What Skills Are Needed To Work In Enrollment Offices In Higher Education? | Stats + Stories Episode 25 / by Stats Stories

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Michael Kabbaz is Vice President , Division of Enrollment Management and Student Success at Miami University. His Division includes Offices of Admission, Bursar, Career Services, Enrollment Communication, Enrollment Operations and One Stop Services, Enrollment Research and Analysis, University Registrar,Student Financial Assistance and the Student Success Center.

+ Full Transcript

Bailer: Welcome to Stats and Short stories, this is the first time that we’ve picked this alternate form where we’re taking a small question, and sometimes it’s the question we forgot to ask when we did the long form, but other times it’s just another issue that might be of interest to a broader community. I’m John Bailer from the department of Statistics at Miami University and I’m here with colleague Richard Campbell who is the chair of the department of Media Journalism and Film and colleague and moderator Rosemary Pennington and special guest Michael Kabbaz, who is the guru of enrollment management at Miami University. One question that perhaps we didn’t get to explore when we talked to you in another circumstance was what is it that someone needs to work in the world that you work in? What are some of the key skills that maybe ten years ago were not so important but now you just probably can’t do without them?

Kabbaz: You know what’s fascinating to me, certainly since I consider myself a career enrollment manager, I guess, fifteen years into it that’s apparently what I’ll be doing for my career, which is a very good thing. You know, when you think back, when you talk to colleagues, why did you get into the business of higher education? What many of us will say is because we absolutely loved our education, we absolutely loved our undergraduate, we thought, let’s go be an admission councilor for a handful of years and then we’ll go do something real. What you find out through that course is that the reason why you got into the profession to support students, help students, counsel students in terms of the institution you often times love, turns into to how do you analyze data, what is your ability to be able to develop marketing campaigns, what is your ability to asses data, what is your ability to be able to use data, what is your ability then to be able to take that and also get into financial aid, and then also learn about the registration patterns of students. So, it grows from this idea of what you got into the profession to a much more nuanced ability to be both a chief sales person, a chief data person as it relates to enrollment data, and a chief student success officer, where what are the things that impact the student experience.

Campbell: So what was your training?

Kabbaz: What’s interesting is I refer to people…I consider myself a recovering accountant. So, when you think about this work…what’s fascinating to me is we are in a not for profit, oftentimes, not that there’s not for profit education, but I get the ability to come in, I believe in the outcome, which is knowledge, which is our students being able to get skills that they can be successful for the rest of their life, and I get to be on the business side of that not for profit. So it’s very much…what’ interesting is a lot of people say, well, you’re an accountant by trade, and I said, yeah, but every day I use those analytical skills. What’s interesting, you’re seeing a lot more people from marketing backgrounds get into this work, but if you don’t have an underpinning of comfort with data and an ability to understand predictive analytics, you know, you don’t always have to be the person who does the regression analysis but you have to be able to ask the questions and you have to be able to balance both the quantitative and qualitative work more than ever before.

Campbell: Now, are you hiring differently than you were five years ago?

Kabbaz: You know, that’s actually a really good question. You know when you look at the complexity of our organizational structures, you know, in the division that I’m in, there’s roughly 130, 140 staff - everything from your entry level staff to my research person who has a Ph.D. in mathematics, so it runs the gambit of the types of skill sets. What’s interesting, particularly for the entry level skills your questions are more like this; ‘so you feel like you can get in front of a crowd and talk to 100, 150, 200 people?, sure, great, do you know how to do a pivot table in Excel?’ You know, so, oftentimes what we’re talking about here are skills that don’t necessarily….they’re not necessarily congruent, but it’s that skill set that will allow that person to progress in the profession.

Bailer: So this was great, thanks for the quick summary and your reaction to what’s needed to be successful in working in enrollment management and playing this game. I’m John Bailer from the Department of Statistics at Miami University joined with Richard Campbell from the Department of Media Journalism and Film as well Rosemary Pennington and our special guest was Michael Kabbaz. Michael it’s a pleasure, thanks again for doing this with us.

Kabbaz: Thank you.