From non-traditional student to unconventional president.

Episode 7 December 12, 2022 00:43:57
From non-traditional student to unconventional president.
College Is Worth It
From non-traditional student to unconventional president.

Dec 12 2022 | 00:43:57

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Hosted By

Vi Nguyen Justin Gillmar Drew Melendres Jonathan Shores, Ph. D.

Show Notes

Jonathan Shores, Sr. Vice President of Client Service at Ardeo Education Solutions interviews Dr. Evan
Duff, President of North Carolina Wesleyan University. This wide-ranging discussion covers Dr. Duff’s career trajectory, the North Carolina Wesleyan name change from ‘College’ to ‘University’, how students and parents are both becoming more savvy than ever in choosing a college that will deliver an ROI, and NCWU’s Personal, Practical and Purpose-Driven approach to higher education.

 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:01 You're listening to the College Is Worth It Podcast, Learn from leaders who are transforming higher education to ensure that a college degree will pay off for this generation. And the next by exploring innovations in education with us in each episode. And now your host, Vi Nguyen. Speaker 2 00:00:18 Hello everyone. This is Vi and you're listening to the College Is Worth It podcast. Today Jonathan Shores, who has a long career in higher education enrollment and is currently the senior Vice President of Client Services at Ardeo Education Solution, will be interviewing Dr. Evan Duff, the President of North Carolina Wesleyan University. Dr. Duff has served in multiple positions at the university before becoming president. He offers a unique perspective and a few stories about the higher landscape from his perspectives. So let's get to it. Speaker 3 00:00:56 Well, hello everyone. My name is Jonathan Shores, senior Vice President of Client Service here at Ardeo, and I am very excited today to have with me president of North Carolina Wesleyan University, Dr. Evan Duff. Dr. Duff, thank you so much for joining us today. Speaker 4 00:01:12 Absolutely. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you. Speaker 3 00:01:15 Uh, absolutely. Well, we'll just jump right into it. And if we can just start off with, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and tell the listeners a little bit about North Carolina Wesleyan University? Speaker 4 00:01:27 Sure. so I have been the president here. I always count my interim experience, in that, so, since, 2019, so this is my third summer in that role, I've been with the actual university for this is going on my 12th year and served in a couple of different capacities before becoming president. North Carolina Wesleyan University is a, in a nutshell, we are a church affiliated with the United Methodist Church, small, uh, liberal arts school that offers professional programs for both traditional and adult students. and our main focus here, we focus in on three kind of words or phrases and personal, practical, and purpose driven. and so would be more than happy to explain each of those a little further as we get into some additional questions. But in a nutshell, that's who North Carolina Wesland University is. Speaker 3 00:02:31 Yeah. That's awesome. Thank you for sharing that. I probably should have started with the fact that you and I have known each other, I guess, for going on 20 years now. Um, uh, for all the listeners out there I had worked in higher ed, for a few years on the admission side, enrollment side, and found thought that, at least in the interim, that I wanted to get into the faculty side. And Dr. Duff was the first one to give me a go on the faculty side. And, and that was almost 20 years ago now. It's hard to believe it's been that long, isn't it? Speaker 4 00:03:04 Absolutely. It flies by when you're doing something you're passionate about. Speaker 3 00:03:11 Absolutely. So, I, I guess with that you know, shared a little bit about, about myself, but tell us a little bit about your kind of personal higher education story. You know how was your college experience? I know yours was a little bit different than a lot of maybe other college presidents may have, and how did that kind of impact your career trajectory, if you will? Speaker 4 00:03:33 Absolutely. So I shared the story oftentimes with new students here on campus. And, you know, when I was graduating high school, the thought of becoming a university president was not even on my radar at all. I really was primarily an introvert. thought I was going to go into the sciences and working a lab and study viruses, which would've been very helpful the last couple of years. but that did not, that was not in the cards for me. And so, going through the process, I did start at a more traditional institution, U N C W, through life, got married very young, and realized that I couldn't be a traditional student. And so I was lucky enough to find a program, um, that allowed me to go to school on the weekends and be more of a nontraditional student. Speaker 4 00:04:33 So my entire higher ed experience from a student perspective from that point on was really nontraditional. So I finished my undergrad, going to school on the weekends. Uh, went to a graduate program that was on the weekends, um, and spent every other weekend, going to class. And then my doctoral program was primarily online with a few residencies, but primarily online. So, so I really understand, uh, education from, from that view point, um, that that was my experience. And so I tell students that I changed going from, uh, U N C W to the private institution that I attended. Um, you know, I changed my major a couple of times. I, um, worked at a hospital, realized I hated it, which led me away from the sciences and into business. Uh, and, you know, attained my bachelor's degree, Started working in, um, what I call business and industry. Speaker 4 00:05:35 So I was working for a credit union, uh, and then later went to more of an operations kind of environment. Um, and it was that at that point where I hit a crossroads and I knew that I did not want to do what I was doing for the rest of my life. and really did some self examination, reflection, and came up with three areas that I thought I would be interested in. And higher education was one of them. and at that point, at that time, it was very difficult to get into higher education unless you had higher education experience, but no one was willing to give you higher education experience. Yeah. So after about a year or so of applying, I finally got an opportunity for an interview and luckily landed that position, with a community college. and it was also at this time that I knew that if I wanted to stay in higher education, I needed to further my education beyond, a master's degree. Speaker 4 00:06:33 So again, working full time, going to class full time. and then that position led to a position working, uh, at my first four year private institution and was promoted once there, and then was fortunate enough after about five years being there, to be given, an opportunity to be vice president, with Wesleyan. and so I've been here again 12 years. and again, probably that, probably that first vice president's role was when I thought, Okay, I'll be in this role for 10 years and then I'll potentially look at presidencies. Um, but I really weighed, the pros and cons, not even really knowing what a president and what was, what the demand is for a president. Um, and there were many times where I was like, No, I'll just stay vice president. You know, there, there's less pressure there. I, I'm good at what I'm doing. So, you know, even up until the moment that I got the call, um, you know, I don't, I don't think I had a perfect plan at that point as to when that may happen. So, um, the opportunity came up, uh, stepped into it, um, and, and here I am. Speaker 3 00:07:46 It, it, it blows my mind for you to say, uh, less pressure at the vice president level, Right? Ha. Having previously served at the vice president level, uh, I completely takes out of the equation of the thought of a president position for me, ever. Right? Because, uh, if there's more pressure, uh, there, which I naturally there would be, uh, yeah. That, that completely scares me off from that. So, um, kudos to you to, for stepping into that, uh, that bigger role and, um, and excelling. So, uh, circling back a little bit on what you said, uh, before you, you mentioned that you went to UNC Wilmington, uh, early on, and, you know, life circumstances kind of, uh, moved you in a different direction, uh, as you were choosing that, that first institution, right? UNCW obviously a public institution. Um, did cost, uh, either, either at the front end when you were going as a traditional student, or you changed to the non-traditional student, did cost, uh, or, you know, like a, a thought process of a return on an investment ever factor into your decision, uh, in terms of, you know, choosing the college that you were going to? Speaker 4 00:08:55 So, you know, I would say in the very beginning at UNCW, at that point in that age, I had no clue about cost. Is something more affordable? Can you get a better product from a higher education standpoint? I mean, I knew UNCW was part of the UNC system. I assumed that the quality was there. You know, I really didn't. And, and even my parents, it was, you know, go to college and I was the youngest of four. Um, all my sisters went to college, and it just wasn't something that I guess we thought about. We, we knew there were federal loans, we knew there were ways to pay for it. It was more about how do we pay for it, not actually what it cost. Um, and then as I went to my changed and, and went more towards a private institution, that was more about, um, the opportunity to, finish my education in a mode or logical way that benefited my circumstance. Speaker 4 00:10:01 And at the time, there were very few colleges that catered to working adults. Um, so that, again, that it, it was less about cost because there were not many options. And so it was either do this at this cost or don't do it. Um, it wasn't until I probably pursued my first graduate degree, my master's degree, when I did look at cost, um, again, because of the motive delivery and the opp lack of opportunities, uh, you know, it was difficult to really have other apples to compare it to. Uh, but it is something that I did at least take pause on and say, Okay, you know, the amount of loans I'm going to have and will I have a return on investment? But I knew because of my particular career path, this is going to be different for every, everyone in this process that they're making this decision for my career path. Speaker 4 00:10:57 There is no option to be successful if you don't have that highest degree. So even though I knew it was expensive, even though I knew I'd have, um, a considerable amount of debt when I finished, the only way to attain where I wanted to go was to get it. Um, and so my direction and my path is going to be very different from maybe those that are looking at education today, unless they want to, to go into higher education. But even if you're not a professor, um, or unless you're a professor, really the market is so different now. And even what was expected of university presidents before is not expected of university presidents in many cases now. So the world is evolving and, and how you go about preparing yourself for whatever that end goal is, could be very different. Speaker 3 00:11:49 Yeah, absolutely. You talked a little bit, um, about your career path, right? And, and we, we kind of glossed over or, or ran quickly by, uh, the roles that you've done there at, at Wesleyan and other institutions. Um, what, what can you tell us about your career path, how it kind of led to Northtown Wesleyan University? Um, obviously you've held multiple leadership roles, right? You mentioned vice president there, uh, at North Carolina Wesleyan. Um, but you've held a couple different vice presidency roles there at, at the college and even, uh, previously, right? As a, uh, as a director and a dean, can you kind of walk us through, uh, how those, um, maybe how those roles have, uh, informed you as a president and shaped you, uh, into prepping you, preparing you to a president here for these, uh, last almost three years Speaker 4 00:12:42 Absolutely. So, um, and I'll give a quick rundown of those, um, higher ed opportunities and, and then kind of relate to how they all kind of shape and molded me. Um, so as I stated earlier, I, I did get my start at a community college here in North Carolina. Um, and I was, my official title was an Occupational extension coordinator. And so, you know, what does that mean? Um, and essentially what it meant was, is my responsibility was to set up continuing ed types of classes for people who wanted to enhance their skillset, get into a particular career. And that could have been anything from masonry and electrical certifications to, um, insurance agents who needed to do continuing education every year to keep their license. So, um, it, it was an array of, of, of types of classes that I, you know, oversaw. But the great thing about that program, um, and that position was I was also allowed the freedom to create new programs, um, if there was a need for 'em. Speaker 4 00:13:50 So, uh, the community college system had this huge Rolodex of all these classes, and I would go through 'em and say, you know, what, what could bring interest to this area? What, what are, what are some needs that the community has? Um, so that, that really allowed me to be entrepreneurial, um, from that standpoint. Um, I then, you know, after three years, uh, had the opportunity to go work, um, at my alma mater where I ended up with, uh, where I got my bachelor's degree from and was a, uh, a director of a satellite location that primarily, um, well, they did only assist working adult students. Um, so they would attend class at night, and I got to see very, in the very beginning what it was like to start a location from the construction phase all the way to, you know, the 600 students we grew to in about two years. Speaker 4 00:14:48 Um, and just kind of seeing that growth and development from day one and, and really being in charge of that. Um, so again, that allowed me to be creative, build teamwork skills, um, help to lead other people, um, and just kind of, it, it, I almost, I, well, I did, I viewed it as this is my business and I need it to be successful. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, Um, there, there was no safety net of a VP in the building, or a president in the building, or, I mean, I was the director of a satellite location, and there was no one else in that building to oversee my actions. Um, and this was at the age of 27. I mean, so what, 27 year old <laugh>, uh, today, you know, gets that luxury sometimes. Um, so that really honed a lot of my leadership skills, uh, and then was there five years had been promoted to Dean. Speaker 4 00:15:41 Um, so I got to oversee the other satellite locations for the adult studies program there. And, um, again, just taking what I had learned as a site director to the next level and help to mold and, and build teams with other site directors, um, so that they were successful and then, uh, wasn't looking for a job and a head hunter had, you know, like they do for all of us in, in higher education, you get an email that says, Hey, if you're interested in this, reach out to us. But it, it's, it's kind of like they're sending out a fishing nip and they're just kind of seeing what kind of fish they get. Um, and I had no interest. Um, I shared it with my wife and she was like, You should apply. And I was like, I don't think I'm ready. I don't know that I'm prepared for this. Speaker 4 00:16:30 And it was really almost at the end of the process where they were no longer accepting applications. And I just reached out to ask questions. And through working with the firm, they, they got me to submit my resume. Um, and over weeks of, uh, conversing with them and then having two interviews, um, I was offered the job, um, here as vice president of adult studies. So they were looking for me to take all the skills that I had built with nontraditional students at two other institutions and really take their adult program to the next level. Uh, and so I was able to come in and again, through, you know, being allow, uh, being allowed to be an entrepreneur and just kind of running with it, um, grew the program. We ended up with, um, from going from three to 11 satellite locations, um, primarily partnering with community colleges, which was the key, um, because we wanted to be a partner with the community colleges and not, um, be competition for them. Speaker 4 00:17:40 And it was successful and it was successful up until 2017. Um, and if you look at most of the national trends with data, um, on adult higher education, some of that started to go down in 2012, but we continued to, to do well. Um, but in 2017, it caught up with us, like it caught up with everyone else in the world, and you saw a decrease at the community colleges, which is something we had not seen in, you know, a decade. Um, so the train caught up with this and, and we're adjusting, and of course the pandemic, um, but did well in that and, and was asked to be, uh, interim provost twice and then became the provost, Um, because the organization, um, found value in what I was doing. Um, and that's what I, my advice to anyone is to ask, um, continually to ask what value are you bringing to your institution? Um, and, and make adjustments as needed. So again, had a good, great work ethic, had a great group of people, Um, and then the opportunity came up very suddenly to be president and was asked by the board to, to do that. Um, and three years later, they still like me enough. So I'm, I'm still proud of that Speaker 3 00:19:00 <laugh>. Well, here, here's a question for you. Um, you mentioned you became a director at 27. Uh, it sounds like that experience, uh, was essentially almost like a campus president, right? You were running the, the ship, so to speak, and, uh, you were, you were in charge of that. If, if you could look back, uh, and, and the today Evan Duff could look back to that Evan Duff and give him any piece of advice, um, what, what, what might that be Like, what, what might you say to yourself, um, 20 years ago that, that you wish you would have known then that you know now? Speaker 4 00:19:39 Wow, that's, that's always a tough question because I feel like, you know, and, and, and this is gonna, I hope the listeners don't think this is not, I am a humble person. This is not me bragging by any means. Yeah, yeah. Speaker 3 00:19:53 But I can attest for that. Speaker 4 00:19:54 But to become a college president at 41, it's hard to really look back and say, Wow, what would I've done differently? Cause maybe the outcome would not have been as good. Um, yeah. Uh, so, but I, I would say, and this, this is my, my advice, again, I would give this advice to anyone is look, try to try to forecast where you do wanna go with your life career and try to get as much of the learning experiences as you need to be successful. Rather, that is a short term course, rather that is a full on degree, rather that's a certification. Um, there, there are probably, um, a couple of things I would've done differently there. There was a program, I remember when I was at the community college that I wanted to do, and it was a certification on career development. Um, and fast forward to last summer as president, I took the course and became certified. Speaker 4 00:20:57 And I remember a mentor reaching out to me and saying, Why are you wasting your time doing this? How is this gonna help you as president? But it's something that I always wanted to do, and it gives me perspective when I'm talking to 18 and 19 year olds, um, about career development. And, you know, my advice is actually sound based on my certification. So, um, I would probably have told myself to explore those alternative learning opportunities. Cause I did the traditional learning opportunities. Um, I would've explored some of the, the shorter term certification type learning, um, just to add more, um, knowledge and skills. Speaker 3 00:21:39 Yeah. Yeah. That's great. Um, and it's, it's interesting to have known you for these 20 years, right? Um, and, and to have seen I even would say almost like the steadfastness, right? I mean, you, you've always been methodical to, in my opinion, to the process, right? And the process is going to work out. You've just got to work the process and trust that those experiences, And I, I know you and I have had a lot of conversations offline, uh, as we've just, uh, chatted and, and being friends over the years and, uh, experiences, uh, seem to be the thing that always resonate with us, right? The experiences that we've had, and, um, more importantly, what we've learned from those experiences and how they, they shaped, I think especially who you are today and, uh, being a college president, so, so young. So kind of segueing to that, uh, we mentioned it a couple times today. Uh, some folks may not have caught on, but, uh, North Carolina Wesleyan has recently gone through, uh, a name change from North Carolina Wesleyan College, uh, to North Carolina Wesleyan University. Now, uh, walk us through what those implications are like, I've, I've personally never been through a, uh, a change from a college to a, to a university, uh, the institutions that I've worked at that either happened afterwards or well before I was there. So what, what implications does that have for North Carolina Wesleyan? And, um, maybe talk through, uh, how excited you are about that. Speaker 4 00:23:07 Sure, Yeah. It's excited about that. Yeah, it's a, it's definitely an exciting time on campus. Um, you know, how people define a college versus a university 20 years ago is just, it tho those hard and fast rules are no longer the case. And so, you know, as an example, yes, we are university now, but we are still a teaching focused institution. We are still about one-on-one mentoring opportunities. Um, while we provide research opportunities for our students, uh, research, um, we view research very differently than what a, maybe a research one institution, uh, university would, would view that as. So, you know, we are still, we still have the mindset of a small church affiliated, um, liberal arts institution that, that, so that does focus on professional programs as well. I think the things that we were thinking about as we talked about internally, about what does university mean, you know, we looked at, at areas like, you know, we do serve a non-traditional population and a rather large non-traditional population. Speaker 4 00:24:17 And we've done that for 40 years. Um, we, uh, serve a large population of international students. Uh, 15% of our traditional student base are internationals. Um, we are doing some of the things that maybe smaller universities, um, have done, and that's why they characterized themselves as a university. So, um, you know, that was some of the thought process into it. Um, another piece of it was, um, you know, living into what a university is. So I don't think it's a situation where you flip a switch and everything is magically different. Um, it is certainly an opportunity for us to grow in, you know, we have a couple of graduate programs, but we, we have two more that are potentially going to be reviewed by faculty this fall. Um, we have other kind of, uh, synergies and partnerships happening that kind of leans into that university setting. Speaker 4 00:25:15 So I think there's, there's much more to come. And, and it's almost like the chicken or the egg, you know, you, you gotta make something happen one way in order to create the catalyst for other things. Um, and so we, we think that this is, this is one of our, our moments, um, to be a catalyst. Uh, and so it, it has been amazing to see, like, you always prepare yourself, and I certainly prepare myself as a president for worst case scenarios. And so I'm waiting for, you know, alumni from the seventies to get on social media and just be upset about it. I, I'm waiting for people in the community to say, this is ridiculous. Um, but we've seen the opposite. Um, we've not seen, and I hate to say this because maybe, you know, I need to knock on wood or something, but we've not had one negative comment on social media. Speaker 4 00:26:09 We have had events on campus where we've had those alumni from the seventies and early eighties, um, and they are clapping when we announce our name. Um, people are, um, really energetic about it and embracing it, and how can they be a part of it. We, we had an alum step up, and this was an alum, I think from the late seventies who knew we were changing our letters on our brick wall. So these are our metal. Alum wanted to pay for it. I mean, you know, wow. Wanted to be the one who paid for the new university letters. I mean, you just, you don't anticipate those types of things happening, um, when you're really thinking about why you're doing this, but that, that is the, the wonderful fruit that comes from these types of changes. And it's just, it's been amazing to see. Speaker 3 00:27:03 Yeah, I imagine you use that word catalyst, I imagine, you know, it really is for everybody on campus, there's kind of a, a renew newness, a vigor, uh, of everybody being a part of the larger community again, uh, not that that ever subsided, right? But it's, it's now there, it's ever present, right? It's in front of them. And I bet that's, um, that's exciting for a lot of folks on campus, especially, uh, um, all the stakeholders, but the students included. Speaker 4 00:27:31 Yeah, absolutely. Lot of positive energy happening. Speaker 3 00:27:36 Yeah. That's great. So, um, we'll kind of shift gears a little bit now. Uh, you know, we're talking still about, uh, the, the college experience. Uh, we often see how people will question the value of college, right? And I used to always say for years, it seems like every election cycle, right? Uh, or, or at least, you know, presidential election cycle. So every four years, the value or the, the cost of college, uh, was at least part of the rhetoric that, uh, was, was kind of spun up, uh, as talking points. Um, so a couple questions for you in, in relation to that. Um, as we see people questioning the value and or the cost of college, do you see or hear, uh, that at, at your institution? So again, a private, uh, institution, do you see that being a part of the narrative, uh, for prospective students, for faculty, for really everybody on campus? Speaker 4 00:28:32 Yeah, I think, um, anyone who says that it's not, um, that they're just not being honest, uh, I think students and parents today are savvier than they've ever been when it comes, or at least more critical than they've ever been when it comes down to what they're spending on higher education. Um, and they really do want to see the value of, you know, how is this going to help my son or daughter? Um, what are they going to accomplish when they graduate from here? How are you going to help them? Um, they, they really want to see kind of the outcomes. Uh, and, you know, when institutions and, and we have a couple of things that we do here to kind of not only display that value, but to show how we can make it, um, affordable for, for all families. Speaker 4 00:29:22 They need to hear that they, they want to know when we include books and tuition, that is an important factor to them as they're evaluating where their son or daughter goes to college. Um, it, those types of things are not necessarily always on the 18, 19, 20 year olds mind. Um mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, even though some of them do pay for it themselves, a lot of them, them are not. And I, cuz I didn't, you know, and, and I don't, you know it, right? It takes a very, um, a very mature, um, high school graduate to kind of be thinking about that. But, but we've had students come through here that their parents have said, If you figure out how to pay for it, you can go to college. Uh, and then we have others that the parent will write the check and the student has no clue what anything costs. Speaker 4 00:30:08 Um, but, but rather it's the parent or the student or both. That's absolutely a conversation that's being had on campus, having to show the value and the affordability. Um, and what is interesting is, is a lot of times people will hear about a private institution, and just because it's private, they automatically think it's out of their price range. And I hate to think of it like that, but that not, that's what it is. Um, and in reality, um, and, and speaking just for Wesland, there, we have so many things in place that leverage the cost. Um, and I was just doing this because my niece goes to a state institution here in North Carolina, um, and I was just doing the cost comparison, and we are as affordable as that state institution she's going to because of the way we package and some of the things that we do to help our students. Um, so it's rare that any student comes here and pays, you know, the price they see on the website. Um, and there's many reasons for that, but, um, but yeah, it's definitely a conversation and, and colleges have got to do a better job of explaining the value and the affordability. Speaker 3 00:31:21 So along those lines, how, how do you think colleges should be, uh, thinking about, um, the ROI that they talk about to these prospective graduates, right? Um, and, and maybe even how that relates to the value proposition that they're giving to these, uh, to these students and, and their families. Cause to your point, right? Uh, as a 17, 18, maybe 19 year old coming outta a high school, um, my thought one, aligning back to what you said, never thought I was gonna be in higher ed, didn't even really know that that was a, a job option, right? Um, but I also never thought, Oh, well, what are the outcomes? Right? That was never a question for me to think about, what are the outcomes? How much am I gonna make after graduation? I mean, I just thought that every college graduate made, uh, a lot of money and then, and then I went to work in higher education and realized that's not the case. Right? Uh, but, you know, to to that value proposition question, how, how do you, I guess I'm, I'm, I'm going around the corner here, but, um, May is the conversation more towards the, the parents for traditional students versus, uh, just the, the directly to the student or, you know, Speaker 4 00:32:33 You, you have to do Speaker 3 00:32:34 Both. Let me pause there. Yeah, yeah, Speaker 4 00:32:35 Yeah. You have to do both. So, with parents, and, and sometimes colleges are smart about this in that a lot of times in open houses or orientations, they, they'll separate the two groups at some point. Um, and I think that's probably the best way to do it. But parents need the data points. They, they need to know, you know, bottom line, what, what is this going to cost? How are you going to help it to be affordable to, to my situation? Um, what are opportunities for, you know, my son or daughter to, to leverage this cost? And oh, by the way, how are you going to help them to be a success once they leave? Um, you know, we don't want them to leave with this mountain of debt and no prospects of where they can go and what they can do. So colleges have to really show parents through hard data that they collect. Speaker 4 00:33:30 So not just national trends and national data, but they, they need to know where their alumni are, what they're doing. Um, there are many organizations that, um, will kind of do their own external analysis, and they'll tell colleges, you know, you're in the top 10 of ROI for your state. And so, and, and they'll give you the formula, and that's not perfect, but it does give an out, It gives you the opportunity to say, An outside party that we did not pay for said this about our institution. And so being able to share those types of things, uh, with parents. So, so you need to provide them with, with all of those things and, and share the success stories with them, share with them where your graduates have gone on to be successful. Um, and the more you have of those, the better. Um, more and more colleges are showing, you know, 98% of our graduates attained a job or went to grad school within the first six months, Uh, or, you know, X percentage of students were prepared for their first job based on the surveys they've done with their students. Speaker 4 00:34:29 So that's important to the parents. Um, with the students, it's more about, um, helping them understand how the experience they will have will transform who they are, um, and prepare them for life. So it, it's less about, you know, they're at that moment not necessarily thinking about, Okay, when I get out of here, I'm gonna have this much in loans. This will be my payment, this is how much I need to make. They're not thinking about that at that point. So share with them, you know, how by being a part of this student organization and with this faculty working with you one on one, and with these things happening, you're going to get a job shadow and experience in your freshman summer year, um, that will prepare you for x, y, z career path, or, and sometimes it's letting you know what you don't wanna do. Speaker 4 00:35:20 So that was my experience. My job shadowing experiences told me what I didn't want to do, which is just as valuable. Um, and so for them, it's more about what they, now, now you're gonna have a percentage that wanna know about the parties and the, you know, what kind of fun we can have. And that, and that's, that's certainly a piece of college. But once they're here, you're then transforming them in that process. And, and you certainly don't wanna sell them on, Hey, this is Disneyland, you're gonna have an awesome experience. They do need to know upfront that this is serious, it is expensive, and they need to, to, to be prepared for, for whatever outcomes they're looking for. Um, so I, I do think that you sell it a little bit differently. Um, but at the same time, you know, those parents and those parents are go, I mean, those students and those parents are going back and having conversations and they'll be able to relate the information, you know, back to the full household to make a decision. Speaker 3 00:36:20 Yeah. No, that's great. There, I mean, there, there's a lot of things that are running around in my head, uh, when you answered that and, and because of your answer, you know, I, I think back to my experience as, as a traditional student in college, and I think back to, you know, what did I get out of that? And it, it wasn't necessarily highlighting any book. It wasn't, you know, memorizing, uh, anything from any business class that I had, but it was, uh, the interaction that I had with, with faculty members. It was the interaction I had with fellow classmates. Um, it was the, um, the fact that the faculty pushed me to think critically, right? They, they pushed me to think outside the box. It wasn't, you know, I can't remember anything I highlighted in any book in college, ever, right? Right. Speaker 3 00:37:03 But I can think the lessons that I learned, uh, from so many, so many faculty members, um, about their experiences and, um, things that I could take from their experiences, and I think that's, that's spot on. You know, the other thing that kind of resonates with me is we, we think about higher ed in general, and we think about the ROI value. Uh, and the one thing that makes me giggle is I can remember you and I having conversations about this, uh, God, I guess it was 10, 10 maybe 15 years ago, uh, when MOS were coming out, right? And these massively open online classes, and how, uh, a lot of pundit said, This is the end of higher ed, right? We're all moving to these uh, they're, they're free or very low cost. Um, employers aren't as concerned about, um, you know, a degree per se, as much as they are the, the certifications, the fact that you've, you've got that. Speaker 3 00:37:56 And, and I would agree with that in some situations. It is about the certifications. It is about the degree, uh, not, not about the degree you have, but maybe the experience. But there's something that comes that, that you take away from you, whether you're a traditional student or a non-traditional student. By having set in the, the, that classroom setting, whether it's online or, or face to face, that I, I feel, uh, can't, can't quite be replicated as it could in a mo. And it's funny, you know, you fast forward 15 years, what we thought was gonna take over traditional higher ed, you really don't hear much about 'em anymore. And I, I don't know if that just shows higher ed's stubbornness or, uh, or maybe it just shows the resiliency of higher ed. I'm not, I'm not sure which somebody will write a book question and here in Dr. Duff, is college still worth it? Speaker 4 00:38:56 So I, I'm, I'm going to answer that by kind of taking us back to those three words that I used very early in the, in the interview. And so, you know, and yes, I am talking about this from Wesley's very specific point of view, but I do think this also globally answers that question. So we do look at things, um, our, our new brand, our new identity is, is personal, practical, and purpose driven. And, and the personal piece of that is, you know, we want students to feel like they belong, they feel welcomed, and they, they connect, so they connect with their peers, they connect with faculty members, and it's those connections that will help to, you know, um, accelerate the things that they do here and, and what they're able to accomplish when they graduate. Um, the, um, practical, we really want students, and this, this goes into the question of, of do I think higher education is worth it? Speaker 4 00:39:53 We want students that are in those entry level classes, you know, regardless of their major. So say they're a business major or criminal justice major, but they're in that fine arts class, or they're in that literature class, and they're like, Who cares about this? Why do I need this? We want to make sure that everything a student does, they know how it correlates to their life, both personal and professional. And so I think about when I was in my music appreciation class as a 18 year old, and I'm like, Oh, this is the most boring class ever. But I cannot tell you how many times, whether I'm listening to a song, I'm thinking and analyzing it from the perspective that I learned in that music appreciation class. So it helped me to analyze, to be a critical thinker. It led me to skill sets that have nothing to do with music per se, but then it had everything to do with that music appreciation class. Speaker 4 00:40:50 Um, and so we want our students that everything is intentional and everything that they're learning, it is providing them with a set of skills that they may not even realize they're getting, that they will then use in their personal and professional life. And then the purpose driven is, is really about finding their purpose, and whether that is finding out what they absolutely don't wanna do to finding out what they love doing. Um, and that's through a series of different, um, activities on events they would have on campus. But to answer the question, I think it absolutely, uh, now this doesn't mean that college is for everybody. So I'm not saying that college is for everyone and everyone must go to college. But what I am saying is, is that depending on the things you want to accomplish in life, higher education sets you up to be successful because you are learning things that are helping to develop your mind, helping to get you to think about things differently, to help you to be, um, a critical thinker to communicate with others. Speaker 4 00:41:57 Um, so again, can, can you have a person that goes to, um, a trade certification program and you know, that's all they wanna do, and they thrive in that? Sure. And that person can be successful and they're not missing out on anything. But if that same person wants to own their own business that then does work globally, it'll be very difficult for that person to make that transition without some more structured knowledge that you typically would get from a four year education. Um, and so again, I, I would never say that college is for everyone, but it, is there a place for it? And is it important and is still, um, necessary in so many ways? Absolutely. Speaker 3 00:42:41 Yeah. I, I don't know how we could wrap up any better on that. So, so with that, I will, uh, I will thank you for your time. Uh, always great to have a conversation with you. Always, uh, great to talk personal, always great to talk, uh, professional as well. And, uh, every time we have a conversation, I feel like I, I walk away, uh, knowing a little bit more about, um, your heart, your passion, and, uh, a little bit more about just life in general. So, uh, thank you for your time, Dr. Duff, greatly appreciate you. And, um, just thank you. Speaker 4 00:43:15 I appreciate it. Appreciate the time and, thank you for being a part of my journey, um, your great friend and, and I appreciate it. Speaker 1 00:43:24 This podcast is brought to you by Ardeo Education Solutions. Ardeo Education Solutions provides loan repayment assistance programs known as LRAPs to increase access and enrollment at higher ed institutions. Ardeo's LRAPs help graduates with modest incomes repay their federal student parent Plus and private alternative loans. The powerful promise they provide gives students the confidence they need to enroll. To learn more about Ardeo, visit us on the web @ardeo.org.

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