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Key investments in enrollment, strategy

Under interim AVP Kathryn McFarland, Ed.D., MSU Denver strives to become a model for serving first-generation students.

By Will Simpkins, Ed.D., vice president for Student Affairs

January 10, 2022

We often say it takes the full Metropolitan State University of Denver community to support our enrollment goals, and that has never been truer than today. I am proud of the significant work taking place across MSU Denver’s academic, student-service and administrative units to support a positive student experience. Collaboratively, our work has produced significant results:

  • After a decade of inclusive effort, MSU Denver was named a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 2019.
  • Programs such as Brother to Brother, the College Assistance Migrant Program, TRIO Student Support Services, Undergraduate Research and Athletics show substantial increases in retention thanks to a wraparound support model.
  • The University has come within 2 percentage points of closing the retention gap between white and Latinx first-year students.

However, over the past two years we have learned that key aspects of our enrollment infrastructure were not supporting our community. MSU Denver has experienced consistent enrollment declines over the past decade, made steeper by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic also exposed several areas where outdated infrastructure hampered our ability to serve the community.

I am happy to report two areas of significant investment by the University:

We are well on our way to ensuring that all transfer transcripts are evaluated within one week of receipt by the fall 2022 semester.

  • Thanks to a cross-functional team including the Office of the Registrar, Information Technology Services, Curriculum Effectiveness and more, the University is automating many processes that were previously handled manually; dismantling policies and processes that created barriers for students; and working together to hold ourselves accountable to a goal of being the best transfer institution around! Many of these tech-heavy projects are in the “testing” phase, with the spring-semester launch being the perfect time to ensure that they work properly. If all goes as planned, the fall startup surge will be very different from past years. What runaround?
  • Thanks to an investment of one-time funding, MSU Denver has secured the services of CampusWorks to evolve our financial-aid program, with a focus on the people we serve and employ, the processes that move students to and through a college degree, the policies that ensure that we meet student needs, and the technologies required to support over 18,000 Roadrunners! Since we began this process, the team has filled six vacant staff lines (with more to come), revised language in student-facing communications with a focus on reader-friendliness and streamlined processes that will allow us to get financial-aid information out to students earlier.

By the end of 2022, MSU Denver’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships will not only be the “best in class” in Colorado, it will be a model department for supporting the needs of first-generation students. 

Kathryn McFarland, Ed.D.Change in leadership

As I tell the team in Student Affairs, “Change is.” Last week, we said farewell to Mary Sauceda, Ed.D., associate vice president for Enrollment Management, as she leaves MSU Denver to take a position in Texas. I congratulate her on her successes and thank her for the leadership she exhibited during a very difficult time. 

I am also pleased to announce that Kathryn McFarland, Ed.D., (pictured right) will join MSU Denver immediately as interim associate vice president for Enrollment Management.

McFarland brings almost two decades of experience in higher education to her interim position at MSU Denver, including serving as chief enrollment and student-affairs officer for Saint Leo University and Kaplan University. During her time at Saint Leo University, she increased enrollment by 42%, and at Kaplan University she led efforts to increase retention by 10%. A change-management leader with CampusWorks, McFarland also consults with universities on enrollment and student-success strategies. 

McFarland will continue the improvements we’ve already started in our enrollment systems, focusing on spring enrollment recovery and preparing summer and fall registration campaigns. She also will help launch a strategic enrollment-management planning process that will build capacity in the long term in alignment with the 2030 Strategic Plan and will support the search for a permanent AVP for Enrollment Management, ensuring that MSU Denver attracts the most talented enrollment leaders possible.

As we move forward, I would like to especially thank the members of the Enrollment Command Center who have worked tirelessly to support our students throughout the pandemic. As they continue to monitor our enrollment, I encourage all Roadrunners to seek out your representative to this group to share ideas and feedback.

Topics: Academics, Enrollment

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