Gardens, Growth, and Summer Melt

In addition to the projects like #EMchat, leadpath, and you know, being a new dad, I’ve taken on a new project this summer: turning my patio into a patio farm. I’m about as extroverted as a person can be, but even I need to kick back and take some personal time for 30 minutes each day. My favorite time to do this is at dusk with a good summer brew.

I started my vegetable garden because I’m a vegetable fanatic. Mostly, I’m a food fanatic. But vegetables take the number two spot on my list (crabs win, hands down). My Poppop was a farmer. He grew wheat, soybeans, and corn. And while that filled up a few hundred acres, some of my earliest memories were walking with him in his garden, picking fresh vegetables and fruits to take back to my Gram who would clean, cut, cook, and serve them.

There’s an obvious sense of pride that comes from watching something grow; something that comes from an idea, has to be cultivated, tended to, and refined. I think about this when I’m out there each night watering and caring for the plants. And while I’m there checking on the number of cucumbers growing (something I’m a little obsessive over) or noticing a new tomato that seemingly grew during the day when I wasn’t home, I’m also drawing parallels to all aspects of my life.


I like to think of my life in a perpetual stage of growth, as I’m sure most people do. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve. There are always things to learn and people to meet. And when it comes to people, I’m a cultivator of relationships.

That’s the business of enrollment management.

When I found myself using my garden as a metaphor for higher education, I thought two things: 1) this is really cliché, and 2) I’m supposed to be unplugged and focusing on training the snap peas. But then I just let the thoughts happen. I’m glad I did.

I don’t want a garden that only has squash. I don’t want one type of tomato. I want vegetables that require space. I also want those that can be grown in close quarters. I want the challenge of using support apparatuses (specifically chose not to use the word cage, here J), or figuring out how the plants can make use of the space already available. I don’t want my garden to self-maintain. I want to prune and pluck and refine. I want the challenge of helping my garden to thrive while allowing it to nourish my hunger, both physical and mental.

All of the parallels are there for building a class of students that will not only show up in August, but succeed on your campuses. Melt is an inevitable fact of the summer months and now isn’t the time to stop cultivating the soil. Focus on the foundation of the relationships you’ve built over the last few months and keep them going. My summer garden will end in early October. Yours has about four years to go.

And if you’re looking for some tips on how to combat summer melt, there’s always this.

#EMchat Celebrates 100!

On Thursday, March 6, 2014, we’re going to be holding our 100th #EMchat session. That boggles my mind. It’s true that if you look at our calendar, it looks like this chat will be our 97th. But, it’s not. In the early days of creating transcripts for our chats, I (Alex) messed up a few times and never got them documented, and as Tim Dunning will happily comment…I then messed up the numbering.

No fear. We’re not rushing things by a few weeks.

This is the real deal.Centenarian birthday candles spell out '100'

100 hours of enrollment management chats. If we did that straight through starting today (Wednesday) at 3PM, we’d finish at 7PM on Sunday. No sleep. Probably lots of good drinks. Epic professional development.

I don’t think that we could have ever imagined that a six letter hashtag would create such a phenomenal community. So, thanks.

In honor of our [hour] chat centennial, share your favorite past chats and topics with us. Share the connections you’ve forged through this community. Share your thoughts on #EMchat as professional development. Share whatever you want.

I’m sharing my thanks.

And this:

Favorite Past Chat: We’ve had a few chats on social media and it’s definitely one of my favorite topics. I liked this one the best because when looked at in comparison with past chats, it’s great to see how the industry has advanced over the last two years. #EMchat 89: Social Media

Connections Formed: Well, this number just keeps growing. I’m so thankful to have been able to make the connections I have over the last 100 chats both online and in real life. In addition, many of the connections I’ve formed here have been integral in pushing me back into the industry (as I’m currently in the job hunt) and have provided their connections to me for guidance and leads. As far as a personal project I’m working on, #EMchat provides a pretty solid (not to mention super smart) group of people to ping my ideas off of as the product is built.

Professional Development: Who would have known that a Twitter chat could transform into a fantastic, free professional development tool? But it has. I learn something new multiple times a day. Questions, resources, companies, trends. You name it and you can find it in the #EMchat feed. I look forward to blog posts from our contributors who drop serious knowledge. And, I’m proud to be a part of this community.

Additional Share: I’m glad that you all now know how much I absolutely love Dogfish beers. That really means a lot to me.

In seriousness, thanks a million and here’s to another 100!

Come celebrate with us on Thursday at 9PM EST!


Updated Calendar!

Well, we started with building out a Fall Calendar...but we decided that it would be more fun to take you into Spring! Check it out! As you look through the topics, you'll notice that our descriptions are less detailed than previous calendars--this is intentional. We've noticed that past topics like, "Minimizing EM Turnover," while great chats, can really limit the conversation. So, we've tried to keep the topics more open (with the exception of a few, we'll admit) to keep the conversations more fluid. With regard to fluidity, this calendar is flexible. Depending on hot topics, relevant news, or guest reschedules, we may move things around a bit here and there...we know you'll understand.

If you see any topics that jump out at you as an area you have expertise or specific interest in, please feel free to contact us. We build the questions for each chat a day or two in advance and always love input and resources. Additionally, we'd love to have you on as our resident expert.

If this list makes you think about a particular topic in detail, shoot us an email and we'll get you up and running on the blog as one of the #EMchat contributors.

If we've missed your topic, we apologize and we'll get it on the calendar as soon as you let us know! We were filtering through hundreds of favorited #EMchat tweets and very likely skipped a few.

You'll also see a nice Wednesday event on January 29th. The Carnegie Communications Conference kicks off on January 30th at Walt Disney World. If you're attending, make sure to hit up the pre-conference social on the 29th. We couldn't be happier to have been asked to co-host such an awesome event. If you or anyone in your office is on the fence about going, jump on over and hop on a plane--you won't be disappointed!

Some things to look forward to this Fall/Winter:

  • A revamped website
  • Webinar as we experiment with our #EMchat UnConference (topic in the works!)
  • Oh, and Alex's baby. He should be here on Dec 5, a Thursday, appropriately.


Your #EMchat Team

Building a First Generation College Student Friendly Campus

Yolanda Norman - @FirstGenCollege  

Hello #EMchat Family!

Reasearch, research, research....that's pretty much my life right now and I'm loving every moment of it. Recently I was asked what recommendations I have for making a campus First Generation College Student friendly. I have tons of recommendations, but to make sure you don't spend hours reading all of the research I've done, let me try to sum it up for you.

  • Define It: Your campus has to have a clear definition of the term "first generation college student". There are a number of different definitions out there and your campus has to decide on one so that you know exactly who you are trying to help. My campus decided to go with the definition used by the U.S. Department of Education as mentioned in the TRIO grant program. We define #firstgen students as any student whose parents don't have a bachelor's degree.
  • Spread the Word, and the Love too:  Once you define it, share it with the campus...especially the first generation college students. This very important act allows a sense of belonging among so many firstgen and creates a sense of ownership for them. Each office on your campus can get in on spreading the word and moving this group from  "invisible" to "visible"!
  • Involve The Family: In a post I wrote last year, I talked about our efforts with families of firstgen and the important of making sure the student feels supported by those that are closest to them. From the beginning of admitting the student, to orientation, to choosing a major, and preparing for graduation, involving the families of this group of students is a must!
  • No Networking: Instead of the idea of teaching our students to network, some of my students "hate" that very word and feel like it's a fake way of getting something out of someone else. Teach them to "connect" instead. Those personal connections with other students (firstgen and non-firstgen alike), faculty, and staff helps with persistence. Remember, we are trying to counteract the "imposter syndrome" and remind these students that they deserve to be on campus and connecting with the university community is an important part.
  • Assessment: If you want to know if your efforts are working you have to assess it and put some quantifiable numbers on paper. Working with my Institutional Assessment office has been the greatest opportunity ever. These people are geniuses at what they do and the amount of information they can compare and help you think about is incredible. Tracking the progress of firstgens on your campus will help us all out as we look to fully support this growing population of students.

That's it! That's a pretty quick summary (I hope) of some things you can do to get started. If you are interested in learning more, follow me on Twitter (@firstgencollege) and let me know how I can be of service to your campus.

#EMchat: One Year In

About a year ago I posed a random question via tweet asking if any chats existed specifically for enrollment management. Less than ten minutes later, I had a response from Jennielle. “Nope. Let’s start one.” And so, #EMchat was born on October 5th (a Wednesday…prior to figuring out our best day), just a few weeks later. If you had asked me where I saw the chat going in one year, I don’t think I could have fathomed the expansion to a blog, 1,000+ reads on specific topics, or the people I’ve met online and IRL as a result…I’m glad those people like to happy hour. I’m also amazed that I have yet to actually meet Jennielle or Jillian.

I’m reminded every day of the vibrancy of this community. We’ve grown from an hour worth of tweets on Thursday evenings to a community of perpetual engagers, content distributors, resource sharers, and relationship builders. We are a community. I (we) have each and every one of you to thank for that.

I’m also reminded each day of the purpose of #EMchat. We’re here to discuss best practices, trends, new ideas, and opinions.  But here’s the thing. Are there really best practices? Are trends really going to catch on? Are all ideas great? And, are all opinions right? No. This is the purpose of #EMchat. It’s an open forum to share. It’s also what makes our community strong. You can be a newly-minted admissions counselor or a VP of EM. You could be a vendor or, heck…a government contractor for the Senate. No matter what, your opinions are not only considered, but valued.

We have had some amazing guests on our chat over the last year. Higher ed pros, vendors, and consultants define this community. We’re not here to sell a product and we don’t report to anyone. This is one of my favorite aspects of this chat—the growth has been completely organic because it could be. We’re not a business and so we don’t have competitors. We collaborate not only because we can, but because we want to. We work with experts to develop chat questions and resources because we’re not experts ourselves. And, we don’t claim to be.

When we began #EMchat, we made one simple rule: never make this community feel like work. Thank you for making that possible. Cheers to 348 days, 42 chats, 12 blog contributors, one great team, one phenomenal hashtag, innumerable tips, tricks, and ideas, words of advice and kind words of encouragement.

Looking forward to bigger things in year two. What would YOU like to see?


And, if you'll be at NACAC in October, be sure to look up @jhiscock. She's putting together a tweetup--Details coming!