By Branden LaCroix
FSU administrators presented updates on the University’s new enrollment strategies and its rebranding project during the All University Meeting Feb. 15.
The meeting was held over Zoom and provided information on undergraduate and graduate enrollment trends, the University’s new branding and changes to its logo, and its partnership with Primacy.
President Nancy Niemi said the purpose of the meeting was to keep the FSU community informed concerning the progress being made in the University’s rebranding and enrollment initiatives.
“We are thankful to everybody who has put the time into these massive efforts,” she said.
Michael Merriam, assistant dean of Graduate Admissions and director of Graduate and Continuing Education Recruitment, provided statistics regarding graduate, undergraduate, and certificate program enrollment.
Merriam said he was “pleased” to report the spring 2023 cohort for graduate programs remained “flat compared to previous years,” noting a “decent” increase from the Spring 2021 Semester.
Merriam also provided an update for the number of students enrolled in the 4+1 master’s program.
He said there were just under 30 applicants to the program in 2022 with 20 students enrolled in the fall. He said he expects 13 more students will enroll in the program by summer 2023.
Merriam said there is a new master’s in science with a concentration in organizational leadership, which is available to all majors.
“This program really helps students gain skills in almost every single type of industry, but really focuses on their management and their leadership style,” he said.
Merriam said the graduate program is heavily involved in the University’s “strategic planning process” to increase enrollment. He added he is “appreciative” of Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL), the organization aiding FSU’s enrollment strategies, for its work with the University.
“It really takes a group effort to really step back and kind of focus in on what we have done in the past and what we really want to do in the future,” he said.
Merriam said the University received a “substantial” grant for the counseling psychology program.
According to a news article on FSU’s website, the University partnered with Accelerate the Future and received $1.39 million from the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services to “diversify and expand the state's pipeline of behavioral health specialists.”
Accelerate the Future is “a private family foundation supporting organizations that improve the livelihoods of children through STEM, child and adolescent mental health, and pediatric cancer research initiatives,” according to the organization’s website.
Merriam said the grant will help students who earn a master’s in counseling psychology to become licensed counselors.
He said he is looking to increase the number of incoming students seeking degrees in counseling psychology from 60 this year, to approximately 300 by 2025.
Merriam added his department signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the organization Wellness Workdays, which provides workplace-wellness programs to corporations and other organizations as well as offers dietetic internships.
He explained by January 2024, registered dieticians will need to have attained a master’s degree. He said the partnership with Wellness Workdays will help students enrolled in the nutrition master’s program by providing them with internship opportunities.
Shayna Eddy, associate dean of Admissions and director of Undergraduate Admissions, provided an update on the number of first-year students applying to the University.
Overall, the total number of applications has declined this year compared to the previous two years.
However, she said there was a 12% increase between the weeks of Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 of this year compared to the same timeframe from last year.
“We're moving students very quickly through our funnel. So, we have been able to complete our applications at a much higher rate in previous years,” she said.
She added with fewer overall applications, her department is able to “reach out” and “have more meaningful conversations” with students who have been accepted to the University.
“We're going to be working on our accepted students, encouraging them to deposit, [and] inviting them back to campus,” she said.
Eddy also said next week is February vacation for high school students, and many prospective students will visit campus.
“You may see a lot of extra activity on our campus next week. So, if you do see students walking around with some white folders and a lanyard around them, please stop and say, ‘Hello,’ because they are most likely either accepted or prospective students,” she said.
Eddy added there is a new website that was created for accepted students. The website provides information about financial aid, as well as links to apply to scholarships, to pay the deposit, and to register for student reception events. The website also includes information on various services available on campus.
Students can access the site at www.framingham.edu/accepted.
Eddy said one of the “biggest accomplishments” this year was “rendering our decisions earlier.” She explained during previous years, the University would hold acceptance letters until Dec. 15, but this academic year, began sending them out in early November.
She said Undergraduate Admissions already sent out over 1,000 letters by the end of January, adding that in previous years, they would just be beginning to mail them.
She added since the department is rendering decisions earlier, the Financial Aid Office is able to send out financial aid packages earlier as well.
“In the world of admissions, this was really early on for a lot of students,” she said.
Eddy said the two open house events during the fall semester were also successful. She said approximately 289 students attended the events, with a total of 600 visitors between the two days.
She said Undergraduate Admissions is also focusing on reaching out to parents. Fourteen days after a candidate is accepted, an email is sent to the parents providing more information about the University.
She added the University also holds Zoom sessions with different departments and services on campus for parents.
“It really is a family decision,” she said. “So we want to make sure that the parents are fully aware of the opportunities that we're providing their students.”
The Accepted Student Receptions will take place March 25 and April 1.
Averil Capers, director of Marketing, provided an update on the University’s partnership with Primacy, an independent marketing agency, and FSU’s rebranding project.
Capers said Primacy representatives visited campus last year and met with staff, faculty, and students to gauge what the goals and priorities of the rebranding should be. She added a survey was also emailed to the FSU community and “external audiences” to “gather additional input on a variety of subjects.”
With the information the representatives gathered, Capers said they created test concepts for FSU’s new brand and website redesign. Niemi emailed a survey Jan. 25 asking for feedback on the new concepts.
The two brand concepts presented are “Proudly Public, Personally Transformative,” and “We the Future.”
After gathering more information, the next steps will be to revise the concepts before they are sent for approval by FSU administrators.
Capers said, “This project is so important to our efforts to increase enrollment and enhance Framingham State's position as a public university serving a public good.”
She said the extensive project is necessary for the University to “stand out” and be distinct.
She said one of the strategies for the rebranding is to “have the flexibility to speak to all audiences” while still maintaining a cohesive look that is represented “across all platforms.” The rebranding also includes a new FSU logo.
“We envision that the new brand platform is really going to foster a renewed sense of pride and excitement among the campus community [and] outside of the community, and also assist with overall enrollment efforts,” she said.
Kristen Porter-Utley, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, provided an update on FSU’s strategic enrollment planning process.
She said there are currently over 34 staff and faculty working with consultants from RNL on four separate “working groups” for the enrollment planning process. The four groups are the Academic Program Portfolio Group, which Porter-Utley chairs, the Student Success Group, the Fiscal and Financial Aid Group, and the Admissions Marketing and Recruitment Group.
She added there is also a steering committee consisting of the chairs of the four groups and other “essential supporting staff,” and said Niemi and her staff are also “deeply immersed and engaged” in the process.
Porter-Utley said, “With each meeting, which there are a lot, I walk away inspired by the people I have the pleasure of working with and the ideas which are bubbling up during our conversations.”
She said the four groups met Dec. 13 and 14 to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in their respective areas.
“We are taking these analyses and gathering additional data from our consultants and our data team here at Framingham State, which consists of a lot of people, but includes institutional research, enrollment management, the registrar, our admissions office, and we are currently drafting our situation analyses,” she said.
She added her group is examining FSU’s current academic programs, ways to develop new programs, and the “current state” of general education programs, among other topics.
Porter-Utley said the four groups will finalize their “situation analyses” by the end of March.
“We will do our best in our different areas to keep our community informed of what we're doing with our work,” she said.
She added that anyone with questions or suggestions about the Academic Program Portfolio Group should contact her directly.
Questions and suggestions concerning the Student Success Group should be directed to Lorretta Holloway, vice president of Academic Enhancement. For the Fiscal and Financial Aid Group, Dale Hamel, executive vice president, is the point of contact. And for Admissions Marketing and Recruitment Group, either Eddy or Merriam should be contacted.