The EAB Daily Briefing

How one advising leader saw a 600% increase in student responses

February 14, 2017

Advisors are used to students ignoring their emails. Like other university staff, they work hard to get students important information, but all too often students’ replies to their outreach are few and far between.

Viewed another way, though, this shouldn’t be a surprise. There’s a science as well as an art to getting people to respond to emails. It’s called email marketing, and the halls of academia aren’t exactly teeming with email marketing experts.

Words surrounding email performance—words like “open rates,” “clickthrough rates,” and “conversion rates”—are not part of most academics’ vocabulary. What can we really expect university staff to know (or embrace) about email strategy?

We tried 5 meeting hacks. Here's what worked.

March 5, 2018

Kathleen Escarcha, staff writerKathleen Escarcha, staff writer

Unnecessary and unproductive meetings are not only a waste of time—they're a waste of your organization's money.

Luckily, there's no shortage of tips that aim to help you lead an effective and efficient meeting. But combing through the seemingly hundreds of meeting tips can feel more like a time suck than a time saver. And while some strategies look great on paper, they don't always integrate well into your day-to-day routine.

To help you distinguish between the time savers and time wasters, we asked folks at EAB to put a few of the most popular meeting hacks to the test. Here's what worked and what didn't.

Hack 1: Use power language

What was your experience like? Overall, my experience with power language was positive! I used EAB-specific terminology and only used the terms to emphasize really important points.

Would you recommend it? I would recommend it, with a light touch. If you throw buzzwords into every other sentence, you risk seeming phony. Instead, customize your active words to your company terminology. – Aly Seidel, web editor

Hack 2: Encourage attendee participation

What was your experience like? Every Monday morning, I create a detailed meeting agenda and lead my team of marketing associates in a discussion about our goals for the coming week. This Monday, however, I showed up empty handed and let my team lead the conversation. My associates understood exactly what we needed to discuss and the momentum from our meeting led to a productive week.

Would you recommend it? Absolutely. This was a low-barrier way to boost engagement from my team and empower them to set the tone for the week. – Eli Franco, manager

Hack 3: Leave your devices behind

What was your experience like? At first, I was terrified. I often use my laptop to take notes or to reference documents during a meeting. For note-taking, I switched to pencil and paper. I forgot how much easier it is to remember something once you physically write it down, which was a definite benefit of going digital-free. However, I keep my to-dos on my laptop, so I had to transfer my notes back into my computer after the meeting.

Would you recommend it? My experience going digital free felt hit or miss—for some meetings, like check-ins, it provided a necessary distraction-free environment. For others, I felt less prepared since I didn’t have access to my laptop. The week did force me to at least ask the question: do I really need my laptop for this? – Kate Sheka, senior retention marketing manager

Hack 4: Take a meeting for a walk

What was your experience like? Taking a one-on-one check-in for a walk was an extremely productive experience. Being outside got our creative juices flowing and we came up with some great, out-of-the-box ideas. Afterwards, we sat down for a coffee, which helped strengthen our relationship as teammates.

Would you recommend it? I would highly recommend a walking meeting. – Izzy Sobel, senior manager

Also see: How to lead less miserable meetings

Hack 5: Send next steps in follow up

What was your experience like? I only jot down key words or ideas during my check-ins with my editor. My shorthand makes sense in the moment, but can be difficult to decipher later on. This week, I condensed my notes into a few takeaways and shared them with my editor. The process helped me identify my top priorities for the week and ensured that my editor and I were on the same page about my goals.

Would you recommend it? I usually only have one meeting each week, so sending next steps only took me ten minutes. If your work week includes back-to-back meetings, I suggest sharing the responsibility with your teammates. When it's your turn to send next steps, draft the takeaways immediately after, so the main points are still fresh in your mind. – Kathleen Escarcha, staff writer

Related: 7 types of meetings to cancel right now

The 15 best colleges for internships—and 3 strategies to improve your offerings

March 5, 2018

Internships are critical for students to secure jobs after graduation. Research has found that employers tend to hire roughly 50% of their interns as full-time employees, and 80% of employers consider internships to be a recruiting tool.

The Princeton Review recently asked students to rate the accessibility of internship placement services at their institution. The publication published the results in a ranking of best schools for internships, part of a package of rankings highlighting "colleges that pay you back."

According to the Princeton Review ranking, the best colleges for internships are:

  1. Northeastern University
  2. Wabash College
  3. University of Richmond
  4. Bentley University
  5. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  6. Claremont McKenna College
  7. College of William and Mary
  8. Harvey Mudd College
  9. College of Wooster
  10. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  11. Wake Forest University
  12. Bennington College
  13. Pennsylvania State University—University Park
  14. Barnard College
  15. Clemson University

How colleges get more students into internships

1: Co-curricular major maps. Many students will wait until their junior or senior years of college to consider applying for internships, but career development experts say earlier is better. Queen's University adds visual reminders about internships (and other co-curricular experiences) to their major maps. This strategy prompts students to begin thinking about options from the moment they begin exploring a major.

Read more: 5 steps to build a co-curricular major map

2: Offer replacement funding for unpaid internships. Most organizations in the nonprofit, arts, and social services fields can't afford to pay interns, but many low-income students can't afford to take unpaid internships. To resolve the situation, some institutions offer stipends or grants to students in unpaid internships. Amherst College and Colgate University have successfully turned to alumni for help funding internship stipend programs.

Read more: Students need internships, but can't always afford them. Here's how colleges can help.

3: Incorporate internships into liberal arts programs. After seeing declines in their traditional English program, Susquehanna University launched several professionally oriented minors based on alumni career outcomes. One of these, the Publishing and Editing minor, was so popular that they ultimately repackaged it into a full major by adding an internship requirement and other updates to the curriculum. The new major has been extremely successful, helping to increase English enrollments by 80% in just two years (Princeton Review ranking, accessed 2/28; Princeton Review methodology, accessed 2/28).

Read more: How Susquehanna nearly doubled English enrollment by adding more professional development

Students think they're ready for the workforce. Employers disagree.

March 5, 2018

Students believe they're ready for the workplace, but employers aren't so sure, finds a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

To conduct the survey, researchers at NACE asked 4,213 graduating seniors and 201 employers to rate recent grads' proficiency in eight career-ready competencies. A high percentage of students were confident about their proficiency in almost every category, while employers disagreed, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf writes for Inside Higher Ed. 

Here are the biggest divides between students' and employers' perception of recent grads' workforce readiness:

  • 89.4% of students feel their work ethic is proficient, compared to 42.5% of employers;
  • 79.4% of students consider their communication skills proficient, compared to 41.6% of employers; and
  • 70.5% of students believe they have leadership skills, compared to only a third of employers.

The stark differences in perception suggest that "employers see skills gaps... where college students don't believe gaps exist," according to statement from NACE. 

The disconnect between employers and students may be exacerbated by the differences in how these two groups define the career-ready competencies, says Brandon Busteed, executive director of higher education at Gallup.

For example, students may feel confident about their writing skills because they excel at academic papers, but written communication often takes a different form in the workplace, he notes. Similarly, students may associate critical thinking with in-depth analysis, while employers tend to define the skill as original thought, says Busteed.

Miscommunication between students and employers may be at the heart of these skills gaps, Brenda Perea wrote for Community College Daily. There's a disconnect between how students communicate their abilities and how employers interpret them, she adds.  

To prepare for the labor market, students should practice articulating how their skills can apply in the professional world, says Megan Adams, a senior consultant at EAB. And colleges need to help students realize that the skills they're learning in class go beyond the content itself, she adds (Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed, 2/27; NACE Staff, NACE, 2/27).

Keep reading: How to translate student employment into meaningful career development

How this university saved $200,000 by fixing one facilities issue

March 5, 2018

HVAC system failures are common, costly to solve—and difficult to detect on campus, Alan Joch writes for EdTech magazine.

Heating and cooling issues can cost thousands of dollars in wasted energy, so institutions are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) to become more energy efficient, he writes.

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), energy engineers installed a network of 60,000 sensors equipped with an algorithm to detect HVAC breakdowns. The sensory data funnels into an online dashboard that alerts engineers about HVAC performance issues, Joch writes.

Since implementing the data-driven energy management system, UNL saved about $200,000 in one year, estimates Lalit Agarwal, the university's director of utility and energy management.

Pairing IoT with energy management systems "often results in direct cost savings," says Steve Hoffenberg, a director of IoT and embedded technology at VDC Research.

Also see: 3 reasons why you need to turn up the thermostat in the summer

But successfully implementing an IoT energy management system requires close coordination between departments, says Chuck Benson, the assistant director of IT and facilities services at the University of Washington. As IT and operations staff often approach problems differently, these teams need regular meetings, starting early in the process, to work effectively together, suggests Benson.

UNL's energy sensors also support the campus' ongoing recommissioning efforts, Joch writes. The sensors have helped UNL improve the energy efficiency of more than a dozen buildings and reduce the school's overall energy consumption by 17%, says Agarwal. So far, Agarwal's team has only addressed a few of the 130 buildings on campus, so they expect even greater energy savings in the future, he adds (Joch, EdTech, 2/20).

Also see: How to create a culture of commissioning

For urgent facilities needs, send in the SWAT team

Best practice from the Facilities Forum

March 5, 2018

Institutions trying to improve their preventive maintenance programs still have one-off or recurring corrective needs that require resolution, like time-constrained tasks or customer-requested work. Some campuses have resolved these maintenance needs through short-term staffing solutions, generally known as maintenance SWAT teams. The first opportunity is a transition-focused maintenance SWAT team. One school that experienced a need for a temporary SWAT team is the University of Central Florida (UCF).

When UCF began their transition to a reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) model, they experienced a noticeable drop in customer satisfaction. While the new model ensured staff prioritized preventive maintenance work, customers expressed frustration when Facilities did not address their requests immediately anymore.

UCF addressed this by creating a temporary maintenance SWAT team. This team, called the “Shore It Up” Team, consisted of three newly hired staff members dedicated exclusively to responding to urgent customer requests. This allowed Facilities to continue building out its new maintenance program while still responding to customer needs. Once UCF completed the transition to RCM, they regained the capacity to respond to customer requests within their normal staffing structure, and the Shore It Up Team employees moved into other roles within the new model.

See 10 more best practices for getting more proactive with preventative maintenance