Texas Tech’s Jamie Hansard discusses the evolution of the recruitment process.
Noted author and publisher Robert Collier once said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
It's those small, repeated efforts along with a willingness to adapt, which have led to significant recruiting, scholarship and enrollment gains for Texas Tech University. These accomplishments stem from an ever-evolving recruitment process for Vice President for Enrollment Management Jamie Hansard and her team.
In September, Texas Tech announced a record first-year enrollment of 6,854 students. The university's Hispanic enrollment has doubled in the last decade as well as Black and African-American enrollment increasing by 50%.
The number of first-generation students has doubled in a 10-year time span, and 23% of this year's first-year students finished in the top 10% of their high school class.
The number of new Presidential Merit Scholars enrolled this fall has grown to more than 4,400, and the number of National Merit Finalists has jumped from 7 to 97 in the last six years.
We sat down with Hansard to talk about the recruiting process and the evolution it has undergone to put Texas Tech in a strong position for continued success.
Shifting the Focus
With more than a decade of recruitment at Texas Tech under your belt, what has changed in your approach to recruiting?
As we began to focus on enrollment growth and goals as an institution, we needed to be very critical and strategic with our efforts considering our limited resources at the time. The process we utilize is one we continue to evaluate each recruiting cycle. This includes everything from the recruitment events to how we communicate our message to prospective students and their families.
One of the first things we did was to look at where our students come from historically and where we had a staff presence. It was important we placed our teams in a position where they were accessible and seen as members of the community, not just a recruiter who just visits the schools. They attend local events and are always ready to talk about the opportunities students have at Texas Tech.
We've also reimagined our regional centers, which now include classrooms with updated equipment and spaces. Families have the opportunity to meet privately with an admissions counselor or an academic adviser. Most importantly, our centers are in retail environments where the Double T is visible and the space is accessible. It's proven to be very successful!
We know students are thinking about college prior to their junior or senior year, so we implemented a communication plan to high school sophomores introducing our brand much sooner than our competition. This approach is unusual for a school our size, but we want to be at the forefront which is why we continue this strategy.
We also changed how we conduct recruitment events. The days of one-size-fits-all events are no longer best practice. Understanding our potential students expect a personalized experience, we've created a more targeted interaction. We still host large events such as Texas Tech Preview, because we have students who want this experience; however, hosting smaller events has been very beneficial.
Another key touchpoint for us is to bring the Texas Tech experience directly to potential students. We can more easily expose them to what we have to offer as it is not always easy to get to Lubbock. It's important we show them how serious we are and how important they are to us. We took groups from Texas Tech, including administrators, academic folks, student life, admissions and financial aid. By creating an immersive experience at events, students get excited about coming to campus to see for themselves. I think it really changed our recruitment practice.
Finally, we've worked with the President's Office to ensure each academic college is at the forefront of our recruitment, practice and participation. When students and families come for a campus visit, they have the option to attend an academic information session of their choice. These sessions are hosted in the academic college by students, faculty and staff in that college. Once again, this is not typical at universities of our size.
When you attend an admitted student event, most of the day is about the academic connection. We've told the Texas Tech story from the university's standpoint, and now it's time for them to hear from current students as well as their new academic home. It's important that they begin to form connections to help them and their family know this is a place where any student is welcome and can thrive.
It seems like part of the approach is really expanding your footprint and utilizing multiple assets here at the university. Is that fair to say?
It's a holistic approach and we really lean on the campus community to assist us to help the recruitment experience come full circle. For example, something as simple as a student from Dallas-Fort Worth speaking to prospective students at an event in Dallas so prospective students can hear what it's like to be a student from DFW attending Texas Tech. This is especially important when we know almost 40% of our students come from the DFW area and around 78% come from 300 miles or further away. Families and prospective students must feel like they can make a connection and be successful here.
We talk about West Texas friendliness and that makes a huge impact on prospective students and families, because it's not just words; you feel it. When you're here, you feel it from the moment you step on campus. You feel it from our parking attendants, and the admissions team works with our campus community to make sure they know about our red bag campaign. Visitors get a red bag at the visitors center and we issue alerts to let everyone know when they see a red bag, that's a prospective family on campus. It's the little things that add up to make a big impression such as greeting families, opening the doors, asking how we can help them, just being intentional in how we interact with prospective students and families. We hear over and over how friendly we are and how helpful everyone is. Being friendly and hospitable is who we are as West Texans and is what distinguishes us from many other campuses.
The COVID Effect
COVID-19 changed the way universities recruit. How do you think Texas Tech has adjusted to those changes in helping to accommodate such a different landscape?
In March of 2020, we had to move everything online. We recruited a record first-year class, and we were able to support our goal to reach 40,000 students by 2020 despite the challenges. However, the fall of 2020 presented some unique challenges in that the class of 2021 was the first class we've ever recruited from our desks. There was a lot of coordination of communication as well as Zoom events and individual meetings with families. These meetings weren't just from admissions, but financial aid and the scholarships team as well. There were many lessons learned, including the ability to connect with students anywhere virtually. Although it is not a substitute to making personal connections with potential students, it is something we continue to do.
Families really appreciated the consistent communication from the admissions office and the academic colleges. They were hosting Zoom events and meetings too. President Lawrence Schovanec was communicating with everyone often. We had a couple of events where President Schovanec would log on and speak to the prospective students and their families. We heard over and over from our families one of the reasons that they selected Texas Tech was because of the communication. It felt like a family even though they couldn't come visit. The message was, “Here we are and we're a family, and if you're a part of our family, we're going to take care of you.” And that really resonated.
Each year has created its own unique challenge, but I think we've been creative and responsive. I'm proud of our team and how quickly they adapted. The admissions team stayed focused and met students where they were in their college search process.
The Changing Face of Recruitment
One area of expansion in the recruiting process has been an increase in events. Can you explain how each event is different from location to location?
Our message never changes between locations as we want to create access and opportunity for all potential students. We want them to come to Texas Tech to accomplish their goals and understand each community reach is different. We strive to personalize each experience by bringing a touch of where we are to each event. For example, at Raider Roadshow, we make it a point to feature an alumnus from the community to share their Texas Tech story. It can be something as simple as customizing the event invitation to carry the look and feel of each city.
As I said before, it's important that we connect current students from the communities with students at each location. If we're going to Houston, we take current students from Houston. They can share what it's like to be a student at Texas Tech from Houston, the Woodlands, Dallas, San Antonio or New Mexico. We do the same thing when we go to California. I think having a student voice is important for a peer-to-peer connection. We have parent groups and parent ambassadors in all these cities who volunteer and share valuable information with local families.
Geography isn't the only thing we want to discuss. With first-generation students, we want to be available for families who are navigating the college search process for the first time. We work closely with the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to communicate resources and provide support in making connections.
How important are high school students who live in Lubbock or the surrounding areas to the long-term goals of Texas Tech?
We are intentional in our recruitment of local students because they are the fabric of who we are and key to maintaining the West Texas culture that makes us special. Many potential students feel they know Texas Tech from their previous experiences on campus, so it is important to showcase the opportunities they may not know about to get a wonderful, all-encompassing education.
We know parents are a big part of the decision-making process for many students, which is why it's important to ask local parents to encourage their student to go through the admission process with us. At the very least, it can be a safeguard in the event that there has to be a last-minute change of plans.
For more information on upcoming Spring 2023 Raider Roadshows, click here.