Growing enrollment through authentic messaging
In this episode:
You’ll hear from Lindsay Nyquist who is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Fort Lewis College, which is is a small public liberal arts college in Durango, Colorado.
You'll hear her discuss:
How their remote location plays a role in their in-person and virtual visit strategy
How they convey authentic student voices through their social content and enrollment messaging
What their relationship is like with admissions and campus administration
[00:00:00] Host: You're listening to filling seats, the state of enrollment, marketing, and higher ed. Hosted by StudentBridge. In this podcast. You'll learn, what's working to grow shape and sustain enrollment. At colleges and universities directly for marketers thought leaders and ed tech innovators, because anyone can design a brochure, but not anyone can fill seats.
[00:00:27] Host: Welcome to episode 27 of filling seats. In this episode, you'll hear from Lindsay Nyquist, who is the director of marketing and communications at Fort Lewis college Fort Lewis. College is a small public liberal arts college in Durango, Colorado. You'll hear her discuss how their remote location plays a role in their in-person and virtual visit strategy.
[00:00:54] Host: How they convey authentic student voices through their social content and enrollment messaging and what their relationship is like with admissions and campus administration. Let's meet Lindsey.
[00:01:05] Lindsay Nyquist: My careers thus far has really been always focused on youth development and education, and that's been through a variety of different industries. So I went to school back East University of Delaware, but started coming out to Colorado for the summers to work at a summer camp. And, ended up working there throughout my college career and then got a full-time job there after college and, just learn to love and learn to appreciate the value that you can get from taking, young, children and young adults out of their normal element and into the outdoors.
[00:01:38] Lindsay Nyquist: And so when I stopped working there, I got a job at Fort Lewis College. So I've actually been here for 15 years through a variety of different positions. I started as the testing center coordinator. And then moved partially over into marketing and then full time into marketing. when I finished my graduate degree, got my master's in higher ed administration from Drex.
[00:01:58] Lindsay Nyquist: And then moved into a social media coordinator position in 2011, and that was the first position of that kind at Fort Lewis. And then from there, moved on to director of Digital Communication, and then director of the department. So have seen a lot of different sides of the college, but really the focus has always been on helping youth, helping underserved populations, see the value of a degree.
[00:02:21] Host: Tell me a little bit about your current role and how you would describe Fort Lewis College.
[00:02:27] Lindsay Nyquist: Fort Lewis College is a small public liberal arts institution that is located in Southwest Colorado. So a very Sort of sleepy mountain town, but we absolutely love it. It's where the mountains meet the desert, and the animus River runs through town. It's an absolutely beautiful place to live and exist.
[00:02:46] Lindsay Nyquist: We really focus on, small classroom sizes, experiential education, we have about 35 50 students. So we're right around in the mid three thousands level. So we are a small institution, but what's really unique about our school is that our diversity. Almost 60% students of color, and a lot of that is made up from our Native American population because we have a Native American tuition waiver that supports our indigenous populations.
[00:03:11] Lindsay Nyquist: So it's really incredible. We have over 180 tribes represented on campus in this small and unique area. It's just really cool to see that cultural heritage that everyone's bringing so much different and interesting backgrounds and we just really celebrate that on. My role is the Director of Marketing and Communications, so I oversee a team of about 12, and we handle all the marketing coms for the institution.
[00:03:36] Lindsay Nyquist: We are a centralized department overall, so we handle web, print, media relations, photography, videography, social media, advertising, and probably a few other things.
[00:03:47] tell me a little bit about your relationship with the enrollment and admissions folks on your campus and really how that all works.
[00:03:57] Lindsay Nyquist: It's a very close relationship. we have to be right. There's no way to not work closely between admission and marketing. Currently I'm actually serving as supervisor for a couple of the sub-departments within admission, so I'm overseeing campus visits and admission communications right now.
[00:04:11] Lindsay Nyquist: So I'm diving in even deeper than I have before, which is cool. Historically just had a really close relationship with the director of admission so that we can collaborate. We're trying to achieve the same goals, so it's really important that we're in lockstep on everything. enrollment management, I think, also steps into the current student part of things.
[00:04:30] Lindsay Nyquist: So we're also, we've just brought on some student communication specialists that are helping us make sure that we're really getting to our current students so that we can help with those retention efforts in addition to the recruitment efforts that we see on the admission.
[00:04:43] Host: I find it really interesting that you're overseeing. Staff members in the admissions office who oversee. Visits and communication.
[00:04:51] Host: What have you learned about the world of enrollment and admissions through, this time and even prior to it?
[00:04:59] Lindsay Nyquist: I think I've just always been impressed with how complex admissions is. in marketing it might be a little more straightforward, . Either we initiate projects and we carry them through, or projects are requested of this and we carry them through. But admission is looking at everything from.
[00:05:15] Lindsay Nyquist: The recruit side, , the processing, which is, all the behind the scenes technical stuff that I think a lot of people overlook the visits, which is just another piece of sales comms. and then, the, in the office staff, there's just such a different vibe there. It's, also for the most part a younger staff.
[00:05:33] Lindsay Nyquist: So a lot more, there's just a lot of fun there. There's a lot of extroversion, a lot of enthusiasm, and it's a really fun group to work with. I absolutely love the marketing team and this is just another equally fun and different group of people to work with. So I've learned so much, and I think most of what I've learned is how much I don't know.
[00:05:51] Lindsay Nyquist: I've worked. In this role as director for probably five years and have been closely linked with admission throughout that, and now I'm learning things every day that I didn't even know were going on behind the scenes.
[00:06:03] Host: Tell me a little bit about your school's enrollment goals.
[00:06:07] Lindsay Nyquist: So our overall enrollment goal is to reach around 3,700 students. Right now, we're a little bit below that, but I think we're very conscious about setting reasonable enrollment goals so that we're not getting away from who we are. So core to the Fort Lewis College mentality and who we really are as an institution is that small, individualized. we have a really incredible undergraduate research program here and a lot of our students get these opportunities to do undergraduate research that would never happen at a larger institution or an R one or a flagship. And so we're, we really wanna stay true to that individualized experience. And that's what a lot of why students come here is they wanna make sure that they're building those individual relationships with faculty and they're getting personalized support when they.
[00:06:52] Host: Is that 3,700 goal, is that like. Next year goal is that incrementally over the next couple of years.
[00:06:58] Lindsay Nyquist: Actually, our enrollment rose multiple times throughout Covid, which. Really amazing. right now we're plateauing a bit, but I think there's still opportunity for growth and we're still moving towards that.
[00:07:10] Host: Where do you place the importance of visits within the overall enrollment strategy?
[00:07:17] Lindsay Nyquist: Visits are incredibly important to us, and I think most institutions would say that because of our location, I feel like it's even more important for us. We just live in this mountain paradise and once people see our location, they absolutely love it.
[00:07:30] Lindsay Nyquist: So one thing that we also wanna make sure that we're very clear about is this is not a big city area. Durango's a town of about thousand people and the county is about 50,000. So it's a little more than maybe some people are used to, but I think it's just this beautiful experience for students to have.
[00:07:48] Lindsay Nyquist: When people walk onto campus for that first campus tour, I think it really blows 'em away. And our team does a great job of really highlighting their beautiful facilities, but also, the, just these amazing views of the La PLAs right from campus and how our curriculum interacts at the outdoors.
[00:08:05] Lindsay Nyquist: It's a really important part of the Fort Lewis College curriculum is what we call powered by place. We're very attached to our location here, and that represents in a variety of ways. So that can be everything from our physical location in Southwest Colorado to the cultural landscape that's around here with lots of different cultures coming together, and also the economic landscape of being in a small town, but in a really interesting area.
[00:08:29] Lindsay Nyquist: I Think that's just what really truly sets us. From other institutions.
[00:08:33] Host: , so you said that enrollment grew during the pandemic, which is amazing, and you also said that visits are really important to your enrollment strategy. So what did you do during the pandemic to showcase your place, the city, the campus, in a virtual environment.
[00:08:52] Lindsay Nyquist: Because we're in an area that's not near a major city, that's something that we always deal with. We have a lot of students from Alaska. We regularly have students from all 50. So even despite the pandemic, we're always looking for ways to virtually represent what our institution has to offer.
[00:09:06] Lindsay Nyquist: One of those is definitely Student Bridge. So we signed on with Student Bridge, I believe, summer 2020 and that's been a great opportunity for us to showcase, both the video view book and what it's like to be on a small campus.
[00:09:18] Lindsay Nyquist: So we like that a lot. And then another great opportunity for us has been the College tour, which is a TV show that started at airs on I M D B tv but we were actually episode one, season one of the college tours. We were the first episode that they did.
[00:09:34] Lindsay Nyquist: And so it was a huge leap of faith on our part. We, they had never done this before. We met the producers and were really impressed by them right away, but hope that this would work out. And now I believe college tours on season eight and have profiled so many different institutions and they just do such a great job of highlighting.
[00:09:55] Lindsay Nyquist: Our students as individuals. That was a really important thing to us from day one, was making sure that our students felt comfortable that they were represented appropriately and culturally. And so we were just really impressed with how the college tour did that. And then to of combine those two pieces, the college tour does three minute videos on different topics, and those are the videos that we actually use on our Student Bridge virtual view book.
[00:10:19] Lindsay Nyquist: So those pieces all connect together to form this really robust. Piece of, digital content that helps people understand what it's like to attend school here.
[00:10:28] Lindsay Nyquist: How are you now balancing. Both virtual and in person we're definitely not doing as many virtual events as we were back in, COVID times. But otherwise, it's honestly the same way that we approach our students. We try to meet people where they are. So whatever works for them to get to understand the institution, that's how we wanna support them.
[00:10:49] Lindsay Nyquist: So we'd love to have everyone be able to get here, but. Geographically and financially that's not possible for every student. So we're really happy to serve them the virtual options that we have available. , but we'd love to have every single person come here with their families.
[00:11:02] Host: . What is a technology that's making an impact for your.
[00:11:06] Lindsay Nyquist: We've just started a digital advertising campaign that's pretty, Sort of enterprise level, I think so. in the past I've always managed multiple campaigns myself. We would hire out piecemeal different things, you know, advertising in a high school and then a TikTok campaign.
[00:11:22] Lindsay Nyquist: And over the last year I really realized that it's, we need to be more strategic and we need to look at all how all of those pieces work together. So we did an RFP over the summer and started working with Advanced 360, and they're running a sort of year round digital campaign for us to help get students, both for fall 23, but also for students further out in the pipeline so that we're really building up our sophomores and our juniors into our listing.
[00:11:48] Host: Is your virtual visit monotonous or mindblowing? Schools are expected to do more with less, especially in a post pandemic world. Enrollment staff don't have the bandwidth to pull off live and virtual events at the same time, but still want to provide access to open house events for students near and far at any time. If you're listening to this episode soon after it's released register for our upcoming live webinar on Thursday, January 19th.
[00:12:18] Host: 2023 at the link in the show notes. At this webinar, you will find out how colleges and universities can capitalize on the benefits of virtual events. Learn how to actually convert curious onlookers into engaged, enrolled students. And get five best practices for virtual events that will invigorate your funnel without putting any students to sleep.
[00:12:42] Host: Register at the link in the show notes. If you're listening to this after january 19th, 2023, click the link in the show notes to register for an upcoming webinar or watch a past webinar recording
[00:12:55] Host: . I'm gonna make an assumption that your leadership is really supportive of you and gives you funding for initiatives that, that you need. Is that accurate?
[00:13:07] Lindsay Nyquist: It is, and I feel so grateful for that. It's funny, whenever I go to conferences and I'm talking to people, those are some of the things that I really extra appreciate about my colleagues is one is that I get tremendous support from the upper administration and the other is that we work so well and so closely with admission.
[00:13:24] Lindsay Nyquist: So I think our current leadership just really understands the value of marketing and understands how fierce the competition is out there, and that students aren't just going to stumble here on their own and they're just not going to know how amazing it is. Just because they believe in us, , we really have to work hard to tell that story and to get it in front of the right.
[00:13:43] Lindsay Nyquist: A.
[00:13:44] Host: Your leadership already sees the value in what you do and the things that you're trying to do, and they support you and give you the money that you need to do that.
[00:13:52] Lindsay Nyquist: Absolutely, it's sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We get that support, but we continue to deliver on it. So my team creates incredible content and distributes it, and then that proves the value of what we're doing. And so we continue to get those resources.
[00:14:06] Host: Tell me a little bit more about the marketing channels that you rely on most. You talked about your, really robust digital ad campaign. What are some other marketing channels that y'all rely on?
[00:14:17] the digital advertising I think is just foundational at this point. This is just the expectation that we have. We need to be getting out there in front of new eyes, but once people get a little further in the funnel, we do an in-house campaign where we're serving ads based on where they are in the funnel and slate.
[00:14:32] Lindsay Nyquist: So if a student has filled up part of their application, they might see an ad that encourages them to complete it. So that's one piece of it. And then really, we're looking at other ways. Have as close to one-on-one conversations as we can. So zeemee is a new app that we just signed on with last year that's been incredibly successful for us in the last, several months.
[00:14:52] we've often been, some of the. I think in the top five of different of colleges across the country that are having really engaging and robust conversations on that platform. And that's exciting and it's a really interesting one for us because Zemi, we don't promote Zmi so much as students are already there.
[00:15:08] Lindsay Nyquist: And then we give them the opportunity to speak with other prospective students. On that channel. So I think so often we wait until students have been admitted or have applied, and Zmi gets them at that perspective stage so they can start having those conversations earlier and earlier. And it helps, encourage that decision to apply rather than waiting until they've already made the decision and then reinforcing it.
[00:15:30] Lindsay Nyquist: So that one's been really interesting. I think email marketing and text campaigns are another really common. Where we're reaching out to students and trying to provide that one-on-one support that they need. So anything from, sending targeted emails that detail exactly what that individual student needs to do to complete their application to hosting live chat sessions where students can ask individual questions from our counselors,
[00:15:54] Host: What is something that your team is doing differently?
[00:15:58] I think part of it, We just have a good time. We love our jobs. We have so much fun coming to work and being a part of this team. I just feel incredibly lucky that I have such a talented team that we're just people I wanna be around all day. So that's a big part of it. I think what you said before about us being empowered and,supported by the administration, it allows us to be agile and responsive and so that we can deal with things as they come.
[00:16:24] Lindsay Nyquist: And another thing that we do that I really love is we rely a lot on students for content and for input. When I hear other institutions talking about how they work with students, it seems like it's often still really locked down. Like they'll let a student make a piece of content, but then it has to get vetted by three different people before it can go live.
[00:16:44] Lindsay Nyquist: We're a little more free with that, and I think that leads to better content and more authentic content, which is what this generation wants to.
[00:16:52] Host: By that do you mean that you're giving students like full access to social media accounts and letting them create and post all in the same day?
[00:17:02] Lindsay Nyquist: Yeah, so we have a full-time social media coordinator who also does some design work, but she is a team of interns and it's not like we do that on day one, but once they've proven themselves, they understand the brand, they understand. Who they're connecting with and they can use grammar and spelling properly, , then we really open it up and it's just so fun.
[00:17:21] Lindsay Nyquist: Cause you know, it, it does take some of the stress off of our staff, our professional staff from having to attend every event and cover it. And it also just gets students excited about what's going on on campus and it gets that a little bit more of that student vibe. We've been really doing this since.
[00:17:38] Lindsay Nyquist: So I was the first social media coordinator in 2011. So we've had a person in this position for more than 10 years now, and I've had interns really, empowered interns almost the whole time. And it very rarely goes bad. And I think a lot of schools are really worried about giving up that level of control, which I totally understand.
[00:17:54] Lindsay Nyquist: But we've had a lot of success with it.
[00:17:56] Host: As someone who know, was the first one in the role more than a decade ago, which I'm gonna guess that probably back then you were like scheduling tweets and Facebook posts and Hoot Suite. And then now you know, there's TikTok, there's Instagram stories, all these different things. what do you think about the changes and where social media has gone?
[00:18:19] Lindsay Nyquist: I love this question. The thing that I've seen change most significantly since the early days of social media is it used to be a new app would show up and we'd have to figure out if we were gonna adopt or not. Do we wanna be an early adopter or do we not? even Instagram before it was bought out by Facebook, right?
[00:18:37] Lindsay Nyquist: So we would think about that and once it had gotten enough followers, we would try to get in, start creating the content. But now what we see is since our, tech companies have gotten so big that doesn't happen as much. Snapchat and TikTok are out there, but at the same time, Facebook's buying out those features or recreating those features pretty quickly.
[00:18:55] Lindsay Nyquist: So I think we're seeing a lot fewer independent social media platforms coming up, cuz a lot of times those features will just get wrapped into something we're already using. So in some ways I think it's really. It makes it a lot easier to not have to make those decisions. But then at the same time, the platforms we're using are so much more complex.
[00:19:13] you're posting on Instagram, are you posting to the feed or to a story or to a real, or to whatever the newest thing is that just happened today. So I just think it's constantly changing. But that's what's fun about social media is that it doesn't feel like you're not doing, you're definitely not doing the same thing every day.
[00:19:28] you're always adapting. I think now we also see a lot more trends that did not seem to be quite as big of a deal when I was doing this in the early 2010s and teens. You would just put out the content that you thought needed to be there. And now I think our coordinators very adept and very dialed into what's going on.
[00:19:46] Lindsay Nyquist: How can we interpret this trend to our own, our own initiative or our own thing that we're trying to push.
[00:19:51] Host: The only trend I can remember is. Our school account posted a Facebook album of our mascot planking on different things across campus. Cuz it was like, oh, the planking trend.
[00:20:04] Lindsay Nyquist: I feel like the planking trend lasted six months and now trends last a week. So we have to be incredibly agile and just, ready for anything. The other thing that I've seen a lot of. This is nothing new, but just video everywhere.
[00:20:19] Lindsay Nyquist: So it was a big battle to get a full-time videographer on staff. But now we have a full-time videographer who does mostly horizontal, more like long form narrative. Our social media coordinators very adept in vertical video for social. And then our photographer also shoots video as well.
[00:20:34] Lindsay Nyquist: So we have three different people working on video in addition to students, which six years ago you never would've thought that was the.
[00:20:42] Host: . And nothing looks more inauthentic and old school to Gen Z than horizontal video in a vertical format.
[00:20:54] Lindsay Nyquist: Oh, it hurts . But that's a, that's such a challenge content wise cuz , forgiving Tuesday for example, which isn't necessarily trying to hit a Gen Z audience quite as much. we had meeting after meeting, how are we gonna create all this content about the different initiatives that we're pushing on campus?
[00:21:08] Lindsay Nyquist: And do we shoot them vertical and horizontal at the same time? Do we shoot one and cut the other way? It's a real challenge content-wise, but again, it keeps it interesting. we always get to problem solve at work, which I think , keeps us dialed, keeps us engaged, and keeps us challeng.
[00:21:22] Host: . What is something that your school or your team struggles with?
[00:21:26] we're very fortunate with resources, but we're a small public liberal institution. we have finite resources and infinite demand is how I think of it. So I'm lucky to have a staff the size that I do for a school this size, but if I got five more people tomorrow, we would absolutely have enough full-time work for all of.
[00:21:44] Lindsay Nyquist: So I think always just trying to, how can we do the most and do the most work that's gonna have a positive impact with,most effectively using the resources that we have.
[00:21:54] Host: . Do you have any staffing challenges with your geographic location and have you considered, allowing remote work or, something like that for the right person?
[00:22:04] Lindsay Nyquist: Absolutely. So we do have two full-time remote people right now actually. what's nice is that they both used to work here in person, so we knew them really well. We didn't have to onboard them remotely. They just happen to live somewhere else now. So that works really well. In general, when we're staffing be, we want to make sure that people know what they're getting into with working in Durango.
[00:22:25] Lindsay Nyquist: Iit's this beautiful place, but it's mountain town pricing. the cost of living is high and we wanna make sure that people are really committed and excited about living here. And so often , I've chosen people that I know are going to be committed to Duran. Even if they might not have quite as much textbook experience and that has worked out so well, cuz it also helps us move from a lot of places, only hire other people from higher ed and we have such a unique staff that has all kinds of different skills from working freelance because that's often what they did before they came here.
[00:22:58] Host: So I think they're bringing in a lot more corporate background and just individual innovative, unique opportunities that they've had in their own pasts and I can see that being a concern for people, but it's really worked out well for us, so,Who do you like to follow or learn?
[00:23:14] Lindsay Nyquist: In higher ed marketing, just colleagues that I meet at conferences, so I just was at the American Marketing Association Symposium on Higher Education.
[00:23:23] Lindsay Nyquist: I'm also involved in the Case Commission on Communications and Marketing and their value of higher education committee. And just seeing other people that are a couple years further in their career than I am, I've just learned so much and it's just so great to have contacts like that when things get tough
[00:23:38] Host: . What do you see for the future of higher ed market?
[00:23:40] think, I mean, that's always the million dollar question, but I think it really comes down to understanding what students want and need, and that's what I'm seeing a lot of in this value of higher education committee that I'm on. how can we be adaptable to serving students what they need now?
[00:23:56] Lindsay Nyquist: And we know more and more that those things are changing. That's not always a marketing decision. It's often a curriculum, it's an academic affairs decision, but how do we help gather that information and work with our colleagues and academics to understand what students and the workforce really needs right now?
[00:24:12] Lindsay Nyquist: And how do we deliver those?
[00:24:14] Host: There's sometimes this conflict between the reality of what the school offers versus what leadership wants. To convey that the school offers and marketing really gets stuck in the middle there. So you're absolutely right that, serving students what they need in form of curriculum, but also in, in the form of messaging and telling them exactly what they're in for.
[00:24:40] Lindsay Nyquist: It always comes back to authenticity. If we're not accurately representing what this college is offering, then what are we doing? So if we get students here and we're misrepresenting who we are, They're gonna leave and then it's not great for our retention numbers. and it's not great for students bank account if they're accruing debt for a degree they didn't earn.
[00:24:58] Lindsay Nyquist: So I think, a lot of responsibility rests on us to make sure that we're accurately representing what this institution is all about and the great things that we have to offer them. And then making sure that we match with students that are gonna be really happy here and that are gonna grow and be challenged here and that are gonna graduate and go on to become successful alumni.
[00:25:17] Host: And how do you convey that message or that authenticity?
[00:25:21] Lindsay Nyquist: Part of it comes from student generated content, whether that's our interns or students that just help us out. being connected to students walking around campus and understand and listening to what students say, I'm eating in the dining hall a couple days a week. I think you get so much from actually being out there with them, and I think occasionally as you get into higher level administrative, Roles, it's really easy to distance yourself from students, which is the worst thing we can do.
[00:25:46] we need to make sure that most of us got into this role and into this industry because we care about working with youth and we wanna be a part of that. And when we get far away from who that is, we can't be as successful at what we do.
[00:25:58] what is an app or a marketing tool that you could not live without?
[00:26:01] Lindsay Nyquist: My number one right now is Lytho, L Y T H O. which is our project management tool. I'm in there probably 50% of most days, it's where we accept requests coming in from different areas on campus. It's how we manage every single project and track success and completion. And it's where we keep all communication about every project as it's going on, as well as the files related to it.
[00:26:25] and if you could go back five to 10 years and give yourself advice, what would it be?
[00:26:29] Lindsay Nyquist: That's always a fun question. I don't tend to regret much. It's not really my personality. I like to sort of bulldoze through and keep going, but what I am always happy that I've done is taken big steps, so I always. I take steps before I'm ready for them. I took this role when I was in no way prepared for it, and it's how I grew into it, and I don't think I would've made it as far if I wasn't trying to do that.
[00:26:51] Lindsay Nyquist: So that's what I really encourage , my staff and my colleagues and my friends to do is take steps even though you're not ready for them, put yourself out there. it's better to fail forward than to just sit comfortably and let things go, pass you by.
[00:27:03] Host: If someone wants to connect with you, how can they do?
[00:27:06] Lindsay Nyquist: The best way would be to find me on LinkedIn. It's Lindsay Nyquist, L i n d S A Y N Y Q U I S T. I'd love to meet more colleagues and talk about any of the things we talked about today.
[00:27:17] Host: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for speaking with me.
[00:27:20] Lindsay Nyquist: thanks for the opportunity.
[00:27:23] Host: This is the Filling Seats podcast, hosted by StudentBridge, your one stop shop for easy and engaging enrollment solutions. If you're tired of snory-telling, and ready to start storytelling your way to better visits and better enrollment, visit studentbridge.com.
[00:27:42] Host: To connect with this episode's guest, check out the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, leave a rating and review and don't forget to subscribe. For more information about the podcast or to let us know, you'd like to be a guest visit studentbridge.com/podcast. Thanks for listening!