Sustaining Resilience

The NACAC Conference 2022 begins this week, and the theme is Resilience. It is definitely a relevant theme today for the people working in student recruitment and college admission counseling. As NACAC notes on its website, “It is an intense time in college admission counseling. Our experiences have shown us how we—individually and collectively—can persevere through anything. Our resilience allows us to emerge stronger through each challenge so we can take our work to the next level.” Angel Perez, NACAC CEO, notes how important it is now to “leverage our resilience and shape our future.” He also notes that there are often “forces beyond our control” during these intense times, so the situation reinforces why we must create solutions, adapt, pivot, and evolve. And, be resilient.

These messages though are not alone on an island.

Anne F. Harris, president of Grinnell College, recently wrote an article in AGB’s September-October Trusteeship magazine titled, “Building and Rebuilding Terra Firma.” She notes, “As our campuses herald the return to community of a new academic year, we face the welcome process of reuniting and beginning again, and the expected evolution of change and disruption. The extended liminality of pre- and post-pandemic experience is now layered on the sustained upheaval in higher education in which the demise of residential college programs and the liberal arts institution has been identified in the perfect storms of demographic shifts, pre- and post-pandemic changes in attitudes, and widespread suspicion of higher education.” She then adds, “And yet, here we are. Ready for another academic year, ready to evaluate and anticipate the continuity and the change needed to keep our institutions vibrant and viable. As college and university presidents and leaders, we must build and rebuild the terra firma on which our institutions stand and thrive.” President Harris was not alone in the same issue of Trusteeship. “Today’s College Students: What Boards Need to Know” was written by Lisa Foss, and she notes, “There are three meta trends in who today’s undergraduate students are that will significantly impact college enrollment patterns and future business models.” The three trends she cites are the fact that the traditional undergraduate market is shrinking; the undergraduate student market is becoming more diverse; and the undergraduate student market is becoming more segmented.

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Needless to say, continued resilience is a necessity today. We have often used the phrase edupreneurism to capture the essence of thinking and doing things in an entrepreneurial manner that are particularly relevant to existing marketplace conditions. Colleges and universities must accurately assess the reality of the marketplace and provide innovative solutions that enhance their appeal and inspire people to consider and select their institution. Of course, another important planning consideration is that the new ideas and solutions are the result of the campus community coming together to discuss, discern, and decide what to do. Finally, when things have been decided about what to do to sustain institutional resilience, colleges and universities must demonstrate why each of them is a worthwhile investment and most importantly, a great value. As we all know today, a variable that is influencing resilience is “walking the talk” with real proof and evidence of positive results that reinforce the ability to get a job, join the group of alumni who have consistently achieved success and are a great network, and achieve many lifetime positive benefits after being a part of the campus community.