This is part one of a multi-part series on our Strategic Enrollment and Student Success Division and their important work to help our students thrive and graduate.
As part of the 2030 Strategic Planning effort, the CU Denver community came together to determine our university’s ambition: to make education work for all. But our work didn’t end there—we envisioned a future where a degree or credential could fit into the practical reality of a learner’s life, whenever, wherever. Around that time, CU Denver named Monique L. Snowden, PhD, as the first-ever Senior Vice Chancellor for Strategic Enrollment and Student Success, and, with the help of her team, she immediately began a robust, student-driven strategic enrollment management (SEM) planning process. The final report was shared with the campus community in February. In this article, you’ll learn more about what the plan calls for, what it means for the CU Denver community, and what’s ahead.
A New Role and Reimagined Division
In April 2021, Chancellor Michelle Marks announced the appointment of Snowden as the university’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Strategic Enrollment and Student Success. This new role was created to imagine, develop, and drive the optimal student experience from pre-enrollment through graduation. Reporting into the Provost, Snowden and her division play a critical role in bridging the gap between academic and administrative units while also providing leadership, structural oversight, strategic planning, and, perhaps most importantly, student care.
Snowden, a first-generation college student, earned an associate of arts degree before transferring to Texas A&M University, where she subsequently earned her bachelor of business administration in business analysis, a master’s of science in management information systems, and a PhD in organizational communication. She proudly proclaims and frames her educational and professional journey as a “transfer student success story,” an experience she shares with many CU Denver students. Today, she is an enrollment and student success strategist with 30 years of strong and varied experience attracting and supporting diverse student populations.
Building the Team
Under Snowden’s leadership, the Division of Strategic Enrollment and Student Success is coming together and evolving to enhance the experiences and support the educational outcomes of CU Denver students. The four main departments that comprise the division are: Academic Achievement, led by Associate Vice Chancellor Margaret C. Wood, PhD; Student Affairs, led by Associate Vice Chancellor Genia Herndon, EdD; International Affairs, led by Associate Vice Chancellor Alana Jones; and Enrollment Management, which will be led by an Associate Vice Chancellor currently being recruited. Each of the division departments consists of numerous dedicated professional staff and student employees who are integral to the success of our students and university.
“Strategic Enrollment and Student Success (SESS) is a division of Academic and Student Affairs. SESS staff collaborate with faculty, academic unit staff, and university leaders to more fully understand and value the diverse assets and experiences of each student—while also attending to their individualized needs,” Snowden said. “We aim to help CU Denver students reach their potential and achieve their personal, educational and professional goals. To that end, our strategic goal to be an equity-serving institution is a keystone to students’ success.”
Strategic Enrollment Management at CU Denver
Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) is a comprehensive process designed to help an institution achieve and maintain the optimum recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of students. As such, SEM is an institution-wide process that embraces virtually every aspect of an institution’s function and culture.
Read Snowden’s Op-Ed on Enrollment Management in The EvoLLLution
Snowden hosted and facilitated four SEM jam sessions from winter 2021 to summer 2022 to work with her team and campus community members on identifying the university’s current state, envision its future, and develop a holistic strategy to move forward. Using input from more than 70 faculty and staff, Snowden led the development of the university’s first-ever SEM plan, that reflects goals set forth in the 2030 Strategic Plan. The SEM plan outlines a framework and series of actions and priorities to recruit more students to CU Denver and build the infrastructure required to retain and facilitate those students’ graduation.
The university’s strategic plan served as a north star for the SEM planning effort, specifically the goals of being an equity-serving institution (goal 1) and a university for life (goal 2). The resulting plan focuses on increasing access to a high-quality education for more learners and improving student outcomes.
Six Strategic Priorities Will Guide Enrollment Work
Based on engagement in the SEM jam sessions and evidence-based higher education research and practices, six strategic actions and associated priorities were created to guide the university toward achieving its aspirational enrollment goals.
- Plan for enrollment growth and be intentional in our efforts. This includes taking a strategic approach to a university-wide academic planning effort. This work is underway and currently led by Beth Myers, PhD, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and Institutional Effectiveness.
- Meet students where they are, with the support and services that they need. This includes developing a hybrid campus model that ensures a consistent student experience that prioritizes equitable, personalized outcomes. This work will happen in partnership with the Division for Teaching Innovation and Program Strategy (TIPS), under the leadership of Katie Linder, PhD, Associate Vice Chancellor for Digital Strategy and Learning.
- Close unmet need gaps. Not only does lowering levels of unmet need experienced by students have a positive impact on persistence, retention, and completion rates; it is essential to our mission as an equity-serving institution. To advance these efforts, we are currently hiring an Assistant Vice Chancellor for Financial Aid and Scholarships and conducting a comprehensive financial aid study.
- Level up educational attainment. This includes increasing our standard of excellence and offering best-in-class, coordinated mentoring, advising, and coaching to provide enhanced wrap-around services that ultimately will reduce disparities between students. Efforts are currently underway to introduce new technologies that will better support students and their academic success.
- Value all learning. By awarding students the maximum number of allowable transfer credits and credit for prior learning, CU Denver will make the transfer seamless from the perspective of the student, providing more relevant and affordable pathways to degrees and careers, an enabling action outlined in the 2030 Strategic Plan.
- Prepare students for a new era of work and upskilling. By offering culturally relevant curricula and providing a delivery of flexible and equitable education offerings, CU Denver will be poised to serve a diverse set of learners, regardless of where they are in their academic and professional journey.
SEM Plan in Action: Investing in Tech Tools to Support Student Success Efforts
Several technology initiatives, and related organizational improvements, are currently underway to begin to address the above strategic priorities. Four focal points include:
- Student Success Analytics and Insights technology: Developing a strong analytical culture to support and advance student success.
- Integrated Advising and Insight technology: Connecting institutional analytics with student-level advising data to inform and enhance personalized support.
- Chatbot technology: Building connections, increasing engagement, gaining insight, and driving actions that result in student support and service excellence.
- Financial Aid Leveraging technology: Identifying and optimizing student financial need in relation to federal, state, and institutional aid to meet strategic enrollment and student success goals.
These are just a few of the ways that the SESS division is evolving and investing in leading-edge, evidence-based practices and tools to support the success of our students. In March, there will be opportunities for the broader campus community to learn more about and engage in strategic enrollment management efforts.