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Institutional agility post Covid: reopening in a different world

Institutional agility will be our greatest asset across every department in our schools and will manifest as institutional empathy
September 3 2021
3 Min Read

It is said that in the experience of grief, you will never be the same again. Grief changes us.

It is this perspective on grief that resonates with me as we approach re-entry to life post Covid. The world is not the same, nor are we. And in the research around grief and recovering from loss, it is not about “getting over” the loss, but about learning to live forever changed.

As institutions, it is about adjusting and adapting to a new campus reality. This is what I believe needs to happen in higher education; this is our responsibility as post-secondary institutions. This piece is about how institutions consider their approach to international education focusing on student services, recruitment and enrolment, and scholarships.

Institutional agility will be our greatest asset across every department in our schools and will manifest as institutional empathy.

It is September 2021. Schools are launching new academic years, and new enrolment cycles. As students arrive on campuses, let us begin with looking at agility in our student support services.

After complicated pre-departure and arrival immigration processes, international students arrive and in many cases quarantine alone in a new country, eating new food, feeling suddenly alone. In anticipation of their arrival, we implement new supports and bolster staffing resources to deliver enhanced support services.

“Conversion is the name of the game and that comes with relationship building and trust”

At Trent University, international students receive welcome packages containing items to convey our welcome and provide some small comforts. From the delivery of “Trent Moose” during lockdown to “virtual dance parties”, international students are welcomed into an international community with frequent check-ins, a virtual front desk, and wellness programming throughout quarantine and beyond.

The enhanced service team will continue to support our students all year. This is a year where investment in student services is paramount, from spontaneous cookie drop-offs to mental wellness programs.

Now onto recruitment. Campus recruiters around the world have been grounded for 18 months and counting. Since March 2020, the hours spent on the plethora of virtual recruitment fair platforms by far exceed the number of hours once spent in racing through terminals, catching up on emails in airport lounges, and reviewing minute to minute itineraries on flights.

Amped up virtual recruitment events producing thousands of leads are only a drop in the bucket in today’s recruitment world. Securing applications over a rushed text exchange is a pipe dream.

Conversion is the name of the game and that comes with relationship building and trust. Our agility as a recruitment team at Trent International is manifested in consistent communication across a range of platforms, tailored to each market and augmented with in-country representatives. Lead conversion is a team effort, and includes the support of senior leadership, faculty, staff, current students across campus and alumni around the world.

Demonstrating the campus academic, experiential, and community experiences to prospective students requires all hands on deck. Trent’s virtual open days, complete with sample lectures and virtual campus tours, plant the seeds for an ongoing dialogue through the application and conversion process.

Developing new admissions pathways to offer flexible admissions options for starting a degree in response to disrupted high school experiences have lessened the perception that studying abroad is not accessible. Coming together as a campus community has been our best approach to conveying our commitment, support, and service to students.

We are collectively preparing to support international students shouldering complex processes and new challenges to realise education dreams. Our students will arrive with varying degrees of localized covid experiences and losses, and possibly the greatest factor limiting the fulfilment of this goal is their reduced ability to finance their education.

Finding ways to provide scholarships and bursaries to international students can mean the difference between a life on hold and a student fulfilling a dream. Beyond scholarships, institutions can create funded positions to encourage departments to hire international students, providing valuable income as well as invaluable work experience. This year we have seen a record number of scholarship applications and have bolstered international student funding to ease financial burden and make education at Trent a reality.

“Our return to operating as educational institutions requires agility in response to a new world”

This year will be our year of adjustment. For some institutions, this year will be about recovery. For others it will be a strong reemergence into full operations after a year of innovation and adaptation. Either way, our return to operating as educational institutions requires agility in response to a new world, and empathy to meet the needs of a new student demographic.

The outcomes of our institutions, the markers of success, will emerge from our adeptness, our empathy, and our care for every member of our institutional community.

About the author:

This is a sponsored post from Cath D’Amico, MA, Trent International Director, Trent University Canada. With a master’s degree in leadership and over 20 years of experience in international education, 2020 has restored my passion for my work, the work of Trent University, and the global importance of higher education. This year has affirmed that international education changes lives. To experience the determination of students relentlessly pursuing their dreams of study in Canada, I am reinvigorated to meet fearless students who will undoubtedly make our world a better place.

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