“Distinctiveness” with Dr. Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs of University of Wisconsin Stout

Pam Holsinger-Fuchs

Pam Holsinger-Fuchs

Student Paths Q & A for Enrollment Professionals
by University of Wisconsin-Stout’s Dr. Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs

Q: What tips do you have for others in enrollment management to identify and communicate their distinctions?

A: We did an exercise with our staff that went like this:

If UW-Stout was a car, a store, or a brand what would it be and why? We were all pretty consistent in what we said. It is then up to us to figure out how to share what makes UW-Stout different from another campus.  My advice, don’t assume people know what your campus is about.

Q: How do you convey those distinctions to prospective students?

A: We share Stout Stories of research or contests that our students have won to show them how we apply what students are learning. When the students meet with the Program Directors they share these success stories that have led to our outstanding 98 percent placement rate for our graduates.

Q: How has clearly communicating distinctions helped recruit and retain students? 

A: 95 percent of every college is really similar but it is the 5 percent that makes a campus unique that needs to be highlighted. We also have textbook and laptop rental that is included in the cost of our tuition and talking about these differences helps set us apart, which helps in recruiting.  Because we provide a level playing field for all students and provide other services such as free tutoring and a dedicated advising center this supports retention.

Q: How are the institutional distinctions conveyed to prospective parents? Is there separate messaging and a separate process?

A: Parents are increasingly playing a bigger role in decisions as they relate to college choice for students. We intentionally send postcards about some of our information knowing that Mom and Dad, or a legal guardian, can then read the messaging as well. We also have a four-year and a three-year contract (for 3 programs) that guarantees students can graduate in those timeframes and that is really more of interest to parents than it has been to students. We also do have a parent enewsletter that we send out monthly.

Q: How have you and the enrollment management team worked with others in the institution to clearly convey the distinctions in an integrated way? 

A: We work with our marketing department to make sure that we continually stress our 98 percent placement rates and some of our other messages, such as being the most transfer-friendly school in the UW system. We partner with all of the Deans to have an academic presence on our Stout Saturday events. For the National College Fair, we invite a number of our program directors and the Director of our Honors program. We work very closely with our Athletic Department and have one of our admissions counselors serve as a liaison to the department.  We recently started partnering with our Dining Services and they now provide a free lunch when a prospective student visits campus. These are just a few examples

Q: And why is integration so important? 

A: We need to continually reinforce our messages and all of us need to be on the same page in doing this.

Q: How do you make sure the promises made to students during the recruitment process are kept?

A: We constantly evaluate our policies and programs to be sure that we are meeting the needs of students. We are very data driven and evaluate everything to be sure that we are meeting the needs of students. We don’t say something unless we can provide it. If we cannot do something we are honest about it and do not oversell ourselves.

Q: Why is it so important for institutions to clearly convey their distinctiveness today? 

A: The competition continues to be fierce not only between traditional schools but also with the increase growth of for-profit educational units. Why should someone chose xxx school rather than yyy school?  If there isn’t something that captures students attention you will lose them.

Q: You’ve worked in student affairs in the past, how has that helped you in the admission area?

A: I understand how all of the pieces are interconnected. So, for example, we have an event called Stout Saturday where we bring in several hundred high school students and their parents on a Saturday morning. Well, what are college students doing on Saturday mornings?  SLEEPING! So the campus was not very lively.

Having worked in student affairs, I suggested approaching Residential Life and Student Activities to see if they would be willing to schedule some of their events on these Saturday mornings. Since, we have had a drumming workshop going on as parents and students entered the dining room and the wonderful smell of bacon and pancakes wafted through the air as the Residence Life staff held a Cartoon Breakfast in the hall where we were showcasing a room.

These are just small examples of collaboration among units that have helped to make a difference. Larger issues, in terms of financial aid leveraging and working with transfer credits, have also proven to be effective.

Q: You have a Ph.D., how has that helped you in enrollment management leadership and/or higher education leadership?

A: To work in higher education and have the respect of the faculty and knowledge base of research having my Ph.D. has been critical. I personally loved my program and feel it gave me a strong foundation to be successful.

Dr. Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs is Executive Director of Enrollment Services at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. UW-Stout is one of about 125 polytechnic universities in the country. Holsinger-Fuchs long-time career in higher education has centered on students. She had worked in recruitment and retention as well as student services at universities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.

Student Paths Q & A is a monthly column geared toward enrollment management professionals in higher education. Student Paths helps prepare high school students for their future through college, career, and life- readiness materials.

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