Speaker 1 00:00:04 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 00:00:20 Hey 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 Solutions, will be interviewing his longtime colleague, Roger Kieffer. Roger's career in higher education spans 37 years, including 30 years of enrollment leadership. He also served a role as Vice President of Client Services at Ardeo alongside Jonathan. Roger is also a founder and president of a firm books on executive coaching and leadership development. So, he has a lot of expertise in higher education in leadership, and sort of the intermingling of both Jonathan and Roger in this podcast will exchange their knowledge of enrollment development and discuss what it means to be a leader in the enrollment space today. So, let's get to it.
Speaker 3 00:01:19 Well, thank you so much for that introduction. Vi, as mentioned, my name is Jonathan Shores, and I am so excited to have Roger Keiffer with us here today. I have had the pleasure of knowing Roger now for, uh, gosh, Roger. I guess it's been about, about six years that we have known each other. I think if, if memory serves me correctly, we first met at a NACCAP conference at John Brown University. Gosh, I think it was probably in 2016. So it's been a couple years. Uh, I, I remember meeting you and thinking, uh, to myself at, at that moment. You know, I've got almost 20 years of experience, and this guy makes me look like a rookie. So I am super excited to talk with you today and just glean a little bit of what you've learned in the industry. if memory serves me correctly, I guess we're, we're getting close to 45 years. Does that sound right?
Speaker 4 00:02:14 Yeah, I was actually in the industry. I was working at an institution for 37 years, and now I've been kind of still connected through consulting. So yeah, it's getting close to 45 years now. Eight years retired, so what is that? 45 years? That's a time.
Speaker 3 00:02:39 Oh my goodness. That's great. Well, uh, with that you did a little bit of it. Can you tell us a little bit about, uh, your background, Roger? Kind of where you started, uh, tell, tell us what you're, what you're working on and, uh, what you, what you've done in the past, if you don't mind.
Speaker 4 00:02:55 Yeah. like I said, 37 years, on campuses. 30 of those were in enrollment management. Uh, I served at four different institutions. Uh, the longest service was the last place where I served at Trinity International University in Chicagoland area. I started at LeTourneau University, my alma mater. I'll probably talk a little bit more about that as we go. But I retired from Trinity in 2014, eight years ago. I retired early, at least I felt like it was early. And I really had had an eye toward doing some consulting. I was really interested in doing leadership development, executive coaching, and that sort of thing. I got some certifications and some training and was excited to kind of extend my career away actually away from higher ed and do some of that.
Speaker 4 00:03:50 But as it turned out, um, there's a big need, or was a need still is a need actually for enrollment consulting. And so that kind of dominated, uh, my opportunities that I had after that early retirement. So I did, uh, quite a bit of enrollment consulting. I added a part-time role with Ardeo, as, you know, we got to be colleagues and good friends as a result of that. And, so I added that in 2017, three years after I had retired from, from Trinity. now actually, I've retired twice because as you know, Jonathan, they actually threw a retirement party for me at Ardeo. And so I'm now kind of retired, but kind of not. I'm still kind of doing a few things with Ardeo.
And, uh, and then other than enjoying the country, living in Middle Tennessee and spending as much time as I can with my grandkids, I kind of think about it as having, uh, four professional oars still in the water, or irons still in the fire, however you wanna put it.
Speaker 4 00:04:55 And one of those is still working in a reduced role, but still working some part-time for Ardeo, still doing a little bit of enrollment consulting. I usually limit it to two at the most clients at a given time. And so I just reduce that the amount of work I'm doing in consulting. Uh, I one the, and all of these things I greatly enjoy, and that's why I keep on doing. And plus it keeps me kind of in the higher education space. Uh, I'm also doing a mentoring, a leadership development program for NACCAP. You mentioned that we had met at a NACCAP conference. I'm still involved with them. And, uh, and, and what I do with them is, uh help as a mentor in a leadership development program for young enrollment professionals. I really enjoying that. and then I serve on the board of my alma mater university. So I kind of get to see things from the other side of the table at board meetings, which is kinda interesting and, and enjoyable and fulfilling for me. So, I still got some oars in the water and doing some things to keep me connected to higher ed.
Speaker 3 00:06:08 Well, I will tell you, we will keep you here at Ardeo as long as long as you want. I think speak for everybody up and down. We love having you on the team, but I will also say that if that's what retirement looks like, I'm not sure I wanna retire. <laugh> sounds like you do have a lot of irons in the fire, that's for sure.
Speaker 4 00:06:26 <laugh> only because I enjoy it.
Speaker 3 00:06:29 Yeah. There you go. There you go. Well, you mentioned LeTourneau University and how you still serve on the board there today. I think, you know, at least from a higher ed perspective, that's probably a, a good place to start, probably where your higher ed journey started, if you will. Uh, do you mind kind of walking us through your personal educational journey and, and kind of how that went? What, you know, you already talked about, the fact that you attended LeTourneau University, but how did you find yourself there? Walk us, through that story.
Speaker 4 00:06:59 Yeah, that's, that's an interesting story. I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and for those that don't know, LeTourneau University is actually in Longview, Texas, a long way from Pennsylvania. And back in the seventies, early seventies, when I graduated from high school, it probably wasn't that normal to go that far away from home, at least not for a country boy like me, uh, from middle, from Central Pennsylvania. Um, but my dad had met, uh, the founder of LeTourneau University, uh, RG LeTourneau University, who actually is a relatively famous industrialist who had over 400 patents in his career. And so, did a lot of speaking, and my dad actually bumped into him and, and heard him speak, and was very intrigued by his life story, and then found out that he had founded this, uh, it was actually a fled in school at the time.
Speaker 4 00:07:54 It didn't start till 1946. It was opened in 19, right at the tail end of World War II. Uh, but, but anyhow, so he got me interested in it, and, uh, and, and while I was, um, not as, I didn't know that much about RG Laer or about industrialists or about inventions or anything like that, and kind of, it felt like an adventure to go from Pennsylvania to Texas to go to school. So I, maybe I'll take him up on that if he's willing to help me, uh, attend LA University. So back then, it was LA College, uh, mostly known for engineering and aviation and technical programs. And that is not what I ended up in, obviously. But, uh, but I, I absolutely never regretted that decision. It was one of the best decisions I ever made was to go to LeTourneau University. I went on from there to get my master's degree at the University of Wyoming.
Speaker 4 00:08:49 One of my mentors at LeTourneau University was a Wyoming grad, had got his PhD at, at Wyoming, and he was in the habit of recommending some of his students. I was actually, he was my wrestling coach and, and was and so I was one of his athletes. And he was in the habit of recommending a, his athletes and students for fellowships or assistantships at the University of Wyoming's Master's program in physical education. So that's what got me to the University of Wyoming. I did a little bit of doctoral work at the University of Arkansas. Um, so that's my educational journey.
Speaker 3 00:09:31 Yeah. And then you, if memory serves me correctly, you went back to LeTourneau University after that, right? am I right on that?
Speaker 4 00:09:40 Yes. My first job out, out of graduate school was to go back and coach at LeTourneau University. And I was on the faculty for physical education. And, um, I did that for seven years. And then I just could tell you how I got into enrollment management, you might be interested in that, and listeners might be interested in that. But yeah, at the end of that seven years, I asked for a leave of absence to work on a doctoral degree. And I was granted that. And as I said earlier, I chose the University of Arkansas's Education program, and I was kind of at a crossroads, do I want to keep coaching? That was still a possibility. And I was very, impressed with the baseball program at Arkansas, and the coach there.
Speaker 4 00:10:33 And I, I thought like, Well, maybe I'd get a chance to be mentored by a guy like, Norm de Bryan. And, so anyhow, that was one reason I went to Arkansas. I was also toying with the idea of an academic career in, in, uh, in exercise science and, uh, kinesiology. And those were of interest to me. And so that was part of my studies at, at the master's level. And, and, and interestingly, when I got, had my exit interview with the academic dean of LeTourneau University, Dick Berry, he made the comment, he said, uh, you know, we, we will guarantee you a job. When we give a leave of absence, we'll guarantee you that we'll hire you back. We just can't guarantee it'll be in the position that you were in, and we're going to have to fill that position when you're gone.
Speaker 4 00:11:17 And so we can't, we, we don't know what, what will be open, but one thing we've noticed about you, and one reason we're willing to give you the, the, uh, uh, leave of absence is you seem to have some administrative skills. And so would you be interested in an administrative role, if anything were open? And I, I said, Sure. So that was actually a third option that, that I, that I actually added to my possibilities. Um, it was a two-year leave of absence. After a year. We had a young family, after a year, I got a call from LeTourneau University. They offered me a position of, uh, uh, Associate Dean of Admissions and Records was the title. And, having a young family and struggling a little bit financially, I thought, Well, maybe I could finish the doctorate from, uh, from Longview, Texas.
Speaker 4 00:12:07 I never did. I don't regret it. It never made a big difference in my career. But, uh, but I did, that's how I got into enrollment management, because admissions and records, while it included mostly records work in the beginning, registrar within a year, I was kind of named the, the Chief, uh, admissions Officer. Actually within a few months, I was named the Chief Admissions Officer. I think, I think they thought here he was, he was a coach. He's a recruiter, so therefore he can run an admissions office. That's not necessarily the case, <laugh>, but that's how I got into enrollment management. It's not the kind of thing that when you're eight or 10 years old, you're aspiring toward being an enrollment management. You know, I was looking to be a baseball player. That's what I wanted to be.
Speaker 3 00:12:51 Yeah.
Speaker 4 00:12:51 But enrollment management, selling my lrap. And I've had a great career.
Speaker 3 00:12:58 That's, uh, that's an awesome story. I think of, of all the things that I've known about you and the history, I don't think I ever knew how, how you started in, in admissions. That's a great story. Kind of the last thing. So here you go, Roger, this is, we can help you and the family, but, but it's admissions. Okay. I'll take it. <laugh>. Oh, kinda a little bit of a side note there. So, the way I got, because you're right, nobody grows up wanting to, to go in admissions, right? Uh, in sixth grade, I don't know if I ever told you the story, but in sixth grade, we were learning like economics, right? And so, everybody would bring in things to sell at, at school, and we had like, fake money to learn economics.
Speaker 3 00:13:42 And I brought in chili Willies, right? Cause it was right towards the end of summer, like little ice pops. And so, I was selling those things like crazy. But the guy next to me, a friend of mine named Jordan, his father was the dean of admissions at Catawba College, and he gave Jordan like all these pins and notepads, you know, and little slinky and all this stuff. And, you know, as a sixth grader, you're enamored with colleges. And so, he was selling those things left and right. And I thought, that's what I want to do. I want to be able to, you know, give out pins and notepads. And little did I know it entailed a little bit more than that. So, <laugh> Oh my goodness. Well, so that's great. You know, talking about the educational experiences and how they've influenced your trajectory. Obviously, when you started there at LeTourneau University and started in that position and quickly moved to the chief admissions officer, enrollment officer, you obviously found a niche. You stayed there, you stuck there, really for the rest of your career, right? So, um, was there any deviation out of that in terms of the enrollment side, or did you just stay all in enrollment?
Speaker 4 00:14:57 Yeah, it's interesting that I was in enrollment management the rest of the 30 years, or right about 30 years that I was in higher ed. But there was one little detour while it included enrollment management. It was broader than that. I went from LeTourneau University to King University. It was King College back then. I, I actually saw two institutions change from college to university, which was kind of interesting and was a part of both of those, actually. And, but after about six years at King, I was asked to by a colleague of mine to serve on a team of consultants, to look at a situation that an institution that was in crisis. It was Bluefield College in Virginia.
Speaker 4 00:15:51 They were going through some really, really tough times. And so, the board decided to bring in a team of consultants. Anyhow, short story is that the end of that, consulting experience the board called me back and said they want to talk a little bit more about my part of the report. And they offered me a job, and they said, you know, we are really in big trouble. They had lost their entire senior leadership team except for the academic dean, and he was going to retire in a year. They were in some pretty serious financial trouble, those that are from the Bluefield area, where remember that, so I took them up on it. I took a job as the Chief Operating Officer to help them kind of put all the pieces back together at Bluefield and enrollment reported to me.
Speaker 4 00:16:42 But it was just one of many things that did. And I learned a ton. I mean, that was, that was one of the greatest learning experiences I ever had. But within a year, they had put things, we had put things back together. We had some financing in place. We pretty much rebuilt the, the president's cabinet, and they were about to hire a president. And so, King actually offered for me to come back at that point, and I went back and served three more years at King. But yeah, that was the only kind of detour that that, while it included enrollment, and that was a very important part of what was going on there. Luckily the director of admissions was still there, but all their cabinet level people, including the entire financial aid office, was lost all at one time. Uh, it was quite an experience. I could spend an hour just talking about that experience, but <laugh>, But that was a little bit of a detour, and I learned a lot. I think it helped shape, you know, the rest of my career. But yeah, so one year, that wasn't directly a VP or in charge of just enrollment.
Speaker 3 00:17:53 Yeah. Well, in those, in those 30 plus years, that you've been in the enrollment industry, Roger, what, what have you seen as one of the biggest challenges? You know, like I think in my career, right, the September 11th, you know, overcoming students wanting to be closer to home, and you know, that that was certainly a bigger challenge. As we look at discount rates, that's been a bigger challenge. What, as you've seen, well, let's be honest, enrollment management, the term enrollment management really didn't exist then, right? It was more just admissions. Um, what's been one of the biggest changes you, you've seen, or you've faced in your career?
Speaker 4 00:18:35 Yeah, it's an interesting question. Enrollment management was a brand-new concept when I got into it in 1984. It actually developed in the 1970s. And there were some, you know, flagship universities that were using the team. The term already, I think it started at the University of Indiana, if I'm not mistaken. That was the first institution to use the term enrollment management. I can remember people making predictions about how enrollment management as a career was going to be something that I never would have dreamed of. And most of the people that worked in enrollment management that I knew at early in my career would've never dreamed that it would have the changes that it did. And a lot of those predictions, in fact, I would say most of them came true. Uh, you know, all the different fluctuations and birth rates and graduation, number of students graduated from high school, and the challenges and the competition, you know, even the idea of adult education, which was just a gleam in somebody's eye back in the eighties, early eighties, University of Phoenix was just getting started.
Speaker 4 00:19:48 And even those kinds of predictions that we thought, that'll never happen. Well, you know, a lot of the stuff that was predicted actually happened, including the stature of the position of you know, it used to be Dean of Admissions or Director of Admissions, and then it was, you know, like Dean of Enrollment Management, and then it was Vice President for Enrollment Management, and then there were Senior Vice President for Enrollment. All of that stuff would like way off in the future. Yet, back when I first started and I ended up living all of that in my career, you know, moving into those positions and holding senior level positions, which in the beginning, that really wasn't the norm for somebody that was working in admissions. But I would say the biggest change that I saw happen in the way that enrollment management needed to function and the way that families made their decisions actually happened during the 2008 recession.
Speaker 4 00:20:47 It wasn't a huge recession, but if you remember, it put a spotlight on student debt, and it put a spotlight on the cost of higher education because of student debt. It's actually one of the things that made me think that LRAP was one of the best ideas since sliced bread. I mean, when I heard about that, I said, that's exactly the way we ought to be tackling this issue, because so much of the information that's out there in the media is actually hyped up. It's not really the way things are, and people fear student debt much more than they ought to. But that had a profound effect on me at Trinity, and it had a profound effect on a lot of, especially small private colleges who depended on tuition and depended on students who needed to borrow in order for them to attend their institution. So, anyhow, that was the biggest challenge and the biggest change that I saw. But you're right, 2011 made a difference. There were some other things that happened, but that's the one that stuck with me. That was a big change.
Speaker 3 00:21:52 Yeah. And you're hitting the nail in the head. I vividly remember that and how that became part of the national rhetoric, right. Of, what's discussed and is the cost of college out of control. Um, you know, and that's obviously, you know, something that we're passionate about, but it is that part hasn't gone away, right? It seems like every election cycle, it kind of rears its ugly head. And I think it's important for us as a nation to look at that and address it. Uh, but it's certainly something that to your point, I think it's an unfounded fear for a lot of the majority, I won't say all, but the majority of students and families that are out there. So, you talked about the birth rates.
Speaker 3 00:22:38 I mean, that's something that it seems like in 2025 we're, we're going to be getting back there with this demographic apocalypse, if you will. As you think back to your, career early on, as a young professional and you think to these young professionals, it always seems like the industry, the career is constantly young, right? It seems like the old regime, if you will, is changed out every so often. What advice would you give to younger professionals right now as kind of a, hey, here's a yield sign that's coming up. This may be something that, you know, in your career that you may want to, look at, or maybe, you know, proceed with caution type situation.
Speaker 4 00:23:29 Yeah, I think about that question a lot, just simply because of the mentoring and the coaching that I've done in the last several years. And so, I'm always thinking about, okay, they're going to be asking me questions, but what do I want to volunteer to them based on, you know, my own experience and career? So, I actually think about that. What do I wish I'd had been exposed to or told or recommended to me when I was, when I was just starting out? And, and usually the first one that pops into my mind, and I think it took me a while to learn this about carrying the burden of the enrollment results at your institution is and so the way I put it is when your enrollment is up better than what everybody expected, don't take all the credit, because you're going to be tempted to, you're going to be tempted to accept all of those accolades that the president and the board and the faculty and everybody, you're going to want to say, oh, you're doing such a great job.
Speaker 4 00:24:26 Be careful about being about doing that, because there are so many other factors that affected that success rather than just you and even you and your team. I mean, there's a lot, as you know, Jon, and I mean, there's just so many factors that affect that. And now the converse of that is when it's down a whole lot less than what everybody expected. Don't take all the blame, resist. And yet, early in my career, I think I did both. I was set puffing my chest out when things were looking really good. And then I'm thinking the world is falling apart. I'm the one to blame if the enrollment is down. And while there might be pieces of that that we need to accept the responsibility and even some of the credit when things are up, it's just one small piece.
Speaker 4 00:25:16 And that's the message that I think enrollment leaders, young enrollment leaders, need to discipline themselves, to present that message that, yeah, okay, thank you. I appreciate that. Okay, let's go have lunch. Let's have a pizza party, whatever we want to do. But let's keep in mind here that this is not solely because of us and how well we recruited. I think we did a great job, don't get me wrong, but there's a whole lot of factors. And then actually have that list of things that you think went right as opposed to just simply absorbing all the credit, and the same thing with the blame. So that was my first thing. Yeah, I think from a leadership standpoint, the thing I wish I had known more about was self-awareness. I mean, I remember the first time I ever took any kind of a self-awareness assessment was called the Worthington.
Speaker 4 00:26:09 The president at LeTourneau University wanted everybody to take it. And I was kind of interested to see what it would say. And it felt like somebody got inside of me and looked at me and knew all my secrets about what was going through my mind and, and how I was wired as a person. And I thought how valuable that is. And for me to be able to communicate that to the people that I worked next to, or that work, that work that report to me, or that I report to, that just became such a valuable thing to me. So, I wish I had known that earlier. I think that could have helped me through some real rough spots early in my career. And then I think I learned some about some blind spots that I had, I wish I'd have known them earlier, blind spots that, you know, I don't have a blind spot about, about seeking results.
Speaker 4 00:26:56 I don't have a blind spot about processes. I know how what to do and how what the steps are to get there. Some people have blind spots on those things. My blind spot is on how things are going to affect people. And so, I need people around me to keep reminding me about how people are affected by the decisions I make by the actions that I take. And so, understanding what my blind spots are and helping people understand what their blind spots are when they're early in their career, because I think you can really step in it a lot if you don't really, understand. So, it's kind of related to, to that self-awareness thing. And then the last thing I'll mention, because it's something I usually also include in my coaching, is that you can't do it all.
Speaker 4 00:27:43 And most of the people that end up in a leadership role in enrollment are people who've been pretty successful at some level, at something. And they believe they can do a lot of stuff. And I would've been one of those people. But you can't do it all. And when are you going to learn to trust other people to do important things that need to get done? And so, we call it delegation, but often by, what we mean by delegation is, is giving them something to do and then giving them detailed instructions about how I would do it. And one of the lessons I needed to learn was to trust people. Just give them a goal and turn them loose. And you can't do it. You got to be able to trust people to do good work. And the more I learned that the more successful I was.
Speaker 3 00:28:35 That's great advice. And as you've built teams, Roger, right? I mean, your, your own teams that you had at your respective institutions, you've worked with other organizations, other companies, other colleges to help them build teams. What to that point, and maybe that is the, the point, but is there anything else you can see as common pitfalls that maybe a leader can you know, try to avoid or maybe focus on to build the right teams that, you know to accomplish whatever goal they're trying to have?
Speaker 4 00:29:09 Yeah, I mean one basic thing is to understand that when you're in a leadership role, that's what you're called to do. I mean I think what happens is people get, I'm a prime example. I mean, I, like I said earlier, I mean, they thought, Hey, here's a guy that was a pretty good coach. He probably, he recruited pretty well. Maybe he can run an admissions office. Well, <laugh>, just because you had the technical expertise to do something well, doesn't mean that you can oversee people to do that thing that you were good at. And yet, most people get promoted because of their technical abilities and not with much of a regard for their ability to manage other people to lead other people, to motivate other people, as you say, to build teams. Now, granted, having been a coach, I had some experience of building teams as well.
Speaker 4 00:30:03 But I do think that a lot of people that I run into that are kind of new in a leadership role, even if they're experienced in sales or experienced in some aspect of work that makes them a good candidate to be an admissions professional. But they're plopped into a leadership role. And they, and what they don't understand is just because you are a good recruiter or a good salesperson doesn't necessarily mean that you can lead people to do that or manage people. That's a whole different skill set. Hiring people, the right people. I mean, that's one of the skills that it took me, you know, I'm still not sure I'm very good at it, <laugh>. So, of course I think we all have, have our hit swings and misses on hiring. But anyhow, I think it's just, I think it's that the thing that I try to get people to understand is this is a new thing. Now you're a leadership role and here's what that means.
Speaker 3 00:31:04 Hmm. So I, I think, you know, one of the things I appreciate and what you just said is, you know, uh, sometimes you, you're not sure you still figured it out, right? I, I think that's critical for us as, as humans, us as leaders, to realize that we're not perfect. And, and I think there have been times, at least in my career where I thought, Yeah, I got this. I've got this figured out, right? Um and quite frankly, that's when I started to fail. That's when things started to not go so well, when I kind of started limiting my personal growth, my professional growth, because I, thought I had it figured out. So, in that, in that vein, Roger, is there anything that, any book or any resource, that you may recommend to folks who are maybe starting out in that leadership role, to kind of help them blossom, if you will?
Speaker 4 00:31:56 Yeah, I got, I got tons of <laugh>. I, I tell you the three, the three that I probably recommend the most, I mean, I'm a huge Stephen Covey fan. I think, you know, he passed away. And I think he's starting to fade into the background. I tell you, there's some classics out there. And the seven habits of highly successful people is one that I still, I, those principles come to my mind, even today. Even, even in things like being a grandparent. I mean, there's just things that, that are, there are a lot of wisdom in those seven habits of highly successful people. So if you, if there are people out there that have never read that book, I recommend it to almost everybody that I coach. Then I'm a big fan of Drucker, Peter Drucker. And so anything that Drucker has written, I think he's got, he has a tremendous handle on managing people. And so a lot of the principles that that I espouse, I guess would be the right word, is, uh, come from Drucker. I quote him quite a bit. Then the third one, and this one was kind of later in my career, a book called Leading Change.
Speaker 4 00:33:09 I'm a big believer that if you keep doing the same things the same way, you're going to get the same results. And there are times when I think I bucked that and fought that and said, I just need to do them a little bit better. And so change is essential in almost any endeavor. And in higher education, I think there are changes imminent almost all the time, and in enrollment management as well. And yet, I think we're all tend to be novices that really how do you, how do you implement change and how do you actually become a part of the machinery of leading change? Trying to remember the author's name. I'm embarrassed that I can't, but the title of the book is Leading Change I've recommended it so often. So those are three that I've been pretty commonly recommended.
Speaker 3 00:34:02 Okay.
Speaker 4 00:34:03 That's great. Kotter's his last, I think it's John Kotter.
Speaker 3 00:34:07 John Kotter. That's right, great. Thank you for that. You know, you mentioned earlier too about the self-awareness piece, right? And I, think this, uh, goes a little bit with something that's resonated with me as I've gone around and visited with teams. And, you talked about, or at least alluded to that burnout, right? That, you know, sometimes you're going to have really good years, sometimes you're not going to have good years. And, sometimes it's partially your fault and sometimes it's not your fault at all, right? But I think that in terms of the, the mental health aspect of being in this role, especially for so long, and I'm self-sharing here, but my last institution, right? So much stress that I thought I had done something to my shoulder, I couldn't lift my arm past parallel and, you know, I took some time away and miraculously, it healed with nothing. And it was just the stress. And it's amazing how, stress will manifest itself in your body, physical body. And so, is there anything you could suggest in terms of like, mental health perspective for the, the young, the youngins as they say, you know, out there that are, that are, uh, you know, new to this career field and making sure that they don't burn out too early?
Speaker 4 00:35:30 I told you I was in this mentoring program, this leadership program, and it is absolutely by far the most asked question is how do, how do I establish a work life balance, uh, so that I'm, so, because I feel like I'm going to burn out if I keep it up at this pace, and if I keep right, responding to the stress, the way I'm responding to the stress. Now, every, almost everybody I've ever coached her or mentored in enrollment management has asked that question at some level in some way. And so I, there are no, there are no magic answers. Probably the most common thing. And usually, I try to get to know the person a lot better before I actually give advice on that. Probably the most common thing that I'll tell them is you got to be conscious of it, and obviously you are.
Speaker 4 00:36:18 And that's great because sometimes, like you said, sometimes we just get so caught up in, in because, because we're motivated people, uh, in the, that end up in those leadership roles. And we just, we just we're so motivated. We just keep grinding and, and don't even realize what we're doing to our bodies or to our minds and, and that we're burning out until it's maybe too late. Um, but so number one, be conscious of it. And by being conscious of it, you can then intentionally set some goal, set some goals for how much time am I going to spend with my spouse or my significant other, or my kids or whatever, how much, you know, set some goals about, you know, limiting, uh, a certain, um, uh, amount of work or, uh, making sure that you do certain things that you enjoy doing that you know are going to relax you, uh, discipline in yourself to take vacation time even when, uh, you know, it might be a difficult thing to do, uh, knowing what you're going to face when you get back and all of that.
Speaker 4 00:37:21 But discipline. So just setting goals that are actually geared toward taking care of yourself. In fact, one of those seven habits that I was talking about was Stephen Covey. He talks about sharpening the saw. He said, you know, think of yourself as a tool and how that tool is only effective if it's a saw. It's only effective if it's sharp, if you don't take the time to stop and sharpen that saw, you know, work your tail off and not ever get anything done. And that's what we end up doing within our leadership role. We worked like crazy and don't realize why we're not getting it. Maybe it's because the saw got dull and you need to keep it sharp. And, so that work life balance is a part of that. So when we think we're going to forfeit results, we're actually going to improve results if we take time off and, and we take care of ourselves.
Speaker 3 00:38:17 Yeah. Love that analogy of sharpening of the saw. Um, for me personally, a lot of that was just taking a week away, doing some professional development, right? Going to a conference, maybe getting a new a new idea in some way. Obviously conferences have been to a large extent. I mean, we, I think a lot of folks have tried their hardest to do conferences, uh, virtually. But I've certainly missed the face-to-face conferences. And I think to an extent, you know, we don't get to gather as professionals and kind of talk about the challenges that we're facing in higher ed. So, switching gears just a little bit here, but what do you see as some of the challenges that are being faced in, in higher ed today? And, and a follow up to that question, what is leaders in higher ed can we do to help overcome those? We want the secret sauce, Roger.
Speaker 4 00:39:13 Yeah. Um, yeah, I get asked questions about what should be done. Like, uh, right after I retired, the whole thing about the Department of Labor came out with this idea that you had to, that admissions counselors had to be hourly employees, right? That's how I remember it, right? And everybody's asking me, what would you do? And I never faced that issue. Let me think about it. <laugh>, there's some things that have come up since I was in the field that I got, I'm just an outsider kind of thinking it through with my own logic. And then the pandemic came and I never had to go through a pandemic when I was in enrollment management. So I have to just kind of sit down and sort out.
Speaker 4 00:40:02 So I don't know that I have answers, but I'll tell you one that hasn't changed in enrollment, especially for, for small private colleges. That is, I mean, you talk about challenges that that small private colleges are facing and some of the larger ones as well is enrollment, whether it's actually because that's how your institution is funded, your tuition driven, and you're not getting enough students every year to make ends meet, or whether it's an access issue for some larger institutions that aren't necessarily doing needing the enrollment for funding. But enrollment is still a challenge. It's a challenge everywhere. And it's actually the challenge has increased not just because of covid, but you know, as we know that demographic cliff is coming. And so smaller private colleges have got to figure out how to compete for a piece of a smaller pie.
Speaker 4 00:40:56 And, and how do you get the same number of students if that pie is shrinking, you're goanna have to be getting students that other institutions would've gotten before, right? You're competing in order to and some of them are already in a deficit mode. And so they've just set, simply set the budget on what they need in order to balance their budget without any kind of an idea as to how that might happen, what changes. I was talking about adaptive change earlier, how you get, you got to make adaptive changes in order for enrollment to increase. Because if you keep doing the same things the same way, it's not always just because your admissions office isn't working smart or hard enough, right? And so, but institutions are going to set those budgets and then enrollment people are going to be caught in that trap of, well, that's what the goal is.
Speaker 4 00:41:44 But I, I honestly don't see any possible way that we could possibly, but we're going to dig in and try and that that whole cycle is still happening, may be happening more than ever because, because of covid. So enrollment is still one of the biggest challenges, and I think it'll continue to be for the foreseeable future. But I'll go real grandiose on you here, Jonathan, because I in terms of another challenge that I think I'm noticing, and I actually got on my radar because I've heard other consultants and educational leaders talk about it. And it totally makes sense given my observations on college and university campuses. So it's a little bit grandiose but I think one of the challenges that higher education is facing now is the polarization that's occurring in our culture on social and political issues.
Speaker 4 00:42:42 And it got exacerbated because of Covid and, you know, the whole pandemic thing, because now you got faculty members who are on one side of what needs to be done in a crisis like that, and then faculty members who are on another side, administrators who are on both sides, students who are on both sides. And you get this fractured campus. And it, and it seems to me like whether it's covid or whether there are other things happening in our culture that we've lost our ability to have civil discourse on, on these kinds of very difficult social and political issues. I mean, higher education in, in my mind has always prided itself on critical thinking, having a, a safe place for people to come together and to discuss all the sides of every issue, no matter how difficult that issue is. And now it seems like people are digging in and they're kind of wanting to, rather than discuss the issue, they want to attack the other person, attack the other faculty member, or attack the other student, or attack the other administrator, or attack the other college or university and canceled their, we call it the cancel culture and cancel their credibility as opposed to having civil discourse about the issue and realizing that people have different opinions and different positions.
Speaker 4 00:44:02 So from an enrollment management standpoint, where I take that is, are we going to end up at some point? I mean, it used to be taboo for me as an administrator to take a political position in a and preach it on my campus. I wasn't supposed to do that, right? We weren't supposed to take a position politically or even on a lot of social issues as an institution. That's what we're there for, we're there to have this kind of discussion that's unbiased. But now I'm seeing institutions who are putting a stake in the ground and saying, we're this, so are we going to get to a point where students are going to have to choose, I'm not going to be welcome at that campus. So the here's my list of schools that I would be welcome at, given my point of view. And, and then people on the other side, here's my list.
Speaker 4 00:44:47 I would hate to see that. That's not, I don't think that's what higher education was supposed to be all about in America. And yet I see us migrating toward that polarization to the point where the institutions themselves are labeling themselves and saying, We don't welcome your viewpoint, whether you're a faculty member or a student or an administrator. I don't know if it's that bad or not, but I've heard other people talking about this being one of the things that higher education is going to have to deal with. And I do think it can affect enrollment management at some level.
Speaker 3 00:45:20 Yeah. I think you make some really valid points, Roger, I think back to at least my college experience and I, you know, I went to a faith-based institution, born and raised as a Baptist, right? Went to a Baptist institution. And I think back to one of my favorite classes was a religion professor who challenged pretty much everything that we had ever been taught as a Baptist growing up. And I thought, what is happening here? But it, it wasn't him trying to go to us or beat us into, you know, being upset, it was to get our critical thinking moving and to challenge us to not always just take everything that you hear necessarily or read at face value, but to do some digging for yourself and learning for yourself to get that critical thinking aspect.
Speaker 3 00:46:15 And, you know, I was in Texas a few weeks ago, and it was funny, I saw a bumper sticker and it said the great national death and then, you know, semicolon critical thinking, right? And to your point that's, I looked at the bumper sticker and I thought, golly, there's, there's probably something, something to that. So that's really great. Really great advice on that. Yeah, hopefully we don't head down that path as higher ed institutions. Um, I think about those enrollment challenges that, that you mentioned as well. And, uh, you know, I think about, as we mentioned books earlier, I know you and I both have, have had the chance to read, Dr. Nathan Degraue's books and even hear him speak, on the demographics, I think in the demand for higher ed.
Speaker 3 00:47:06 I would say too, if somebody is in enrollment and hasn't read that, you need to make sure that your, your cabinet understands that book the data that's in that book. Uh, and, and particularly your board as well. I think he's got a follow up book to Agile College, which is also really good to really good data. But, you know, we're surrounded by data, right? Um, especially as enrollment professionals now, I mean, you mentioned early in your career as more, more records, right? And if you wanted somebody to pull a report it was a lot of manual digging for those reports. And now we've got these awesome CRMs that somebody can push a button and two minutes later give you a pretty extensive report on just about anything that you want.
Speaker 3 00:47:52 I find, and I'm curious on your thoughts, because I could be very much wrong on this that a lot of folks, a lot of colleges have all this data at their fingertips and they're almost paralyzed by the data that they have because they don't know where to start. Because there's so much data to process. And I would almost even say it's to an extent, almost like a blind spot for them because they just don't know where to get started on different initiatives. I'm curious if you've seen that as you've done consulting and interim work at a lot of different colleges.
Speaker 4 00:48:31 Absolutely. I mean, you, you know, my good friend Tim Fuller, who I do a lot of my consulting with, and one of his favorite points to make with people is that you can have a lot of data, but that data is not what's important. It's what you do with the data. You know, it's not, and it's not even just analyzing. You can analyze it and make a bunch of conclusions, but unless you do something with those conclusions, what, what's the point? It's a whole lot of wasted a wasted data, so to speak. And, and I think that is what's happening is everybody hears that you need to have data. So now they have data, but has it really changed anything that they're doing hasn't really made any difference in their strategies or in their tactics and, and all of that. And then, and then of course, there's still a lot of people, there are still a lot of people out there and, you know, I just say good luck to you, but who doesn't think that that data's important, you know?
Speaker 4 00:49:26 And I don't think you should disregard your gut. In fact, I will go with my gut over data pretty often, but I sure want to know what the data is before I go with my gut. But there's some people that are just going to disregard it, or I think the biggest sin is generalizing on a sample size of one, is what I call it, is when, when they hear one anecdote and they go, Hey, I'm going to go after that, and they don't do any further research or look at any data. Anecdotal information is important, but it can easily become coming to conclusions based on sample size of one. You got to really be careful of that.
Speaker 3 00:50:05 Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's great advice. So I know we're, we're coming up on time. It's hard to believe we we're, we're closing in on an hour here.
Speaker 4 00:50:12 I
Speaker 3 00:50:13 Can't believe I've got two. No. Right. I've got, uh, a million more questions I'd love to ask you, but, but two I'd love to specifically ask you and then again, I've got a lot more and maybe we can do another session here in the future. But you mentioned this a little bit earlier. If you could go back to the very beginning of your enrollment management career, Roger, and talk to the young Roger, I imagine 20 or early thirties, Roger, what would you, what advice would you give that that young Roger that just started out in the enrollment management field?
Speaker 4 00:50:56 Yeah, I feel like, I think the answers I gave so far to some of your other questions probably answer that. I think the don't take the blame and the credit as readily as you're going to be tempted to don't carry that burden yourself. I think that's number one. And I think that also addresses the issue that you brought up about, about stress and, and burnout and all of that. I think if you don't learn to do that, if you don't discipline yourself, you don't realize if some people don't even realize, hey, it's not necessarily all my fault. And, uh, they haven't thought beyond that. There's sometimes I'm talking to a young professional and they go, Really, it doesn't all, it doesn't all fall on me. No, it doesn't all fall on you.
Speaker 4 00:51:39 You got to do your job, you got to do it well, and we'll talk about that. But, but just because you do your job well, it doesn't mean this institution is going to grow. It absolutely is not the only fact. And, uh, but some people are conditioned to think that. And so that, that would always be my number one thing that I'd go back to and say, I wish I would've learned that earlier in my career. And, and then the things that I mentioned earlier about, you know, um, uh, about delegation and about identifying my blind spots and about self-awareness, those are the things that I would put on that list.
Speaker 3 00:52:13 Yeah, those are great. Those are great. And I think good, good reminders to hear 'em a second time. So, uh, you did talk a little bit earlier about the 2008, right? Uh, kind of rising to the top, if you will, is college worth it? Is the debt load worth it? Uh, so my final question to you is, in your opinion, Roger Keefer, is college worth it?
Speaker 4 00:52:39 Yeah, I mean, of course, of course. I'm going to say it's worth it. I mean, I spent my entire, I spent my entire career dedicated to helping to promote the idea of students attending college and carefully choosing which college is going to be best for them given their goals in life. So of course I'm going to answer the question, It's worth it, but I understand why it's a question now. I mean, I do understand that there's some factors that have come up in our, in our culture and, uh, and so I, you know I can address some of those. Um, but I guess I would start by saying, you, you can't argue. There's no way you can put an argument together that would fly in the face of the idea that you're more likely to be financially secure if you have a college degree than if you don't.
Speaker 4 00:53:31 I mean, the data is just so clear. And what happens is we got people who are looking at, at successful people that didn't get a college degree and saying, See? And I go, Yeah, of course, but don't, I'll go back to that. Don't, don't make a, a life decision based on a sample size of one <laugh> or, or, or on the exception rather than the rule. And so, uh, you may be one of those people. I'm not going to tell you that you have to go to college, but if you're asking me if it's worth it, I'm going to say yes. And if you're asking me if it's worth it financially, you can't argue with that data. The data is way too clear for you to argue that. Well, no, I'm just as likely to make as much money if I went to college.
Speaker 4 00:54:18 As if, I don't know. That's not true. You might, and you might be one of those people, but don't make a life decision based on a sample size of one. And then the opposite thing too, I mean, the whole idea of, well, it's not worth it because look at these people who took on all that debt and then couldn't dig their way out of it, and they blamed the fact that they went to college on that. Well, those are such a tiny, tiny percentage of all the people that ever borrowed to go to college. Why would you make a decision based on that small, tiny, little sample size as opposed to looking at the big picture? Uh, and so, so just from the standpoint of why people think maybe it's not worth it, it just really doesn't make, it doesn't stand up to logic, but I'll be the first person to say it.
Speaker 4 00:55:06 Who am I to say whether you should go to college? I mean, there, there are many people. I mean I was a first generation college goer. There's seven kids in our family. I'm the fifth in the family. I'm the first one in those seven to, to get a college degree. Then my two younger siblings got a college degree. So I'm very much a first generation college goer. I'm a first generation high school diploma getter. I mean, my mom and dad, neither one got a high school diploma. They came from the agrarian culture of Central Pennsylvania, and it didn't make sense for them. And I think they had a very full and fulfilling life. My parents did. And so, I can't necessarily say to every individual, you must get a college degree. I think everybody ought to consider it.
Speaker 4 00:55:51 And I think there are good reasons for you to think it's worth it. So, to answer the question, is college worth it? Hands down. There's absolutely no question about it. But I do understand some of these factors that have caused people to question it. I'm just saying, look at the big picture and look at the data. Look at the, uh, you know, don't get caught up into individual stories. Um, and figure out what you want to do with your life, because that does have some, some bearing on whether or not you're going to need a college degree. And then are you sure that's what you're going to do your whole life? You know, those kinds of things. I love one, one saying that I heard, I think it came out of Elon University where the academic dean used to say your major will get to you your first job and your liberal arts will get you every job after that. And, and so the whole idea that we think we know exactly what we're going to do our entire career, but yeah. But understanding yourself and the big questions of life and the, all the things that a complete college degree will give you. It's something you can't put a price on.
Speaker 3 00:57:03 Yeah. That, that's a, that's a great answer. I couldn't agree, agree more. Well, Roger, it has been an absolute pleasure to spend this almost hour with you. I think back to the fact that when you joined us in, in 2017, I ran a quick number, 1,883 days that we have worked together. And, I think I've learned, 1,883 things from you. And today is not the exception. I continue to learn so much from you. I thank you for being a great mentor to me and to so many others. And, I just appreciate your time today and you, you sharing me with us, bud. So thank you much.
Speaker 4 00:57:43 Well, you're too kind, Jonathan, but I enjoyed it as well. Always enjoy spending time with you, Jonathan. Thanks for the opportunity. Yeah,
Speaker 3 00:57:50 Thank you, Roger.
Speaker 1 00:57:52 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.