|The COCE senior leadership team (from left to right, back to front): Dr. Gregory Fowler, Noreen Bausewein, Cindy Migliori, Darryl Jelley, Scott Durand, David Eby, Steve Hodownes, Amelia Manning and Steve Khederian|
During the past year, we have received a great deal of feedback from our instructors, students, alumni and Millyard staff with respect to increasing communications. As a result, I would like to welcome you to our first edition of Insights, COCE’s new magazine, which enables us to better communicate advances and news within our organization.
2013 has been a great year, marked by many new, exciting student- and academic-driven initiatives and tremendous growth. We are the fastest-growing college in America, with more than 600 full-time staff and 34,000 students. Our success has been driven by an incredibly talented leadership team (see photo). COCE leadership has worked tirelessly with its teams to not only build world-class functional organizations but, perhaps more importantly, to build an entity that operates as a cohesive unit aimed at providing an unmatched student experience. The culture that we have built is the backbone of our mission and the driving force behind our unwavering commitment to students and their success.
In pursuit of our mission, we have launched countless initiatives over the past four years aimed at helping our students succeed. While many have significantly impacted our students and our success, I would like to share with you the three elements that have been the most transformative:
Student Success Framework
We utilize a unique team-based, proactive approach consisting of student advisors, instructors and technology. This is integrated into a cohesive process aimed at providing support where and when the student needs it.
In many organizations, advising is handled by faculty or dedicated staff focused on scheduling and advising students on the correct courses and handling student issues and complaints. Our advisors, often called Sherpas, certainly partake in the above-mentioned tasks, but go much deeper, striving to build highly valued relationships with our students. These relationships are enabled through the usage of data and technology, which proactively identify potential issues and opportunities. When these events do arise, our advisors work hand-in-hand with the students and other departments to help students reach their goals and be successful.
Instructors are the other critical component responsible for driving student success and learning. This, perhaps, is the most important. We require our faculty to be very proactive and reach out to our students, particularly early in the term and early in a student’s academic career. While our instructors are evaluators in the traditional sense, they also take great pride in being a support resource for our students. We can all remember teachers who had a positive impact on our lives. Our goal is to create these types of interactions in every class, with every student.
The advising and instructor roles in isolation are not unique by any stretch. What is unique is how these parties work in unison. In many cases, our faculty and advisors work jointly to support students in reaching their goals and working through challenges. We pride ourselves on having no organizational barriers, just a team focused on one goal — student success.
We have had great success taking the collaborative human elements of advisors and instructors one step farther. We have armed them with digital resources, customized learning platforms and real-time student data. We believe this integrated framework provides tremendous value to our students. Some critics may argue nothing here is new, no ingredient is unique, which is true. However, our students believe the “recipe” or integrated delivery of these elements is indeed unique and is highly valued.
Data and Analytics
The second critical growth element and the foundation of most tactical, day-to-day and strategic decisions is the organization’s usage of data and its importance in everything that we do. We view data and the knowledge extracted from it to be the fuel of the organization. As David Kerns, former CEO of Xerox, once stated, “If you are not measuring, you are just practicing.” We certainly subscribe to that principle; if it moves and impacts students, we measure it. Measurement provides so many quantitative benefits that are easy to understand. One benefit that falls outside the quantitative realm is the role measurement plays in driving an individual’s confidence. I strongly believe that nothing is more motivating to an individual, a team or a student than knowing you are getting better. It is at the core of human nature. Most people are in constant pursuit of becoming better in some way. For us in COCE, measurement tells how we are performing as an organization, as a unit and at the individual level. It drives our daily action.
It also enables an organization to raise its IQ and become more knowledgeable about itself and its customers, which is critical to growth. Data is a great common denominator, enabling an organization to speak a common language across different disciplines, which is so critical when implementing initiatives across organizational boundaries.
The importance of data is undeniable, and we in COCE have made significant investments in this area. While other schools may have a data team buried in an obscure department of a specific college unit, at SNHU it is not. We have more than a dozen talented people dedicated to measuring, analyzing and providing key insights to drive our business. We utilize data at every point in the student lifecycle, ensuring they complete the admissions process smoothly, overseeing their progress in the first week of class, monitoring participation, measuring staff performance and proactively identifying struggling students. We have a culture built and driven by measurement.
With our admission counselors, our processing teams, our instructors, our advisors and our academic team, we have a culture built and driven by measurement.
The third element in our success has been the positioning of the brand. Prior to this year we have positioned the brand along price, program breadth and being a nonprofit, which has served us well. However, when you look at the marketplace and the many new entrants, these value elements have the potential to fade into the noise and become lost. While a very competitive price will always be part of our value proposition, we decided to stake our future on what has always been part of our mission, our DNA, and that is our unwavering commitment and focus on students. I listen to our reps, our faculty and our admission counselors and read the continuous stream of positive social posts, and this outward positioning is simply reflective of what we do every day. In essence, it is only logical that our outward positioning reflect what our students and staff already know; COCE is about student success and our commitment to support students.
In support of this positioning, we made a decision to launch our new campaign, See Yourself Succeed. In the spirit of our entrepreneurial culture, we took a chance with a unique concept without scripts and actors, capturing our brand through the eyes of our students, alumni and faculty. What emanated from that campaign was simply astounding on so many fronts (see the cover story of this issue to learn more). In all my years leading service-based organizations, I have never been part of anything like this.
Our Millyard Creative team did an incredible job capturing who we are and how we do it. In my opinion, this is the best campaign we have ever delivered. Why? Because it illustrates who we are and what separates us through our students’ eyes. One very pleasant surprise was how COCE reacted to the campaign. I was surprised by the interest level internally and more so by the pride of the people who interact with students every day. For the first time, they had a chance to see on video or in person the impact they were having on students’ lives. Phone conversations and email are great ways to interact, but you cannot replicate the emotional connection in person. The event, in many ways, helped galvanize the organization and jump-started our external positioning. Your brand is what you do every day, during every interaction with the customer.
As we look ahead, the market is becoming more competitive and crowded, and our job will clearly become more challenging. But I feel the best years still lie ahead. My confidence is based on our talented and committed team, the focus we have on making a difference for our students and the unique culture we have built. The best is yet to come.