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Lean_ Mean_ and Green Memorial University's Cost-effective and


									                           Lean, Mean, and Green:
            Memorial University’s Cost-effective and Environmentally
            Responsible Approach to Graduate Student Recruitment
    An application for the 2010 CAGS/ETS Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Admissions by
                     the School of Graduate Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland

                                                     March 22, 2010

                                           School of Graduate Studies
                                        Memorial University of Newfoundland
                                             St. John’s, NL A1C 5S7
                                              Phone: 709-737-2445
                                                Fax: 709-737-4702


“Write programs that do one thing and do it well.” – Dr. Doug McIlroy, co-founder of the UNIX tradition

Graduate school is where future professionals develop the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle large
and complex problems in the gamut of academic disciplines. A highly skilled and knowledgeable

workforce, in turn, enables a country to achieve healthy academic growth, enhanced quality of life, and
quality of democracy. In light of their growing importance and contributions to society, increasing the

graduate student cohort became a strategic objective for Memorial University in 2007.

With central responsibility for graduate recruitment and admissions, the School of Graduate Studies

(SGS) needed to decide on an aggressive student recruitment strategy aligned with the institutional

priorities of increasing graduate enrolment and international student enrolment by employing new and

innovative recruitment practices, undertaking more systematic recruitment efforts, and enhancing web-

  Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). 2008. Graduate Education and the Public Good. Retrieved from
  Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS). 2001. Educating the Best Minds for the Knowledge Economy: Setting the
Stage for Success. Retrieved from

based student information services. Understanding budget limitations and challenges stemming from
physical location of the institution along with the growing need for sustainable business practices, SGS

focused on developing a strong web-based graduate student recruitment and recruitment marketing

strategy that would fulfill the following objectives:

1. Engage in low cost, high impact recruitment and recruitment marketing activities that generate

    significant increase in graduate applications and enrolment (domestic and international).

2. Reduce the volume of paper used in graduate marketing and admissions, and leverage excellent

    customer service to attract new graduate students.

3. Experiment with disruptive technologies to promote graduate programs and communicate effectively

    with prospects globally.

To develop and implement its new e-strategy, SGS made two significant changes. First, it reconfigured its

organizational structure. In 2007, the School reclassified the position of Assistant Registrar – Graduate

Studies to that of Graduate Enrolment Manager, with oversight responsibilities for graduate-level

recruitment. In 2009, two new positions were created to provide expertise and support in planning and

delivery of recruitment initiatives: (1) Marketing Coordinator, with special emphasis web-based marketing

and projects, and (2) Recruitment and Retention Coordinator, responsible for among other things e-

management of client relationships. Second, SGS reconsidered its relationships with other business units

within the University. Strategic partnerships were formed with Marketing and Communications, Computing

and Communications, the Office of Student Recruitment, and the Academic Advising Office among others

to better leverage the full resources of the institution toward the mission of attracting new graduate


  Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). 2007. Strategic Plan and Targets Document. Retrieved from

More than just a website

Fundamental to this new e-strategy was a recruitment microsite launched in 2009 with the help of the
Division of Marketing and Communications. The website reflected the ‘become’ recruitment brand for

SGS and the University as a whole. It highlighted and added depth to primary areas of interest (academic

program, tuition, and funding opportunities) as determined by web analytics. The website also featured

student success stories, faculty profiles, embedded videos, information on both St. John’s and the

province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the growing research profile at Memorial. A new webpage
was developed to make the recruitment microsite a more welcoming place for our international visitors.

SGS is currently collaborating with the Office of Student Recruitment to create content in different

languages on the ‘become’ recruitment sites for international students. A print and poster marketing

campaign was launched in 2009 with the help of Marketing and Communications to promote the new

website across Canada.

An important feature of the new website was the inquiry form. The new form allowed SGS to collect data

on and strategically manage its communication and relationships with graduate prospects. The Customer

Relationship Management (CRM) product supporting the form was developed in collaboration with the

Department of Computing and Communications and the Division of Marketing and Communications. It

enabled SGS to track prospect communications in a centralized way. Email marketing functionality has

also been developed for use with the form – prospective students will be able to opt manually to receive

further information from SGS by email at 1-week intervals for a period of 4 weeks. Further enhancements

to the CRM software are expected to allow for tailored email campaigns.

Beyond the departmental website, SGS recognized the growing importance of a strong social media

profile in student recruitment and admissions. In 2009, accounts for Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr were

created to help Memorial broadly share information and communicate with graduate prospects and newly


admitted graduate students. The SGS Facebook and Twitter accounts are monitored and updated

regularly with news, videos, and photos. The Dean’s Blog is another important element of SGS’s new

media portfolio, uniquely leveraging the voice of the Dean of Graduate Studies in student recruitment.
The Dean’s Blog is updated weekly and gives prospects and new students a greater sense of the issues

and trends in graduate education at Memorial, across Canada, and worldwide. Finally, Memorial was the
first Canadian post-secondary institution to participate in GradShare – an interactive web-based program

developed by ProQuest that allows graduate students to ask and answer questions in various forums.

While not specifically designed for student recruitment, like the Dean’s Blog it gives prospects an

overview of the graduate student experience and helps them make an informed decision to apply to a

graduate program.

Another important channel of communication for SGS has been MUNlive, an instant messaging service
offered to prospective and newly admitted students.                 Through collaborative efforts with the Academic

Advising Office and the Office of Student Recruitment, MUNlive takes advantage of open source software

to provide information immediately to prospects and new admits, particularly international students who

can avoid long distance charges and receive answers in real time through instant interactions with the

University. The idea won Memorial a silver medal from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of
Education in 2009 for excellence in communications and marketing.

Leveraging admissions and customer service to recruit students

Timely processing of applications and admissions was also seen to be an important part of the

recruitment process. SGS understood the undeniable role excellent customer service plays in attracting

quality students. For Fall 2009, significant improvements were made to the way graduate applications
were processed.          Some of the more notable changes included acceptance of only web-based graduate

  Green, J. (March 27, 2009). Offering grad students hands-on advice. Retrieved from
   The Telegram. (June 8, 2009). Memorial University’s instant chat service gets national award. The Telegram. Retrieved from

applications, reductions in the number of reference letters required from 3 to 2, utilization of new
reference letter forms that could be submitted electronically,              an email account (

dedicated to receiving supporting documents electronically, and a commitment to process all applications

and supporting documents within 3 to 5 days of receipt. Requiring prospective students to submit their

applications online was particularly important because it allowed SGS to process their documents faster,

minimized data entry errors, and allowed applicants the opportunity to learn about the status of their files
through a newly created status page.             In so doing, about 75% of the paper correspondence sent

regularly to applicants advising them of missing documents was eliminated.

Efficiencies and improvements were also created in graduate admissions. Previous practice involved

SGS sending bulky admissions packages to students once they had been formally admitted. Delivery of

these packages was an expensive proposition and, based on anecdotal evidence, took upwards of 6

weeks to reach international destinations. Instead, SGS opted to include just three documents in the new

admission packages: the offer letter, a form outlining the program of study, and a checklist prompting
graduate students to visit a new student webpage               that contained much of the information previously

sent to admitted students in paper form. This is believed to have cut both transit time and paper and mail

costs in half.

Welcoming new students and building a graduate community

Adequately welcoming new students was an integral objective for SGS, and so the School in partnership

with the Division of Student Affairs and Services organized the first-ever Graduate Student Orientation in

2008. The event was designed to help Memorial’s graduate students in their transition to masters and

doctoral programs. It consisted of keynote addresses from Memorial’s President and Dean of Graduate

Studies, roundtable discussions involving faculty and current graduate students, and booth presentations

from administrative units providing services to graduate students.

   Memorial University Department of Human Resources. (Spring 2009). “Small but significant: Employees becoming more Eco-
minded. The Communicator. Retrieved from

Shortly after they were sent offer letters, newly admitted graduate students were emailed an invitation to
the Orientation event and asked to RSVP through a Facebook page.                  The vast majority of student

participants at the event were international. In the second annual Graduate Student Orientation event in

2009, over 300 graduate students attended, the vast majority of whom were international students, and

over 96.1% noted that it was a useful experience. This year, SGS plans for a virtual component to the

Orientation event by creating an interactive Orientation webpage to allow students completing a graduate

program via distance education to participate.

Hedging uncertainties through a balanced portfolio

Despite recent online successes, SGS has not abandoned traditional recruitment methods. The School

continues to carry out significant activities offline, including campus visits and participation in graduate
school fairs and on-campus information sessions.             Through a partnership with the Centre for Career

Development (CCD), SGS delivers a presentation on graduate school opportunities to undergraduate
students through Science M@tters,          an innovative program designed by the CCD to inform students of

post-grad career and academic opportunities. A similar component has been proposed for ArtsWorks, the

CCD’s career development program for students in arts and humanities. SGS also actively recruits mid-

career professionals through outreach activities and involvement in the Annual Teacher Recruitment Fair

and the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council Fall Conference. In a recent project involving

the Department of Human Resources, SGS held an information session to a boardroom full of Memorial

staff members interested in graduate programs and the University’s generous tuition reimbursement

policy. Finally, through a partnership with the Office of Student Recruitment and the Office of Alumni

Affairs and Development, an Alumni Ambassadors program is being developed that would leverage

alumni in the recruitment of new students to the institution.


Outcomes to celebrate

The School’s new recruitment strategy has been a great success. Some of the more notable

achievements are as follows:

1. Applications and enrolment:

   Total graduate applications as of Feb. 28, 2009 up 17.3% from Feb. 28, 2008

   Total graduate applications as of Feb. 28, 2010 up 50.0% from Feb. 28, 2009.

   Total graduate enrolment for Fall 2009 was 2,758 up 13.8% from Fall 2008.

   Part-time enrolment for Fall 2009 was 1,183, up 15.6% from Fall 2008.

   Full-time graduate enrolment for Fall 2009 was 1,575, up 12.4% from Fall 2008.

   International graduate enrolment for Fall 2009 was 465, up 14.8% from Fall 2008.

2. Technological successes:

   The new graduate recruitment microsite is visited by prospects from 195 countries each month.

   In December 2009, there were 98,020 page views on vs. 18,375 page

    views during December 2008 on previous webpage for prospective graduate students.

   In February 2010, there were 126,608 page views on /become/graduate, of which 86,262 were

    unique page views.

   To date, approximately 2,215 prospect leads have been generated through the new inquiry form

    since Mar. 11, 2009, an average of 195 per month since Apr. 1, 2009. The average response time for

    inquiries received since Sept. 1, 2009 has been 2.85 days.

   To date, there are 233 fans of the SGS Facebook page and 390 followers of the SGS Twitter


   To date, over 2,110 prospects have used the graduate studies section of MUNlive since Oct. 2008,

    an average of 6.64 chats per day.

3. Greening operations:

    Web applications generally utilize 1/3 less paper.

    SGS was able to eliminate approximately 75% of the paper correspondence sent to applicants

     regularly advising them of missing documents.

    Lighter admissions packages coupled with a New Student website allowed for faster delivery times

     and over 50% savings in delivery costs.

Monitoring progress and ensuring continuous improvement

To ensure SGS’s recruitment initiatives sufficiently fulfill the University’s enrolment objectives, monitoring

and control processes have also been put in place. SGS with support from the Centre for Institutional
Analysis and Planning developed and administered online surveys to new graduate students               and to
applicants who declined offers of admission to Memorial’s graduate programs.           Recognizing the

importance and reach of word-of-mouth promotion, SGS has also started to administer exit surveys to
obtain a better understanding of graduate students’ experiences at Memorial.          The surveys are also

expected to help Memorial better assess the effects of its recruitment and recruitment marketing activities.

Through a research partnership with the Students in Free Enterprise’s (SIFE) Transatlantic Consultants

team at Memorial, SGS also hopes to gain better intelligence on international market opportunities. Two

successful research projects have been completed on recruitment opportunities in Japan and the UK. A

third project has begun in 2010 investigating opportunities in Hong Kong.

SGS continues to look for innovative ways to promote graduate programs through its online presence.

The School is currently working with Marketing and Communications and the Office of Student

Recruitment to develop a Google Adwords campaign to enhance visibility and traffic. The School is also

exploring opportunities in targeting prospective students through use of GRE Search and direct

marketing. Better understanding the trends in prospect use of social media through new student surveys


and review of literature and industry best practices is an important goal as well for SGS. The School is

particularly interested in emerging technologies, and has begun looking with other offices involved in the

MUNlive project at possibilities for a smartphone application for MUNlive.


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