By Charles Cotton III, Ed.D., Vice President for Enrollment Management
“It takes a village” is a phrase I often heard from my family growing up. In many ways, it was a phrase that showcased the importance of an entire community working together to create a safe and healthy environment. Upon my arrival to Clarke University, I was quickly reminded of this phrase as I witnessed how well our community has been able to weather the various challenges that came with beginning the new academic year. Through the rubble and pain caused by a global pandemic and civil injustice, we have found ways to move onward!
While there have been many great strides all across the University, I would like to share a few examples from the enrollment and financial aid teams. Throughout this year, we have found ways to build new partnerships, innovate in countless ways, and remain accessible. This was all achieved while also finding time to tend to the disruptions and challenges in our personal lives.
As we prepared to tackle the many obstacles in front of us, we did not settle for just getting by. Instead, we realized we had an opportunity to approach our work differently. Through collaboration and partnership, beginning with Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), we established more significant pathways to Clarke in what is known as NICC Today, CU Tomorrow, by developing a foundation in which more students will have the ability to receive a Clarke University education. We also became the first private college to partner with all 15 Iowa Community Colleges – reducing barriers, costs, and time to a bachelor’s degree by developing comprehensive transfer articulation agreements. In an effort to make sure we were serving our traditional student population, we also worked with East Dubuque High School to establish pathways to post-secondary educational opportunities at Clarke for their students.
Amidst building success through partnerships, we were just as eager to find ways to innovate in our recruitment outreach. Through the addition of virtual visits and events, we were able to reach students who may not have otherwise engaged with Clarke. In October, we safely welcomed visiting prospective students and their families back to our campus. Knowing campus visits are crucial to the student college search experience, we found ways to provide these experiences in a way that showcased who we are at Clarke! Within our community, we collaborated and found innovative ways to ensure students can engage with our faculty, staff, and current students safely, as we know the people are who make us a unique and desirable place to be!
As we looked to find ways to better serve prospective students, our financial aid team, student accounts, and many others worked hard to remain accessible for our current students through all of the challenges. Finding new ways to connect with students when we had limited ability to engage in–person was vital to our success. Given the abundance of uncertainty around aid and funding and responding to the financial hardships that many students and families faced amidst the pandemic, our communication was more important during this time than it likely has ever been. Helping students create plans and develop strategies for funding their educational pursuits is something we could not afford to put on pause. Our financial aid team was able to find ways to better utilize our customer relationship management (CRM) software to reach students via text message and address their needs/concerns individually.
I share these examples with you all for several reasons. First and foremost, I found these few examples, as well as dozens of others, to be an exemplary showcase of what “it takes a village” truly means. I also share these examples with you as a reminder to think about the things we should be proud of. It is sometimes challenging in the middle of hard work to celebrate the “small” victories. However, it is essential to know that many of those small victories can be life–changing for others.
As members of the Clarke community, we all have countless stories and examples to share about how we have all banded together and accomplished so much. I hope this brief perspective from a newly–initiated Clarkie has in the least bit inspired others to share their stories and to celebrate the victories as we continue to press onward as the village that we are!