Learn With Us
Learn With Us
Access podcasts, videos, articles, and more.
Discover With Us
Discover With Us
Discover the best new software, tools and services for enrollment marketing — and even your next gig
Subscribe With Us
Subscribe With Us
Join 3,000+ enrollment marketers in wrestling with ideas that are reshaping higher ed
How to Build and Scale a Student Ambassador Program That Increases Enrollment
Zach Busekrus: [00:00:00] This episode is brought to you by our friends at Unibuddy. Unibuddy is a student engagement platform that helps higher education, recruitment, marketing, and admissions professionals attract, engage, and convert prospective students. Unibody helps students make one of the most important purchasing decisions of their entire life, and that decision is where to go to college.
One of the ways they do this is by giving prospects real time access to real people at your university. Here's how it works. A prospective student named Sam Stumbles upon your school's business major website page, and he starts reading about your program offering. After a few seconds, a warm popup form invites Sam to chat with Student Ambassador.
Dan, who you guessed is currently studying business at your university. After some quick niceties, Sam admits he's been looking at your school for some time now, but is yet to submit a formal inquiry or start an applic. He's been to a couple of virtual recruitment events, but it's been hard to get a real fetal for what life as a student, especially during these times, is actually like [00:01:00] Dan talks about his love of the entrepreneurship course he's taking, how challenging, but rewarding and counting one on one is, and how impressed he's been with your school's response to the challenges that COVID has thrown everyone's way.
After 15 minutes of chatting with Dan Sam, books a chat with one of your admissions counselors for next week, and then he goes on to create an application account. This experience is so much more powerful than a static chat window or a scripted chatbot. Unibody empowers people to make better decisions through shared human experience.
Oh, and by the way, this peer-to-peer engagement platform, it's just one of uni buddy's product offerings. Wait until you see their virtual events platform. Totally game changing. Don't get stuck in a prospective student's college shopping cart. Make the experience of accessing personalized peer to peer feedback as frictionless as possible.
To learn more about Unibuddy and access a plethora of free resources to help you navigate student recruitment this year, head on over to enrolled.org/unit buddy, and [00:02:00] we'll ping you directly to Unit Buddy's learning Hub.
All right, folks. We're live. Nina Lauren, welcome to the. Thanks so much. Great to be here. Well, for folks, uh, who are just joining us, this is actually episode four in this special miniseries that we've been doing with our friends over at Unibuddy. And you all will recognize Nina's voice by now, hopefully. Um, but we've got another voice who is a part of today's conversation, and that voice is none other than Lauren Blacks.
Lauren, why don't you just say hi so folks can recognize your.
Lauren: Hi everyone. Thanks for having me on [00:03:00] today.
Zach Busekrus: Wonderful. And Lauren, you are from Johns Hopkins. Can you talk a little bit about your, your specific role there?
Lauren: Uh, yeah. So I am the director for Recruitment, communications and events at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
I have been at Hopkins for about 15 years now. Actually started as an intern over at the, um, school of Medicine and then kind of worked my way over to the School of Public Health. Um, but I've been there for about the last 15 years, last seven years in admissions. Um, and really looking to, um, just connect with those that are really interested within public health and really, Looking to just, um, do good in the work, um, surrounding, um, health and making healthier communities every day.
So while I'm not a public health, um, practitioner, um, I feel like through osmosis, I really have, um, really gained, um, some really great insight into the work that's happening and really love, um, supporting our students and our perspective students that are looking to get into the.
Zach Busekrus: [00:04:00] Very, very well said.
Well, we're excited to have you join us for, for this conversation, which again, is gonna like, bring together, um, the previous conversations that, that Nina and I have, have had. Really what we wanna focus our chat around today is how to kind of build and scale successful student ambassador programs. So we've been talking about student ambassador programs, um, really within the context.
This desire among next generations of students as well as next generations of, uh, administrators, uh, to build community, right? And this idea that community has become really a, an essential part of the enrollment experience. Students more so today than ever before, want to understand where their peers are going, want to understand the kinds of questions that.
Students like them might be asking about a particular program or a particular educational experience. So I'm really eager to, to understand a little bit more about your story and hear how you all have thought about kind of building student ambassador programs, uh, kind of in and around the, the Unibody platform.
But before we dive into that, I thought it'd be fun to just. Kick us off, [00:05:00] um, with a little story, and I'd love to hear your experience of looking for college. Um, what did, what did your own college search experience look like? What do you remember about the process? Uh, was there anything particularly hard about it?
And, and what, what, if anything, about the process did you, did you enjoy most?
Lauren: I have to think about kind of technology that was kind of happening back then. So we're, you know, going to, uh, look into. Late nineties, early two thousands and kind of starting to think about college searches. So didn't have this vast opportunity through, um, the worldwide web to, you know, figure out what was happening across different campuses and things like that.
So got the Peterson's guide that now is all vailable online or other, um, Princeton Review and things like that that just kind of thumbed through, um, different programs and made sense. You know, chatted with a guidance counselor to kind of figure out what worked well. I grew up in the East coast, so, um, I knew kind of [00:06:00] regionally I wanted to stay in the area.
Okay. And kind of figuring out what that meant. You know, did I, how many hours away did I wanna be? And things like that. Which I think is like very, you know, can really reflect on some of what of our, our students' experiences today. And so I took time to really kind of figure out what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go.
I knew I. Really like psychology, but as I was really into communications, I did theater in college and, and things like that. And so I wanted to, you know, really have the chance to, to kind of dive into work, um, in that area. And so, I wanted to kind of see what opportunities were there and what I could do.
And so I, you know, applied to a bunch of different colleges, kind of set a wide net of like, you know, the reach and the higher reach and the ones that I thought I might be able to get into. Um, and it ultimately, I landed, um, in. Marilyn, which, um, did not think was, you know, in the kind of where I would end up.
It was actually a sticker that influenced me. I was [00:07:00] again, interested in psychology and my, um, psychology teacher in high school had this Towson State on her desk, and I had no idea what it was, but she just raved about how much she loved it. And so you think about influences, certainly teachers, faculty, advisors, things like that.
And so, and a sticker too. So I ended. Applying, not even seeing the school, but knowing that, again, kind of thinking about to our experiences and upbringings. I went on a, a trip to Baltimore in my elementary school days and loved it. I remember how much I loved it, and I knew again that I wanted to be close.
I wanted to be in somewhat of a, um, the large city, but also wanted to be, have easy access home, so I was able to get home via Amtrak if I needed to and things like that. So I ended up going, um, to school down in Baltimore, um, and ended up staying forever. Uh, started off as a, through an internship program, and I think that's really an important [00:08:00] part of our student journeys is kind of having those kind of experiences.
And so I had a great experience doing some practice work. Through different communications, internships and programs like that. And then, um, ended up working for the university and that's where I've been ever since. So it's been really exciting, kind of thinking back a little bit, many years. But, um, but just kind of reflecting back to 17 year old me and what I was doing.
Zach Busekrus: Did you, just a quick follow up there, did you talk to any students that were at Towson, um, that helped kind of influence you in, in any particular ways, or, or was that less of a thing back then?
Lauren: Yeah, so definitely less of a thing. It was like sort of like, I don't know, I think I probably would have to like send them a letter or something like that.
I don't even email. I think back, I don't even think I emailed maybe, maybe twice. I emailed a professor during my college experience. Everything was very much in person. Yeah, yeah. Um, so certainly picked brains when I was on [00:09:00] the campus. So when I. Um, you know, actually getting in and wanting to kind of see the campus.
Certainly college campus tours are still an important part of , um, the journey. Um, I just, I fell in love. It was one of those like, definitely cliche moments. You know, even with a lot of the technology that we have now, there's still those important, um, points within the student's journey that I think are important, um, that we can continue to think about as we're thinking about the student experience.
That point of thinking about where they wanna go to actually, um, being there on
Zach Busekrus: campus. Yeah. Yeah. It's cool. I'm sure the, the marketing folks that are tuning in are really glad that you mentioned the sticker, right? Like, you're really glad that you mentioned swag, that, that made everyone feel really good.
Um, who's, who's on the marketing side of things, so Love that. Um, Lauren, I, I'd love to hear a little bit. How you've thought about building and, uh, growing your student ambassador program? We, student ambassador programs are something that have become [00:10:00] somewhat mainstream today, as in more, more schools than ever before.
Have them. That doesn't mean that they're working well or that doesn't mean that they have the right technology stack to, to help enable them to work well, but the idea of. Students that represent their brand or their programs in specific ways is more mainstream than, than it ever has been. I, I'd be curious to hear a little bit about how you designed and, and built your, your program, especially since, uh, you're, you're representing a, a, a grad program or a, a slew of graduate programs.
I think that that's also a, an interesting sort of like twist here. So I'd love to hear how you, how you thought about that.
Lauren: Absolutely. Um, so I, yeah, definitely. So the reason I kind of wanted to grow our ambassador program was because we wanted just what kind of, um, you know, different, uh, you know, buddy provides it, you know, provides this way to connect and kind of real time with students kind, learning about experiences.
Um, we have a pretty large graduate program. We have over [00:11:00] 3000 students in. Graduate program. Oh, wow. Different. You know, it's almost like a mini university graduate program. Right. Exactly. Within itself. And, and really as you kind of look at the different programs that we offer too, it's not just like, okay, we have one degree program and one, you know, kind of maybe focus.
There's tons of different areas that people can kind of go into. And so having one student maybe representing the entire school can be really challenging. So we had. Find a way that there was a way to kind of filter and categorize and really have a good experience that people could find people in the programs currently.
That could give honest feedback about how it's going, but in that specific focus area. Um, and so, uh, we had, we did have something on our website. It was, um, somewhat similar to, you know, a student profile and way to like an email connection and things like that. Um, but we wanted to kind of grow it because I, I like that we had this opportunity there, but through kind of a website update and things like that, we knew that this, [00:12:00] um, platform just wouldn't be work.
It was, um, more of a homegrown system that we had. And so we were really looking for something that could help support what our kind of goal and mission was with our ambassador program. But I also wanted to create a sense of community too, for the ambassadors that were gonna be part of it. Right? Huh? So, while we're not an undergraduate program that most of our students are gonna be there for four years, most of our graduate programs are one, two, or for our doctoral programs are gonna be four plus years.
You know, depending on how long it takes on. So I wanted to really kind of create something that would have this like sense of community among our ambassadors too. And so I really like the idea, um, of the unit buddy platform because it really provided that, um, there was a way for students to kind of give a little bit of their story so that students, as they were kind of exploring our site, could, you know, explore our programs, but then kind of look into some of the students that are currently in there and really kind of identify, um, something that I [00:13:00] know.
As we kind of focus on, you know, gen Z students, so they really wanted to know sort of, you know, how someone maybe like them gets into a program or kind of where, you know, where they can kind of fit in and, and their, you know, where their sort of student journey can start. Yeah. And so by kind of having the filtering system of countries, that's a really helpful kind of, So they can kind of say, especially we have about a third of our student population is international.
So knowing that a student from your country is there, um, is really helpful because, you know, I was talking with one of our international students the other day and just knowing where a grocery store that has food that you know is from your home. Area is really important. And that's such a small part, but it really is such a big part of our, our student satisfaction, right?
If like, they're not really satisfied with kind of overall field of, you know, wellness, things like that, they're not gonna be doing well in the program. Yeah. And so having that kind of support right from the beginning [00:14:00] of someone that. It's going through the program and can give you some real, um, advice can be helpful.
Um, and another nice part too, and this is more I think the ambassadors kind of see this, is that they can, um, they're having conversations and as an administrator I'm not able to kind of see like exactly who they're talking to and things like that. And something that's helpful was that, is kind of having these authentic conversations, really being able.
Uh, talk directly and give the honest feedback. And that's when we kind of, uh, recruit for our ambassadors. That's one of the biggest things I really strive for, is really having these authentic conversations. I can certainly talk all day about how great the school is, and, and I truly do feel that way, um, about the programs and the research and the work that happens, but having that chance for.
Their students to say, well, how are classes? Or how did you adjust to a system that's eight weeks versus a full, you know, term system and things like that. Yeah. So having, providing this sort of, um, [00:15:00] opportunity, I think is really helpful for our students, um, as they're exploring our programs.
Zach Busekrus: Hey, everybody at Zach from roll. So it's that time of year when your favorite brands release the best deals on your favorite products, and for the very first time, RFI is joining the party. So between now and the end of the year, you can get 50% off. Any enroll FFI cohort or master course wanna learn more about how to leverage SEO for student recruitment.
We've got a cohort on just that led by the SEO Wizards a D agency, or are you ready to learn more about how schools are leveraging. Enroll in our self-paced TikTok strategy for higher ed cohort, or perhaps you are finally ready to join 550 other higher ed marketers in enrolling in Terry Fly's master course on how to market the university.
Use the discount code e o y 50, that's e o y as in end of year 50 for any of our AYS cohorts or e o [00:16:00] y as in end of. For our master course on how to market a university with Terry Flannery between now and 12 31 22 to receive 50% off. You can learn email@example.com. Happy holidays, everybody.
So you've got, you've got about 3000 students in the, in the programs. How many ambassadors, roughly do you have at, at any given?
Lauren: So we have about a hundred, which is a huge shout out to our students. That's amazing. We are a fully volunteer based program, um, because we are also a hundred, so it's really hard to be able to, um, provide financial support for all 100 students.
Um, so currently it is a fully volunteer based program. This started, um, somewhat during the pandemic. So it was also a fully virtual experience too, that our ambassadors are having. So they're, they were just [00:17:00] going through the ambassador platform that was sort of the only sort of part of the ambassador program that we had.
Um, and that was, again, this good opportunity, especially during a time when you were just trying to make connections, um, to be able to connect, um, directly. With students, especially, you know, I talked before about that kind of on campus visit. You know, we, we didn't have that, we couldn't provide that for our students.
And so at least kind of having this kind of connection of um, talking one on one, um, with our prospective students or with our current students was really helpful. Yeah. Um, I think for our prospective students,
Zach Busekrus: yeah. That's, that's an incredible, uh, number of, of students actually that are, especially, especially since it's not a paid capacity, um, which is, which is wonderful and probably just a real testament actually to the community that you all have built within the context of the program, right.
For students to be willing, especially, you know, primarily adult students who probably have other things in their lives going on to, to be willing to dedicate time to, to service, um, prospective students and, and answer their questions, which [00:18:00] is, which is great. One of the things I love. Student ambassador programs, and especially platforms like, like unibody is really, you are equipped with a ton of data, right?
Like, and lots of insight around like, okay, what are the kinds of questions that students are asking, right? How many, how many students are asking the same kinds of questions, right? What is the nuance that exists in these questions, et cetera. And a lot of that insight right? While, like incredibly interesting, um, is, is sometimes hard to figure out, okay, what do we do with this, right?
Like, how, how do we take these insights, these questions that are being asked and answered, and how do we use that to sort of like inform our, our messaging? Should we change our social ad strategy in light of what? This particular segment of international students are saying, should we be running these other kinds of email marketing campaigns, et cetera.
So I, I'd be curious, um, for you to talk about how you and your team make sense of the data that's kind of garnered through, through the unit body platform. And then also, like if you guys share this with. The marketing team and whatnot, like what, what sort of collaboration, um, might, might be [00:19:00] happening to help other important strategic units on campus make sense of, of this data to be able to do, you know, their jobs better and to be able to, you know, more effectively recruit the, the right fit students.
Lauren: Yeah. Um, so the way that we kind of have really used this data, now we're only about a full year in at this point. I think we started and really officially kicked off last September. So September, 2021. Um, so we've been kind of, Slowly kind of looking at some of the data, looking at some conversations that are happening.
I really like kind of that insights, um, platform that we're able to kind of look at. It really kind of reflects, um, sort of where students are coming from. So that's a huge part of kind of our, some of our marketing efforts is kind of thinking about gaps. Like are there certain countries that we're just not reaching or are there certain conversations that we're just not having within.
Some are very email content or um, or even just some, some of our [00:20:00] general messaging. Huge question. Right. Um, you mentioned these are a lot of adult students, so they've come from other programs already. Some have gone through obviously undergraduate programs, but some have already completed other master's programs.
So financial piece is huge question that is kind of a constant chatter among, um, students as, especially as they're, you know, fully considering. Been admitted financial aid packages, and so that's something that we've tried to adjust as far as some of our messaging is really kind of adding that earlier on into the conversation.
Hmm. Because something that, you know, we've discovered with kind of talking with students is that sometimes they'll like shut us down before even applying because they think I'm never gonna be able to afford it. Which is also, also an important piece now. Yes. It's a, it certainly is a, you know, uh, you know, have to consider that.
And I think that's an important piece. It's something that I talk very honestly with students, like if they've done multiple graduate programs, really consider whether this will kind of. You [00:21:00] know, fill any pieces that they're missing in their academic journey. And if not, maybe there, there's other ways that maybe work for a while, then have, you know, come back and things like that.
Um, but there have been these good kind of open conversations that have been happening. Where have you found some financial support or what resources did you use on campus? And things like that. And so some of that, again, we're trying to add to some of our marketing and communication pieces. Yeah. As we're.
Having those kind of early conversations, um, some of the, uh, virtual information sessions that I provide for our students, I've tried to be conscious of some of the conversations that have come out of, um, that are just questions as well. So those are some areas that we've tried to kind of implement some of that, um, in, um, somewhat of a real time, um, approach.
Um, and then just kind of thinking too, um, as far as kind of working with our marketing team, um, we've, we've explored the, um, content piece a little bit through unibody. So the blog, um, feature is trying to be, um, very much like, um, student [00:22:00] focused. Mm-hmm. . And so we've had some. To kind of drive some attention, um, to the blog we've had, like our social media team, um, will feature some student stories and kind of say like, check out the latest blog feature and things like that.
So those are some ways that we're exploring. I actually just met last week with, um, our student ambassador who kind of took the leads last year and then working with a couple of students this year on kind of some features that we wanna have.
Zach Busekrus: I would imagine that every once in a while you're like sorting through conversations and you.
Oh wow. I had no idea we had this resource on campus, or, oh, who knew? Like that there was this financial aid opportunity that existed. Like how often, uh, are you guys surprised by what students are telling other students about what your university or your program offers?
Lauren: Yeah, I would say our students are being incredibly resourceful.
Cause you know, I kind of framed it like, you know, when they start asking questions about like, you know, um, you know how to apply and particular things like that, just send 'em our way. Yeah. But I've like seen Con and I try to tell [00:23:00] them like, I really am not trying to like monitor conversations, but again, more just so I can kind of have an idea of kind of what's kind of happening.
But when. They approach. They're like, you know, so and so had a question about this. I wasn't sure how to approach. I'm like, you can answer it or you can send it to me. We're like, no, no, I, I responded and we were setting up a chat next week to talk about it. So it's really just wonderful to see that they are not just kind of like, you know, taking the time, two seconds to respond to like, yep, it's been a great opportunity, but really having authentic, um, in person opportunities sometimes on campus if they're in the area or really kind of having the opportunities to.
Um, just have good quality conversations.
Zach Busekrus: Yeah. Nina, I wanna bring you in, um, because you and your team have the ability to kind of see and, and understand sort of the, like the larger narrative surrounding student ambassador programs and how they're working at, uh, a variety of schools. I'd love to. Hear from your [00:24:00] perspective when it comes to student ambassador programs, what, what do the most successful programs do and then, and then what are some of the things that maybe some of the more least successful ones kind of failed to?
Nina Bilimoria Angelo: You and I have talked about in previous episodes how different students needs are. Yeah. And so what really great ambassador programs like Johns Hopkins does is effectively showcase the diversity of a university's campus. Right. Um, students are looking for that sense of belonging and they wanna be able to see.
The current students reflected kind of their own diversity, and so that ends up being a really important success factor to, uh, ambassador programs. I think it's also balancing that with ensuring that you're, you're demonstrating your school's uniqueness. You know, your individualness, your differentiation, um, and students who have a passion for what they are learning there.
So huge [00:25:00] opportunity to recruit kind of those students who really get that and embody that.
Lauren: Um, I also
Nina Bilimoria Angelo: think that really great administrative teams, uh, trust their ambassadors, right? Um, it's a different sort of marketing channel Yeah. To leverage your student voice, right? Um, but they are your best advocates.
Um, and so if you could move past the control issues, uh, that we have around the marketing message, sometimes, uh, your, your students can be your, your biggest. And can really tell the value proposition of the
Nina Bilimoria Angelo: Um, I also think that really good ambassador programs are made up of students who've been really well trained, not just to be able to answer the questions, the myriad questions that they will get from, from different students, but also know when to say, you know what, I, I gotta pass the baton
Lauren: for, I'm not
Nina Bilimoria Angelo: sure.
Um, and, and I need someone else to be able to address this. So, and training them, you [00:26:00] know, and then finally, I. The best programs support their ambassadors with the right tools to be able to scale their impact and, and leverage that impact across the entire funnel. Whether that may mean leveraging ambassadors at very top of the funnel when you're trying to win students attention.
Um, and that fight is a tough fight for attention,
Lauren: um, all the way through to when you wanna
Nina Bilimoria Angelo: move students from admitted to enrolled students. And, and the. The creative teams like Lauren's are thinking about how can we leverage that student voice at every point along the journey. Um, Zach, you also asked about unsuccessful programs.
I mean, I think the typical themes that we hear are you either hire too few or too many ambassadors. Mm. Um, and so it's not right sized for the volume of questions that you're going to get or the type of engagement that you want to be able to foster. Um, you know, and as a consequence, your ambassadors can either, Too overwhelmed or kind of disengaged because there [00:27:00] isn't enough kind of momentum around the volume of questions they're getting.
Um, I also think it's important to make sure that ambassadors understand that their role is critical in the admissions process and that their work is really valued. I mean, as. Especially if you've got, you know, a volunteer force like Lauren has, just making sure that they understand the value that they're delivering and making that as tangible as possible.
Sometimes, um, admissions teams kind of miss that opportunity. Um, and finally I think missing the opportunity to keep ambassadors engaged and learning and growing. They're still going through their undergraduate experience and so they want. To be a stepping stone or a line on their resume that really demonstrates a skill set.
Sure. And so giving them those learning opportunities is,
Zach Busekrus: is huge. Yeah. Those, those are, those are all great points. Um, I, I'm struck specifically Nina, by your remarks on using. Ambassadors throughout the entire enrollment journey. Um, [00:28:00] and, and so a question to, to you Lauren, like, where, where have you and your team found student ambassadors to be kind of like most helpful?
Is it, is it really in like prospect generation? Is it after the point of like, formal inquiry? Is it after they've registered for an open house? Is it. Once they've actually applied and now they're just trying to decide whether or not, um, you know, it's, it's your program or the program down the street. How, where have you found, um, your ambassadors to be, to be most helpful?
Lauren: Um, yeah, that's a great question. So, uh, you know, we are only kind of one year, um, into the program, but I would say, um, as far as, um, through this platform, I would say definitely seeing upticks, uh, in kind of the February march timeframe when our admitted student activities were happening. Hmm. This was also when we were kind of, Starting to bring students back to campus.
Um, and so, um, we had opportunities for some meet and greets with, um, some of our ambassadors. They provided tours and things like that. So there are different, you know, they can kind of like sign up for what you wanna do. You can just be [00:29:00] an ambassador on unibody or you can kind of, um, participate in different levels, um, of the ambassador program and.
We've had, um, students that have participated with those activities. Definitely seeing uptick in conversations though, um, during kind of that timeframe when decisions were made. And then April 15th is typically the decision time, um, timeline for, um, students to make their decision. So definitely seeing also certain up.
Tick in conversations, then I kind of let students know, especially those that were starting to sign up in the kind of may, June timeframe. It might be a little bit slow over the summer, but come September, get ready. You're gonna be kind of balancing classes, but also balancing conversations. And I've definitely have seen, again, sort of this uptick.
We just had our on campus open house nice a couple weeks ago and. Saw some flow there. And then we're getting ready this week to have a virtual open house. And so I tried during some of these different sessions also to kind of highlight the ambassador program, uh, to say like, if you wanna kind of [00:30:00] connect, certainly you're connecting today to our different programs, but connect further in conversation with our ambassadors.
To check in there. And so, um, they've also participated in different virtual sessions that we provide. So during our spring, um, time where again, decisions are being made, we'll have a series of conversations surrounding those like top questions, right? Like financial aid. Where do I find housing in Baltimore?
You know, what is it like to move to Baltimore? Those types of conversations. So we'll have our student panelists on. And over the last year I've tried to include our ambassadors part of that. So try to reach out to them first and if then we need some additional support, we'll reach out to some other additional students as well that might not have the capacity to be in the ambassador program.
Yeah. But just wanna provide some one time support. Um, and so I. We've been able to kind of have them part of some of those conversations, which again, um, I can talk about living in Baltimore, but not being maybe a student at our particular program. Uh, and also kind of finding housing, things like that. So it's really, [00:31:00] again, helpful to have that, um, student perspective.
Zach Busekrus: I, I would imagine that. You want, especially before you're making this kind of final purchasing decision, right? You want feedback from Yeah. The core customer, right? Which is, which is which is the students that are currently in the program, right? You want active customers, right? You wanna understand like, alright, what do people that are using, right, benefiting from the product right now?
What do they actually think about it? And then I, what I'm also thinking about like if, if I were to put myself in a perspective, if I were to consider a graduate program right now, I think I'd wanna know at the very front end, the 100 student ambassadors. I feel like before I inquired, I'd wanna understand, do students like the program, and then I probably wouldn't actually.
Reach out to a student until later down. Like my, my journey, I, I prob maybe, maybe I'd like wanna see that there was an active student ambassador force. Right. Um, and showing off like the faces of your a hundred ambassadors could be a really cool marketing campaign. But, but in all, in all likelihood, I, I probably wouldn't start a conversation until I was.
You know, more [00:32:00] serious about the, the program. Now, again, maybe that's a little bit different at the undergraduate level, right? Um, but at the graduate level, I think that that's, um, that, that makes a lot of sense. Where I'd be more active, you'd need more activity, more engagement. Once I'm a little bit for, I've gotten my basic questions answered, right?
I understand roughly the program requirements. I've maybe, you know, watched a couple of videos with faculty members. I know who I might want to be my faculty mentor. I, I might know some of that, at least the broad strokes of that. My next question for is for both of you. And Nita, why don't you kick us off here.
One of the things that I've found to be true as I've talked to folks all across the educational spectrum about student ambassador programs is that there seems to be this common like narrative around like, oh, we just wish we had more resources to do this better, right? Whether it's, we wish we had resources to pay students, we wish we had resources.
I wanna give you guys a little challenge here. And, uh, if you were given unlimited resources, right, and the ability to. Build a student ambassador program, you know, from, from [00:33:00] scratch. How, how would you at at least go about starting to do so and again? Nina? We'll, we'll start with you. That's a fun one.
Nina Bilimoria Angelo: think that, you know, what we've learned from our research is that students.
Want to be reached where they are. Right. So, um, and, and while the medium doesn't matter and the message matters more, you want a frictionless way to be able to reach students. And so in an ideal world, your ambassadors are meeting them everywhere they are. Um, and sure we've got, you know, on campus events and we've got Sure.
Unibody, um, which, you know, allows you to be able to connect digitally. Um, but, you know, what about social media? Um, what, what about, um, in high schools, what about, you know, it around the dinner table? Like how do we actually think about infusing that authentic voice? From the get go, like you just said, Zach, um, often you may not think to reach out to someone from that [00:34:00] institution until you've made a short list.
Yeah. And you said, okay, now I really wanna be able to get to know this. But what if, what if you were actually leveraging your ambassadors further up the funnel in more of a. Uh, push rather
Lauren: than a pull. Hmm. Um, and, and that to
Nina Bilimoria Angelo: me, if, if resources were unlimited, that's where I, I would think about focusing.
Um, and, and the other area that I would focus on, we kind of touched on it a little bit, but like, what can we do to kind of break free of, I would say, the rigid norms that are the ways that traditional higher ed communicates with. How can we mix up the message? How can we actually have a little fun with it?
Um, you know, and actually ensure that we're communicating authentically, of course, um, that we understand Gen Z students. So that, those would be the two areas that I probably focus on.
Zach Busekrus: Love it. Love it. Um, alright. Lauren, you're in the hot seat. .
Lauren: [00:35:00] Yeah, so I, I think I was like jotting down something, but, but on the, the bucket list, right.
Um, so, um, so certainly like the first thing of course, as you mentioned is just like having more resources for our student ambassadors. Um, I think, you know, touched on a really important part before is really kind of making sure that they understand the importance and the value that we're putting on them.
And so if I had the chance and, um, that we could provide funding resources for all of our, um, ambassadors coming in and really all of our students. Right. I think, you know, something too that I would really like to kind of see is just, um, Having more sort of content about our ambassador. So we, uh, certainly we have their profiles on their, on our, um, site, like through You Buddy.
And so it's right there and they can connect. But maybe working with our, um, marketing team a little bit more on a video features and, and things like that to really kind of highlight right from the beginning so you can kind of tap into some, so, You know, like you were saying, Zach may not [00:36:00] necessarily reach out to someone in the beginning, but if like, maybe he was highlighted a little bit more through some of the communications efforts that we're doing Yeah.
To really kind of talk about, you know, your experience, how, how did Zach come to our school of public health, really, what, what kind of drew him there, and things like that. And certainly that can be on our website, but having a little bit more of these stories driven through different platforms, through our, our social, social media content.
Certainly, I think that , um, adds a different staff member to our office as well. Um, you have a great marketing team, but I think having someone kind of focused on some of that, um, effort, uh, so that would be somewhere where I would like to kind of grow, um, some of just the highlights and features of our students.
Um, and then, uh, also kind of working with them too on, um, uh, you talked about, uh, some of the support efforts that we can have. So some things that I wanna make sure that they have are, again, some of those like d. Uh, resources. So really being able to have an understanding of our [00:37:00] program, have. So really kind of developing again, sort of, uh, different, um, training, uh, through professional development.
You know, a huge part of the work that they're doing is, you know, creating their, uh, career, uh, focuses within our school, but also having some of these soft skill. Too. And so being able to kind of use this as a way to kind of gain skill sets Yeah. Would be really great. So, so I'm really hoping that this is something that they can use to not only be something fun that they maybe did as a graduate student while they were also trying to balance 20 plus credits a, a term, but really having the chance to use this as a, this was something that was really a critical piece of my professional growth, um, at the.
Zach Busekrus: Yeah. Nina and I were talking on a previous episode about how, you know, in, in essence, these are sales and marketing roles, right? Like d as a unibody ambassador, uh, for your particular college or university or program that that is building your skill as a prospective sales or marketing professional, and not [00:38:00] everyone who's a.
These skill sets absolutely should be something that folks can easily find a way to package and put on a resume. And I think that, that, to your point, Lauren, which I, I love that should, that onus should be on the university or the, the, the head of the program within the context of the institution to find a way to make that packaging easy for folks like to be able to slap on, you know, their LinkedIn or their, their resume or what have you.
I, you know, we were even entertaining, hey, maybe there's a day where there's some sort. Commission structure or there's some sort of ability for folks to, you know, get a rebate , so to speak, on the cost of the program for every new student that they bring in and, and whatnot. So I'm sure, I'm sure folks are testing some of that stuff out, um, already, but it'll be interesting to see how, you know, how that, how that, uh, continues to grow, especially in an era where higher ed staffing is, is a little bit more, um, uh, turbulent than it, than it has been in previous eras and how.
Many teams are understaffed and under-resourced, and this is an opportunity to do something maybe a little bit fun and a little bit more different. Um, so we'll see if anyone, again, if anyone, I [00:39:00] think I said this last time, Nina, but if anyone's listening to this and does this right now, I'd love to talk to you.
Couple final questions for, for you folks. Um, Lauren. When you think about the impact that the Unibody platform has had on your student ambassador program, um, how, how has it helped you and and your team be more efficient, uh, and or effective with the program at all? Because I, I think there's, there are folks that are listening to this, right, who have an a.
Broad strokes, understanding of unibody, but I don't know that like, it, I don't know that everyone tuning in has a perfect understanding of it. And some folks might already have student ambassador programs in place, but haven't enabled any sort of technology, uh, to, to help make the process of sourcing students, of giving students the tools that they need to have these conversations, to have good dialogue.
They haven't invested in that yet. So can you just give us a, a, an understanding of how, how nobody has, has helped you and, and your team become more efficient and effective with your, [00:40:00] with your student ambassador program?
Lauren: Yeah, I mean, it really has transformed how we actually operated our ambassador program.
Like I said before, we had sort of a listing of our students that were available. We would contact them maybe during, uh, open house and really was more kind of generally to the, um, student public about. We have a couple of activities happening on campus. Let us know if you're available, where now we have, you know, buddy that really has provided this structure and kind of more of an organized way of collecting Who's interested in participating as an ambassador at our school?
And then from there, you know, I mentioned they, there's different ways that they can get involved. So it can be as little as, you know, just answering questions, which again, they're doing far more than I kind of anticipated them doing on the platform, um, to then being able to participate in different virtual events.
Participating in on campus activities and things like that. So it's really been able to be a good way to start a [00:41:00] conversation online, um, and really create a space for our prospective students to connect, um, and really feel part of the student community before they maybe even apply to the program. Hmm.
So there's really kind of this opportunity to feel this connection. Right from the start of exploring our programs and having these students that are there that can kind of give them those insights and that perspective. And so Un Buddy has really provided this opportunity for us to say, our students' stories are really important.
We want a way to kind of gather this information and really to have a space where they can share their experiences. Uh, yep. Last year I querie. Our ambassadors to say, how did the experience go? Let let me know honestly how it went, because this is our first year going, should we continue using, you know, like just honest kind of questions?
Was it easy to use? You know, things like that. Just so you know. I could go to our administrator and say like, yes, this is valuable and this is something that we need to continue to have part of our [00:42:00] platform. And we had, we. 25% respond, which is a great response rate I think for students that are, some are graduating and some are that are, you know, continuing on with fun summer activities.
Um, and the large part of the. Sort of, um, qualitative response that I received was that this gave me the opportunity to tell my story, and I was like just blown away by that response because I thought, oh, this is just a nice way for them to kind of participate. But it was really just, just kind of, I was able to share how I.
Got to where I am. And that was really important to me because maybe there was someone along their way that kind of helped them with that. And so that's been a really important piece of the uni buddy platform for us.
Zach Busekrus: I'm sure, uh, Nina and the team would like to package that and just throw that out. All of our, all of our nobody social channels.
So for folks who. Haven't even started a student ambassador program. Right. And they've been hesitant to do so for lack of resources or lack of know-how, whatever it might be. [00:43:00] Any, any kind of just couple tidbits of advice or, uh, words of encouragement for folks around. Why, why having a program to begin with is, is important, especially in, you know, 2020.
Lauren: Yeah. Um, so I think kind of thinking, kind of taking a step back, thinking about being a student right now and kind of all the different challenges they might be facing or different opportunities they may have. Right? Like we're reading , I think I get every day I get some news articles that's coming out that students are really questioning college and questioning further education and things like that.
And so, Having something at a space that says like, yes, this is a value program, this is what it's providing me, and things like that. Um, so, um, having an ambassador program is, can be really important in that perspective. And so from there, you know, it can be sort of, you know, starting small, kind of figuring out, okay, what's my capacity, what's my personal capacity?
And the work projects that I'm doing right now to, [00:44:00] to bring on, um, Group of ambassadors, is that something that I can handle, or is that something that I might have to outsource to another team member or something like that? And sort of seeing the gaps too, of what. What's needed in the overall admissions office support?
Uh, is it, you know, is it a full ambassador program that we need? Is it student features that we need? What can really kind of, uh, get us to where we need to be? And I think an ambassador program definitely can, um, help address many of those, um, questions. Um, but I think it's kind of having those sort of internal conversations.
With your team Sometimes. I know it can be a team of one. I know for sometimes several months, it does seem like it can be a team of one. So you might be having these internal conversations literally with one person, , um, or, um, you know, having it with others. Um, and, and different perspectives too. Tapping into maybe your departments or different concentrations programs, whatever.
Um, I know everyone kind of has. Graduate and undergraduate program experiences, but [00:45:00] you know, seeing what is kind of needed across some of those and where maybe some of the, you know, starting off with maybe piloting it with the kind of higher need programs, right? We have programs at our school that we're like, okay, this is really where we wanna focus some of the attention.
Yeah. And so maybe starting there and then kind of growing the program from.
Zach Busekrus: Yeah. I, I love that last, uh, bit of advice too, especially because it can be overwhelming, especially if you're representing, you know, all undergraduate programs and or all graduate programs. Knowing where to start can be, uh, wonderfully, wonderfully overwhelming.
And I think that another, another place folks could, could consider starting is like, okay, where are you most understaffed or under-resourced? Like, where's your program coordinator who has like, the least amount of time Right? And is like, drowning right now? And what would it look like to build a, you know, a, a, a small kind of, The student ambassador program around them.
Right. Um, so this is, this has been wonderful, Lauren. I I really appreciate your time, Nina. Really, really appreciate your time. I know that, Nina, we didn't get to hear from you as much this episode, but if you wanna hear more from Nina, [00:46:00] we talk at length, um, over, uh, uh, the previous three episodes. So you can scroll down to the show notes below.
And again, this is. For in a special unibody and in Rule five podcast series. So in the show notes, you'll have all four episodes linked. You'll also be able to connect with Nina the Unibody team, and Lauren. Lauren, if you don't mind, we'll drop your social, uh, handles or, and or your email address in the show notes so folks have questions or want to get in touch to just.
Kick your brain a little bit about, uh, how you've developed your own program and get some good ideas for how they might further develop theirs. They can do so. But, uh, ladies, really, really appreciate your time. Thank you for carving out, uh, 47 and a half minutes to to be with me today.
Lauren: Thanks so much,
Zach Busekrus: Zach.
Hey all, Zach here from Enrollify. I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Enrollify podcast. If you like this episode, do us a huge favor and hit that follow and [00:47:00] subscribe button below. Furthermore, if you've got just two minutes to spare, we would greatly appreciate you leading a rating and a review of this show on Apple Podcasts.
Our podcast network is growing by the month, and you've got a plethora of marketing admissions and higher ed technology. That are jam packed with stories, ideas, and frameworks that are all designed to empower you to become a better higher ed professional. But Enrollify is far more than just a podcast network.
Enrollify is where higher ed comes to learn new marketing skills, discover new products and services, and find their next job. We're a growing learning community of 4,000 members, and we'd love to welcome you into. You can access our free blog, articles, newsletters, e-courses, and more, or purchase our master course on how to market a university with Terry Flannery at enrollify.org.We look forward to meeting you soon and welcoming you into the community. Again, you can subscribe for free at enrollify.org.[00:48:00]
About the Episode
The what's what...
This is the fourth and final episode in a special 4-part series between Enrollify and Unibuddy. Join Zach Busekrus, Founder of Enrollify, and Nina Bilimoria Angelo, CMO at Unibuddy, for an extended conversation around the insights garnered from Unibuddy’s latest higher education pulse reports.
Unibuddy surveyed over 1,200 prospective college students about their journey to college and close to 1,000 higher education administrators about how they plan to recruit these students. Access the reports, connect with Nina, and learn more about Unibuddy below.
In this episode, Zach and Nina are also joined by Lauren Black the Director of Recruitment, Communications and Events at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. You can connect with Lauren on LinkedIn here.
About the Enrollify Podcast Network
The Enrollify Podcast is a part of the Enrollify Podcast Network. If you like this podcast, chances are you’ll like other Enrollify shows too!
Our podcast network is growing by the month and we’ve got a plethora of marketing, admissions, and higher ed technology shows that are jam packed with stories, ideas, and frameworks all designed to empower you to be a better higher ed professional. Our shows feature a selection of the industry’s best as your hosts. Learn from Mickey Baines, Zach Busekrus, Jaime Hunt, Corynn Myers, Jaime Gleason and many more.
Learn more about The Enrollify Podcast Network at podcasts.enrollify.org. Our shows help higher ed marketers and admissions professionals find their next big idea — come and find yours!
About the Podcast
Zach is the Founder of Enrollify. He thoroughly enjoys building new brands, developing and executing content marketing strategies, and hosting podcasts. When he's not working on Enrollify, he enjoys discussing life's quandaries over coffee (or a good bourbon) with friends, building Sponstayneous (his travel brand side hustle), trying out new HIIT workouts, and adventuring across the globe with his wife!
Nina is a seasoned leader in strategy, marketing and product. With over 17 years of experience making sense of chaos, Nina is at ease in start-up, growth stage and large multinational companies, and has a track record for driving immediate and enduring business impact. She is fueled by purpose, she thrives in ambiguity, and leads with integrity. Currently, Nina serves on the executive team at Unibuddy, a fast-growing technology company that is helping students make good decisions around their higher education experience. Expertise: product marketing, product strategy, corporate strategy, digital marketing, market research, messaging and positioning, innovation and experimentation, communications, public speaking, change management, leadership Superpowers: connecting the dots, distilling complexity, facilitating strategy development and decision-making, honing product-market fit, storytelling through data, communicating clearly and concisely, building high-performing teams
We partner with the best, to provide the best information.
Unibuddy — the leader in peer-to-peer marketing from student recruitment — has now joined an elite roster of Slate Platinum Preferred Partners to kickstart a groundbreaking partnership. This top-level partnership means bringing colleges and universities added benefits and functionality across their tech stack, plus better visibility into student data across all stages of the prospect’s higher education journey.learn more
The Enrollify Podcast
Each week, get equipped with insights into how the latest trends in marketing and technology are affecting enrollment marketers. Every episode is designed to inspire new, creative ideas for how to optimize the resources you have to generate the results you need.
LISTEN TO MORE
Subscribe to our podcasts
The Enrollify Podcast Network is your go-to hub for shows that will empower you to grow, optimize, adapt, and reach new heights as an enrollment marketer.