely do. I would say to women. Help other women, when you get to, a place that you have dreamed about being turn around and help those behind you.

[00:40:38] Noelle Stovall: I know there's plenty of quotes that express that better than I have, but help those that are trying to be where you were. And remember that at one point you dreamed of being where you are. you may not have envisioned this exact. Thing in your life, but you had those desires to be something, to be able to do a certain thing, help people, whatever it is.

[00:40:58] and remember that you wished for this at one point, and then the other thing is just make friends. it's okay to have friends in the workplace. It's a great thing to have friends in your workplace, cuz you have so much time with them and it's important to create a community. Where you are, and to make those friends in your workplace and also on the road as so much in admissions, as traveling on the road, especially early in your career.

[00:41:22] Noelle Stovall: So it's important to make those friends make that community away from your home community. And we have some team members that are really great at this and that have, created that community even away from our office.

[00:41:35] I also think professional development is very important and,and budgets can be straining, you can gain professional development via free webinar. Or, whatever that may be reading an article, I have had the privilege of being involved in several organizations and getting involved on different committees, getting involved on committees within JSU.

[00:41:56] Lauren Findley: Like Noelle was saying, we definitely have to have our boundaries and we cannot overexert ourselves. To the point where we're, we are taking things home with us. And I,I certainly have suffered from that in, in the past. But if you are growing as a professional and you're allowing yourself to dip your toe into an area outside of admissions or outside of the job you typically do, and you're wishing to get to that next point in your career, I think that's a great way to, to start.

[00:42:23] for example, I had to have. budgetary experience in order to get my job. And thankfully, because I was a member, of an executive committee within a state organization and managed, a budget for the conference that we planned, I could refer to that as budgetary experience. So just little things like that, can certainly help you stand out amongst others in the field.

[00:42:46] Lauren Findley: And so when you can try to volunteer, but just keep it balanced, .

[00:42:49]

[00:42:52] Host: thank you for listening to the filling seats podcast, hosted by student bridge. If you'd like to connect with this episode's guest. Check out the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a rating and review and don't forget to subscribe. For more information about the podcast or to let us know, you'd like to be a guest.

[00:43:12] Host: Visit student bridge.com/podcast. Thanks for listening