By Deb Regan, IEP Campus Coordinator
As universities look to increase the number of students studying abroad, it is essential to evaluate how we operate and implement new strategies to better serve our goals.
When you’ve worked in the same field for a long time, it’s easy to fall into the same old routines. Stay visible on your campus and attuned to to students and faculty needs by embracing change and opportunities to learn. Below are just a few insights and perspective after a year of new beginnings at one IEP campus:
Collect, evaluate and use data
While traditional fairs and long-standing programming may always have their place at your campus, there just may be new opportunities to try as well…or, instead! We often do things because ‘that’s what we’ve always done,’ but have you found a way to determine the effectiveness and energy put into your initiatives? With events, think of all the time spent planning and marketing. Are these events bringing in the number of students you hoped for? Are the students attending actually applying and participating in programs? Consistently tracking data helps you know that you’re putting your efforts in the right places. For example, from data we’ve collected at IEP campuses, we know that the vast majority of students learn about study abroad options from their professors, advisors, and other faculty members, rather than from fair or info sessions. Armed with this knowledge, you can consider spending more time promoting programs to your faculty. Prepare and distribute promotional material highlighting programs particularly good for their majors; participate in faculty training days or offer your own workshop series; timing is important so plan a special campaign right before advising weeks start!
Make technology your friend
If you’ve been around for a long time, you may be timid about using new technology. But there is so much out there, some for free or at minimal charge, to help make your life much easier, efficient and productive. You don’t have to have design skills to make professional looking posters. With some basic training, you can create attention-grabbing emails that will surely give you a better response rate. You can save time in the long-run by developing on-line webinars and videos to provide students with all kinds of study abroad information, conduct on-line group meetings such as pre-departure orientations, share documents in real time with other departments on campus…..and more!
Target first-year students
Data collected at our IEP campuses tells us that most students go abroad one and a half years after their initial contact with the study abroad office. Early outreach is essential, especially good for those majors who have a tight curriculum and may only be able to go abroad during a specific semester or with careful planning. In addition, participating in study abroad early in their college career allows them time to go again! With this in mind, think of how to best connect with first year students: participate in open houses and new student orientation; be sure your office is on the tour route for prospective students and their families visiting the campus; talk with advisors and faculty who typically work with first year students….and keep them on your mailing list; do class visits to first year required courses; prepare a flier or other promotional material specifically designed for them and connect with other offices such as Admissions and Housing to explore other possibilities on your campus!
Be open to learning from younger colleagues
In each of the areas above and more, be open to learning from those new to the field. It can be energizing to try out different ways of doing things. We each have something to teach the other. Some of us have years of experience and expertise that is of tremendous value. Others bring fresh, creative, innovative approaches and ideas to the table. When we’re open to learning from each other, we can find ourselves in a happy, productive, efficient and forward-looking office!