Shenandoah University: Texting to Recruit Alumni
Shenandoah University (SU) is a private liberal arts university located in Winchester, Virginia. Founded in 1875, SU offers 43 undergraduate degree programs and 28 graduate degree-granting programs. Also, SU offers several certificates to students. SU incentivizes its alumni to return to campus should they decide to continue their education. Returning students receive a large discount on the amount they pay per credit hour if they continue their education at SU.
Jennifer Morell, the Graduate Nursing Recruitment & Admissions Director at Shenandoah University, wanted to be able to better engage alumni. Over time, she realized that email was quickly losing its effectiveness, particularly with younger students. Jennifer’s colleague Katie, who works in SU’s Pharmacy School, recommended two-way text messaging via the Signal Vine platform to communicate with the Nursing School’s students and alumni. After talking to Katie about the platform, Jennifer decided to try texting her graduates to better engage with them.
Jennifer sent her first text message in October 2018. Now, she uses Signal Vine to text alumni who graduated in 2015 or later. Also, she texts a specific group of alumni to be preceptors for clinical rotations for current students, noting that her alumni have been eager to give back to their alma mater and its current students.
Often, Jennifer uses texting to recruit alumni and encourage them to continue their educations at SU. However, Jennifer’s main focus is to keep alumni engaged with SU. As a result, many texts that she sends to alumni are simply to say hello, ask how they are doing, or to say happy holidays.
Jennifer has tracked the reach of her efforts in using texting to recruit alumni. She notes that 50% of inbound communications now come through via text message. Further, she shares that texted students are becoming more likely to apply to SU and continue their education. You can see more results from SU’s texting campaigns below.
*Data for 2018-2019 ranges from 9/21/18 to 9/3/19. Data for 2019-2020 ranges from 9/4/19 to 5/14/20.
Jennifer shares some of the best practices she’s gathered through her texting journey so far.
- Begin your relationships with alumni soon after they graduate. Jennifer notes that she sends the first text to her alumni within two weeks of their graduating. This initial text lets alumni know how proud she is of them and that they can continue to see her as a resource as they begin their careers – or return to SU for more coursework.
- Use texting to let alumni in certain fields know they’re not alone. Jennifer shares how tightly knit the nursing community is at SU. She uses texting to check in on her alumni, who are healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. She asks for their stories and reminds those alumni that she is there to support them.
Immediately, I could see the multiple benefits of using a texting platform to reach out to our graduates, from ease of communication and accessibility through informal outreach to dispersing and gathering information (e.g. career fairs on campus, where are they working after graduation). Further, we use texting to promote an alumni discount for nursing graduates, to reach out for help with precepting our current students, and simply to let them know we have not forgotten about them and want to keep abreast of their journey!
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