It was a serendipitous moment. A playlist comprised of mostly feel-good songs from the ‘70s and ‘80s was rocking as the team started rolling in. It was the first retreat of our new division placing University Relations and Enrollment Management under one roof. As I went to stop the music, the classic beat of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business” came on. It seemed a fitting song to launch the day – so I let it play.
A few months ago, West Virginia University decided to move Enrollment Management
to live under the same roof as University Relations. As the VP that now oversees
both areas, I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about how this merger-of-sorts
can help us be more efficient, effective and most importantly – elevate our brand
and bring in the class.
The two units have had a good working relationship for the past four years. But as
the recruitment stakes grow ever higher, it’s important to make sure we’re doing
all the right things as fast as we can. That’s why the University decided to make
this unusual move.
Our president, Gordon Gee, has never been one to be conventional. And this shift
aligns with his philosophy of breaking down silos and doing what makes sense –
not what an org chart says we should do.
And it really does make sense.
Each team comes to the table with unique skill sets and expertise. The task that
lies ahead is maximizing those talents to create one amazing strategy in recruitment,
marketing and brand experience stretching across the WVU system. If we can orchestrate
a cohesive and progressive message for our students and parents that spans from
the first piece of mail they receive as a prospective student to the diploma they
receive at graduation – that will be a phenomenal feat in cross-campus collaboration.
We talked a lot at the retreat about this vision. We talked about how we will need to break down our internal silos to start working in what I call “organized chaos.” Though I wish I could outline a plan and methodically follow it from A to Z, the reality is the world of higher ed is fluid and fluctuating. So, we need to be nimble and flexible — and ready to change direction at a moment’s notice.
And as much as I would like to have all the answers, I reminded the team that I am not Mrs. Brady who can solve all problems in 30 minutes or less. We’re performing this sitcom live. But the great thing about performing in front of a live audience is that you are free to improv if the plot heads in a new direction.
And improv we will. Not only will it keep it interesting, but the opportunity to think on our feet allows us to develop new ideas and creative strategies that we wouldn’t if we were well-scripted.
By that afternoon, we had covered a lot of ground. We met new people, gained a foundation
of what each other does, set expectations and began to understand the long game.
And as we closed out the day reflecting on how our University values can influence
our new adventure, I believe we felt a renewed sense of purpose and possibility.
And as I hit “resume” on Spotify, George Michael’s “Faith” began to play. Serendipity, indeed.
Note: This is a monumental change for WVU – and for higher ed. In the coming months, we will chronicle this merger of University Relations and Enrollment Management. You’ll hear from me, as well as other members on our team, as we face the challenges and celebrate our successes. And I hope you follow along on this adventure – and maybe even pick up a few new songs for your playlist.