Jackie Weller is the recently hired director of enrollment management at Southeast Community College. In her position, Jackie is charged with identifying enrollment goals for the college that are aligned with SCC’s multiple missions, strategic plan, environment, and resources. Enrollment management, which seeks to maximize enrollment at the college while ensuring the college’s future viability, involves the college’s administrative processes, student services, curriculum planning, and market analysis. This is the first time SCC has had an enrollment management position, and Jackie knows that enrollment management is not just about recruitment; it is about retaining students and measuring student outcomes during all phases of the enrollment process. It’s an effort that requires constant review, evaluation, and problem solving, and Jackie is expected to influence others at the college in participating in advancing enrollment initiatives. Jackie has reviewed the college’s enrollment management processes and come to the conclusion that the admissions and financial aid offices, which have separate staffs, directors, and technology, need to be integrated. With the rising cost of college and growing student debt, admissions officers are finding that addressing the issue of cost of college for prospective and current students is paramount. They can’t do that without an understanding of financial aid options and processes. At the same time, the financial aid team is constantly challenged by an ever-changing system and the need to balance spending between merit- and need-based financial aid. Jackie sees integrating the two offices as an important step in improving service because it would make a “one-stop shop” concept for students who are enrolling. Students would only have to visit one office to wade through the information and paperwork they need in order to enroll at the college. Integrating the two offices has many layers: Not only will both teams need to be cross-trained on the operations of the other office; there will also be communication issues, co-sharing of office space, and the bringing together of two separate technology systems. In addition, many of the team members are designated “specialists” at the college, and Jackie knows that this new approach will be stretching the “specialist” role by asking team members to adopt more of a generalist role. Corey Doran, the director of admissions, is 100% on board, supportive of Jackie’s integration plan, but he can’t say that for all of his team members. His counterpart, Jenna Jackson, the director of financial aid, is very resistant to Jackie’s plan, and most of her staff are as well. Jenna is very concerned about maintaining the confidentiality levels of financial aid data that her office adheres to and says she doesn’t feel she could guarantee those same levels if the admissions staff were trained in the financial aid systems. Jenna has also made it clear to Jackie that she isn’t sure how financial aid fits into the bigger picture of enrollment management and why they would need to integrate with admissions staff. Jackie starts by providing articles on enrollment management to Corey and Jenna, including several that specifically outline the reasons and roles where financial aid and admissions offices work together. She also sent Jenna and Corey to the same national conference on enrollment management practices where they attended several days of workshops and programs. Both Jenna and Corey then separately attended conferences outside their disciplines: Corey attended a financial aid conference while Jenna spent a week at an admissions conference. When they returned, Jackie had Jenna and Corey conduct a joint brainstorming session with the admissions and financial aid staff to generate ideas for integrating the two offices. Jackie stayed out of the way, believing team members would have greater ownership of ideas they generated rather than those she would put forth. At one point, however, Jackie did speak up: She brought up the concerns about confidentiality, putting the issue front and center, asking team members to detail the pros and cons about the integration from this perspective. At the end of the brainstorming session, team members who were interested in cross-training signed up for a pilot project, where they would provide input on methods that worked for cross-training and improvements that could be made. At the same time, Jackie prioritized the list of ideas generated in the session. She began implementing the “quick wins,” such as having Jenna and Corey coauthor an email message about scholarships to prospective students and having the teams collaborate on developing financial aid publications for the parents of prospective students, before taking on the more complicated integration items. This process has taken several months, and despite all these efforts, Jenna and a few members of her team are still vocally resistant to the changes. Jackie hopes, as the process continues to evolve over time, they will become more comfortable with the new way their business is being done.
1. From a situational leadership perspective, describe where Jackie, Jenna, and Corey stand regarding integrating the two offices. What about the staff in the financial aid and admissions offices?
2. How would you describe Jackie’s leadership style in this situation?
3. How effectively or ineffectively did Jackie perform her diagnosis of the situation? How did this affect how she proceeded?