Communal Wisdom and our Community of Colleagues

By Orna Siegel posted 12-17-2019 10:32


Communal Wisdom and our Community of Colleagues

In the very crowded marketplace of independent school education, enrollment managers and admission professionals must engage with a community of learners to be successful. In my work, I find that I am called on to be an expert and prognosticator in domains ranging from the future of education to the facts and meaning behind shifting current and future demographics, price elasticity, volunteer management, competitive market analyses, issues of diversity and inclusion, sophisticated marketing and communications plans, and more often than not family therapy. As Yuval Noah Harari states in his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, “If you are left with the nagging feeling that this is too much, that you cannot process it all, you are absolutely right. No person can.” (p. 223) Oddly, he wasn’t referring to the field of Enrollment Management, but he could have been. 

As the world at large has become increasingly complex, so too has the field of independent school enrollment management. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot meet the challenge. “Just as it takes a tribe to raise a child, it also takes a tribe to invent a tool, solve a conflict, or cure a disease...What gave Homo sapiens an edge over all other animals and turned us into the masters of the planet was not our individual rationality but our unparalleled ability to think together in large groups.” (p. 224) By accessing our Enrollment Management “tribe” we are able to overcome many of the limitations as individuals to collaboratively approach the challenges before us. 

We can learn more, grow faster, and bring our work to the next level when we ask our tribe everyday questions like: 

  • How can I effectively state the value proposition for my school? 
  • What will happen to my applicant pool if we raise tuition by 5%?
  • What is the best method for setting reasonable (yet aspirational) enrollment goals for the next five years?  

and even bigger picture questions like, 

  • What is the future of independent school education as we encounter continuing stagnant incomes among the majority of Americans, a shrinking international pool, and stronger incursions into the market by charter and for-profit schools? 

I regularly call on colleagues from across North America and members of my AISAP cohort group to help me think through the interesting and diverse challenges of our work. As each of us faces the pressing questions and challenges in our own schools, I hope that we will continue to grow our communal wisdom by talking with each other and thinking through challenges together.