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Recruiting Intelligence

Ben Waxman

Ben Waxman

The Fiscal Abyss Ahead?

 

That photo and headline were admittedly clickbait. There are certainly turbulent waters ahead, but no abyss from our point of view. We do have some great fiscal perspective to share here. And awesome photo, right? We took that while attending the AIRC Symposium and ICEF North America Workshop in Niagara, Canada. 

During the AIRC event, Maggie and Ben gave a truly valuable presentation with a new set of Intead slides focused on a data-driven, actionable approach to budgeting for international enrollment efforts. This session and the slides were extremely well received, especially in the currently ambiguous, post-covid student mobility climate.  


Let’s meet in New Orleans @ NAFSA 2024! 

Join one of Intead’s two NAFSA presentations: 

  • ChatGPT and AI: What are the real opportunities for enrollment management? 
    Wed., May 29 @ 1 p.m.
    This one gives you the real-world picture, filtering out all of the smoke and silliness. Featuring David L. Di Maria, Senior International Officer & Associate Vice Provost for International Education at UMBC, and Iliana Joaquin, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Intead 
  • Groundbreaking Data: International Student Employment After Graduation
    Thurs., May 30 @ 11:30 a.m.
    This one presents unprecedented data about the value of international students after they graduate. Never before research Intead conducted with support from NAFSA and 12 US institutions offers great opportunities to advocate for your internationalization efforts. Featuring Joanna Regulska, Vice Provost and Dean of Global Affairs, UC Davis and Ben Waxman, Intead CEO

Get ahead with soon-to-be-released data from Intead.  

Intead is gearing up to release 3 new proprietary data sets that will change the way your team thinks about international student recruitment in the coming year. Incredibly telling data on international student career aspirations, the companies that hire them, and how the US election figures into international student decisions. More to come at NAFSA 2024. Pre-register to receive the reports as soon as they become available. 


For the past 15 years, the Intead team has been watching the numbers and predicting the future of international student enrollment with accuracy. It was February 2020, as the Chinese government shut down travel in and out of Wuhan and Covid had just begun its rampage though Italy that we were quoted in the Boston Globe pointing to the impending global shut down of international student mobility. Not everyone was happy with our saying so. But we weren’t wrong. 

Our point: we are willing to be bold and make statements that others have every reason to avoid. Someone’s got to feed our industry sober and helpful intel without all the blather. 

So, read on for what we see ahead and will be talking about at the upcoming NAFSA and GMAC conferences. Oh, and to grab our budget planning slides from the AIRC Symposium that will be available here to our blog subscribers for just one week before we move them into our library only available to our Intead Plus subscribers.  

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AIEA 2024 Reflections: Tend to the Roots

 

I’ll be honest with you, the AIEA 2024 conference produced a tremendous number of insights from so many leaders in our field. It has been a challenge reducing, selecting, and summarizing those I think will be most valuable for you. But sharing great ideas is central to why we publish this blog, so today I’m narrowing down a set of seemingly disparate ideas and tying them together, so they are valuable, actionable, and transferrable to you.  

Hey, use the comments below to let me know if I succeeded. 

For the observant, there is SO very much to take back to your desk from these gatherings. And since we had three Intead staff present and presenting at AIEA 2024, we came away with a lot.  


Events you won’t want to miss:

“Shattering Accessibility Limits in Digital Learning,” a Chronicle of Higher Ed-hosted webinar, featuring Gallaudet President Roberta Cordano and ansrsource CEO Rajiv Narayana. Register here. (All registrants will receive the recording even if they cannot attend. ASL interpreters will be present.)

The AIRC Spring Symposium on April 30. This one-day, in-person event in beautiful Niagara, Canada, will explore best practices in developing, managing, assessing, and sustaining the many partnerships that are foundational to international enrollment success. While there, be sure to attend Intead's session all about student recruitment marketing budgets – we've got some great new insights to share. Register today!


Many of the conversations we took part in or led at AIEA 2024 centered around fighting for and justifying internationalization budgets. One important notion (credit to David DiMaria, SIO, UMBC, (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) comes from the Japanese concept of Nemawashi (根回し). The term means “turning or taking care of the roots” and suggests that growth comes from taking good care of the foundation. There’s a lot of truth in this. 

As you seek to initiate a new project or grow something already in place, take time to meet with the many stakeholders individually and understand their points of view and concerns before the power brokers or full committee meets to take a vote on your plans and budget requests. Lay the groundwork so that you know the outcome before that decision point arrives. 

This is just one of the many ideas we’ve been ruminating on since our trip to AIEA. Read on for our selection of key actionable takeaways and our slides on data, AI in enrollment, and entrepreneurship in higher ed. 

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Required: Cultural Nuance in Edu Marketing - 3 Helpful Examples

 

Cultural nuance is no “nice to have.” It’s a must. Does your current marketing team understand this? Do they have the deep consumer insights needed to attract, recruit, and convert different cultural cohorts? Let’s get into it.  

When we talk about audience segmentation – the customization of content by region or country or academic interest AND country/region – what we’re talking about is the language and metaphors, images, and offers that resonate. We’re talking about deep consumer insight research that enables marketing efforts to move the needle in a competitive marketplace. Without these insights, your colorful examples, imagery, phrases, and language can only take a campaign so far.  

Non-marketers you can roll your eyes if you like. We suggest you take a look at our 3 examples below for a quick look under the hood at how deep market research informs the creative process and produces stronger results. 


Opportunities to Meet In Person 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • The Forum on Education Abroad in Boston, March 21, 2024
  • AIRC Spring Symposium and ICEF North America in Niagara, Canada, April 30 - May 3, 2024
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans, May 28-31, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 


As we develop approaches to attract and recruit students to institutions, we carefully consider what they will find relatable and help them make wise decisions. What will capture their attention among the many ads and posts they see online? What phrases will resonate with them as they consider their options – at each point in the decision process (the marketing funnel)?

Essentially, we are trying to figure out what will pause their scroll and prompt the smart click.

Prospects can only follow up with so many offers. In the end, they will apply to somewhere between 5 and 20 institutions. Most will receive 3 to 7 acceptance letters, sometimes more. What will help them make a wise decision for their particular situation? Will the content you create and disseminate influence them to apply and then enroll? 

So many institutions believe their own marketing and put out the most generic messaging because they think the great pool of prospective students will simply find them and connect with them. Some faculty and administrative leaders still believe that "marketing" is unnecessary (or worse) because their institutions are clearly excellent and students will simply find and select them. This point of view persists within the academic community -- marketing as snake oil sales. And hey, there are plenty of marketers out here lacking integrity in their approach, so, we understand the disdain for the marketing field.

To be clear, effective marketing is communication with integrity. Effective marketing helps consumers make wise decisions. Full stop.

Read on to explore the use of motivational language, colorful metaphors, and local language to create marketing campaigns that will attract attention, resonate, inform, and recruit. 

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AIRC 2023 Reflections: Slides Now Available

 

As I headed to Phoenix for the AIRC 2023 conference, I wondered if the window had already closed for education institutions just now considering starting up with commission-based agents as an international student recruitment channel. Happy to tell you, that window has not closed at all.  

Yet, there is a lot to consider for those institutions just starting, and those having been at it for years. 

With the largest AIRC conference to-date (480 attendees), more than 200 first timers attended. Clearly there is demand to learn more about how effective university-agent partnerships work. And having been part of the AIRC community for 14 of their 15-year history, I can tell you that AIRC is one of the best places to learn about international student enrollment growth. 

From sample contracts to efficient agent engagement policies and practices, AIRC’s documentation and counsel are outstanding. This year, 7 members of the Intead team traveled to Phoenix to attend, in part because the learning opportunities and global connections at this conference are among the best in the industry. The other part was the opportunity to share our own expertise with the attendees at our full-day Global Marketing Workshop. That was a hoot. The Intead team just loves this stuff. 


We’ll be at AIEA in DC in about 6 weeks and participating in 3 great presentations: 

  • AI for enrollment management  
  • Entrepreneurial leadership in bureaucratic environments 
  • A discussion around International Student Points of Entry and a new international student-focused publication to be released later in 2024 

And of course, we will be presenting at NAFSA in New Orleans in late May. If you’d like to schedule time to chat over coffee instead of over Zoom, please be in touch (info@intead.com). 


At AIRC 2023, we gave our full-day Global Marketing Workshop with half a day devoted to an interactive lecture on the fundamentals of the strategy that drives a university’s tactical execution. After lunch, we dove into 1:1 consulting with participants to address the group’s self-identified greatest needs.  

It was fascinating to see how our workshop attendees debated and decided amongst themselves what the second half topics should be. Here’s where we ended up: 

  • I need a marketing budget, what do I do to get it approved? 
  • I have a marketing budget. Now what? 
  • Identifying and filling resource gaps 
  • Processes for nurturing and converting leads 
  • Creating authentic and powerful recruitment content 

Do these topics resonate for you? Be in touch and we can share what we know and how we have helped institutions like yours succeed.  

During the AIRC conference, Intead’s Sr. Digital Marketing Manager Iliana Joaquin joined Dr. David DiMaria, SIO at UMBC, for a practical discussion about how AI and ChatGPT are being used today in enrollment management and what we can realistically expect in the next year as AI-driven tools evolve. Short answer – it ain’t there yet, but it very likely will be in the next couple of years. So much more to talk about on this topic. There are definitely some gains that can be made in some areas, but the hype from the vendors is creating so much noise. Very frustrating.

Later at the conference, I ran a session with Vanessa Andrade about staffing challenges that so many institutions are facing today. The discussion about what skills and tasks to hire for and what to outsource was dynamic with so many additions from the folks in the room. This is what we absolutely love about the AIRC conference.

We are making these insightful presentations available to blog subscribers for free. Download them here.

Below we summarize 3 key take-aways from the conference. Please read on… 

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Explore and Challenge: Constructive Friction from PIE Live in Boston

 

The PIE Live North America event in Boston did exactly what it was supposed to do. We gathered, we laughed, we explored, and in some cases, we clashed. Not dramatically, just a bit. But there were definitely some presentations and ideas shared that prompted collegial discussions with some friction. And that is exactly what a news publication should foster.  

Intead was honored to be selected to present on the topic of student mobility data. Sharing the stage with Sandhya Balasubramanian, Assistant Dean of Business Programs for Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Kirsten L. Feddersen, Senior VP of Analytics & Consulting for North America at Studyportals, we dove into the market research data that drives recruitment and enrollment decisions. We focused on putting that data into action. The fast-paced presentation and our Intead workshop handouts hit the mark for the many who attended. If you’d like those action-oriented handouts, consider joining Intead Plus with access to our full library of training materials and so much more. 

Unlike the unwritten rules that often constrict the way we interact at conferences run by associations with broad memberships, media outlets thrive when there is disagreement. Controversy draws more eyeballs and sells more newspapers (please forgive the throwback concept of selling newspapers).  

You want a for instance, right? Well…coinciding with IIE’s latest Open Doors data release, we learned of a new coalition of international education leaders called U.S. for Success seeking a national effort to increase the number of international students coming to the U.S. From their website: “U.S. for Success seeks to position the United States to effectively compete and cooperate on a global stage by attracting top talent and ensuring the success of all international students.” 

Lofty goals that align with what NAFSA, IIE, AIEA, AIRC, and many other associations already proactively seek to promote in concert with ACE. We are left with many questions about what exactly this new initiative will do and how it will get it done. See this PIE News story on the topic and see if it doesn’t leave you scratching your head a bit. 

We have our own ideas on the topic, of course. More will come to light in the year ahead, we are sure. We hope for the best and want to see our colleagues at these industry-leading associations find effective partners for their important work. 

For more notes from Pie Live, read on… 

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Internationalization is About Risk, Reward, and Your Culture

 

The opening plenary at the 76th CIEE conference drew a crowd earlier this month in Paris. No wonder. With a jaw-dropping panel representing Elon, Arizona State, Northeastern, and Dean College, the discussion presented some rare gems. 

The goal: set the conference off on the right foot. Get everyone thinking deeply about how international experiences can reach more students. 

The crowd clearly held the belief that a global education holds the promise of a brighter future. The proof was simply in the stories told by leaders in academia, government, and pretty much every institution in attendance. Those with international experience as a student spoke of the indelible mark that it had on their life and career. The global experiences changed their views of the world and shaped their decisions about how they would participate in it. No doubt, many of you can relate. 


Opportunities to Meet In Person 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • AIRC Annual Conference – we’ll be offering our full-day digital marketing workshop here In Phoenix, Dec 6-9, 2023 
  • ICEF North America Workshop in Miami, Dec 11-13, 2023 

Let us know if you’ll come share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 


Why we work so hard at this and gather to define the path forward: we are looking to make international education more accessible for current and future students. And we want those experiences to be deeply rewarding. We need to be sure the programs have a solid curriculum, strong faculty leadership, and finely tuned logistics and support services.  

We can only take on so much at one time. What I heard as the specific foci at this CIEE gathering: 

  • Clarify the steps to improving broad student access.  
  • Increase our capacity to provide student mental health support services.  
  • Focus efforts on environmental sustainability initiatives. 

The conference provided a foundation for robust, challenging discussions among study abroad leadership and all the many practitioners in the room. And these talks will continue. Fortunately, the resources to do the work, to make these ideas meaningful, not just esoteric, are in place.  

The discussions embraced big visionary approaches (can we foster greater employer engagement in internationalization?) and concrete touch points (can we provide each traveling student with a sustainability cookbook customized to each of 30+ destination cities?). The ideas shared and evaluated poured forth.  

Granted, there is never enough money to do all we want to do. But roughly 75 years ago, a poignant point in time following World War II, many smart and good people got together to launch global initiatives, including the United Nations, IIE, the Fulbright program, NATO, WHO, IMF, the World Bank, and CIEE to name just a few of the most prominent efforts to bridge cultures globally. 

I had the great privilege of moderating the opening plenary and speaking at length with: 

  • Rebecca Kohn, Ph.D., provost and vice president of academic affairs for Elon University 
  • Amy Stevens, Ph.D., vice chancellor of global experiential pathways for Northeastern University 

I wish all of you could have been there. That’s why today I’m sharing with you a few of my personal notes from talks with these industry leaders and other observations from the 3-day event. It’s a quick read, but one I know will spur ideas and get your wheels turning. Read on… 

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NACAC 2023 Reflections


Most inspiring feature of NACAC ‘23: Angel Perez, NACAC CEO, interviewing Maryland Governor Wes Moore and US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in the opening Plenary for 7,000+ attendees. Representation matters.  

This conversation, in the way it was introduced by a power team of NACAC leaders and the dialogue that followed, demonstrates so very much about what we can do to move forward in the face of strong opposition. Bring our unrelenting energy and talent, grounded in the forthright presentation of ideas and ideals. Meet the challenge, whatever it may be, with unwavering, appreciative inquiry. Communicate the vision in ways everyone can understand. 

The conference that followed with all the sessions, networking, and the many interactions showed that NACAC has still got it. And the Baltimore Convention Center people flow worked better than many other large venues we’ve been to. Below we offer additional 2023 Enrollment Trend Observations and the slides from our presentation on the current state of the international enrollment. The data we share offers you an outstanding opportunity to benchmark your own institution against nearly 200 others. 


Opportunities to meet in person:

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • CIEE 76th Annual Conference in Paris, Nov 8-10, 2023 
  • PIE News Live in Boston, Nov 13-15, 2023 
  • AIRC Annual Conference – we’ll be offering our full day digital marketing workshop here in Phoenix, Dec 6-9, 2023 
  • ICEF North America Workshop in Miami, Dec 10-13, 2023 

Let us know if you’ll come share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com


Intead’s presentation at NACAC 2023 with Robert Summers from Middle Tennessee State University and Jennifer Wright from AIRC was, of course, in the furthest most possible session room, and the A/C in the Convention Center seemed to get stronger and stronger the further you got from the entrance. So, we cheered when we saw 70+ attendees actually show up on the distant shores of room 348 and suffer through our data display in near arctic conditions. We thank you all! 

I exaggerate, of course. But it was pretty darn cold. And the data we presented wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. It is here and available for download in the link at the end of this blog post. Read on… 

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Thinking Big Opportunities: NAFSA 2023 Slides

Let’s start with this: our NAFSA 2023 slides are perhaps the most concise and clear educational tool we have produced to-date. When you have 3 strong speakers and just 50 minutes, you really need to focus if you want to get your point across.

Each slide represents far more content and conversations we would love to have with you. During one of our future conference sessions, webinars, or anytime, really, just reach out and let us know you want to chat.

Today we share our biggest takeaways from NAFSA 2023. These are thinking big opportunities.

We were honored to share the dais with Paulo Zagalo-Melo, SIO and Associate Provost at Western Michigan University and Karin Fischer, Senior Writer at Chronicle of Higher Education. Our focus: what kind of data and other information can truly inform our international student decision-making? And we considered the flip side: what information is TBU (True But Useless)?

A bit of foreshadowing: A focus for the Intead team going forward is going to be on international student employment and all we need to do as a community to make that process work better. You’ll see much more on that topic from us over the next year+. We have some amazing partners to help us get you the data and tools you need to improve your institutional approach. Watch this space.

You want answers about valuable vs. TBU data? Check out our NAFSA 2023 slide deck (download link at the bottom of this post.) Yes, we are making you work for it ; -)

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Constitution & Commitment — AGB Conference Reflections

If only for a cohesive, supportive team.

Almost 1,000 Edu trustees and presidents attended the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) annual conference in San Diego a few weeks ago. 80% were university trustees – volunteers who help keep the US higher educational system running. That’s an impressive thought right there.

As you can imagine, conference sessions addressed big ideas. Yet, consistent themes came to life in almost every session I attended.

  • Team approach is in short supply between trustees and university administrations.
  • Pressure to change the higher ed business model is growing, yet few institutions have the wherewithal to address it as quickly as needed.
  • Most have been avoiding the difficult conversations facing all of us. This is making things worse, even dire.

A bit of a downer. But stick with me. The ideas matter.

The higher ed business model has long needed to change. According to AGB, 25-35% of US institutions are experiencing a negative cash flow. Let that one sink in.

Quick math: the US has ~4,000 higher education institutions. 25% of 4,000 = 1,000. Mmmm hmmm.

Negative cash flow. 1,000+ institutions.

So that, along with the fear-inducing age demographics we are all grappling with (fewer traditional US students ahead), there is reason to be concerned and reason for the conference presenters to continue to ring the warning bell that has been sounding for nearly a decade. This has all been predictable and predicted.

Which brings us back to point #3 above: human beings don’t really like difficult conversations.

Which leads us to the importance of a cohesive team. The challenges we all must face right now, this year, and for the foreseeable future, require an aligned team. Those without that alignment are going to falter, a lot.

On the brighter side, it’s not as if human beings have never faced challenges before. The history of the world is full of stories of challenges faced and overcome. We have a responsibility to face the challenges before us now as those who came before us faced theirs – giving us the opportunities we have ahead.

Frederick Douglass: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Below you’ll find inspiring exploration of where we all go from here to make our institutions rise despite the challenging times. I’ve grabbed some of the best insights from the sessions that prompt us to explore, evaluate, plan…and then, since these are trustees, they hand it off to others to deliver. (That means you ; -) And don’t worry. We’re right by your side. We are up for it and eager to dive in.

To get the inside scoop on how your institution will face the future, read on

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Reflecting on #AIEA2023: Promises Being Made and TBU Data

A great gathering in DC as nearly 800 attended this year’s AIEA conference. The conversations were varied and interesting, as always. Kudos to Darla Deardoff, David Fleshler, and their team for pulling off a valuable event.

We are looking ahead at our next chance to chat about internationalization with .Edu trustees and presidents in San Diego at the AGB conference in April. Honored to be presenting alongside Brad Farnsworth from Fox Hollow Advisory (former ACE VP) and Dr. Gretchen Bataille from GMB Consulting (former president of the U of North Texas among other amazing higher ed roles). We will be talking all about insights university leaders need to guide internationalization efforts. Reach out if you or others from your team will be there.

Reflecting on this past week with our AIEA colleagues, my thoughts turn to internationalization and the many factors that go into its student recruitment process – the admissions, the student support/success efforts, the development of global partnerships. So many factors to manage. We know this.

Underlying it all is the question of staffing structure and the challenge of retaining current staff and attracting new to keep the process moving (better yet, optimized). Switching gears, did we mention credential evaluation and oh, study abroad programs? Right, so many aspects.

With all of this yanking on us, distracting us as each area of our jobs calls us to focus, there really is only one approach to multi-faceted work like this: be thorough and work hard. There is no magic solution, despite what so many vendors seem to say.

Let’s get into it and review the promises being made in our field and some actions you and your team can take to improve your Gen Z enrollment strategy. What data are you looking at? And how much of it is True But Useless (TBU)? With thanks to our Chief of Strategy Patricia Tozzifor bringing this phrase to the fore. Her perpetual questioning keeps us focused on this: what can you truly act on?

Read on for insights prompted by the 2023 AIEA gathering:

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