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From category archives: In Trust Blog

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Four questions for your enrollment team

Enrollment is critical. You might have a wonderful vision, an outstanding strategic plan, and top-notch personnel in all the key spots – but without enough students, your school will struggle.

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Still questioning the effectiveness of online education?

One of the questions that admissions officers regularly field from potential students is, “Do you have an online program?” And it’s not just younger, presumably more tech-savvy students who are asking the question either — nor is it just students who live in other cities or on other continents. At the non-residential seminary where I work, most students live locally. But the idea of fighting traffic after work to take classes a couple nights a week is a hard sell. So they ask: “Do you have an online program?”

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Student enrollment by the numbers

If you are a leader in theological education, you are already familiar with overall trends in seminary enrollment. Usually, reports about enrollment are gloomy, with a half-hearted silver lining that suggests, “Well, at least we’re not the only ones struggling.”

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Resource roundup: Social media management

With the right resources, it is possible to run successful social media campaigns without hiring a full-time social media marketer.

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Leveraging the power of Facebook

By now, we all know the vast reach that Facebook has across the globe, and many are aware of how powerful a tool Facebook can be for nonprofits and educational institutions to engage with constituents and potential donors.

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Communicating hope amid disruption

The illustration and type on the cover of Fuller Seminary's magazine pretty much says it all. Rather than an evocative photographic portrait, as usually graces the cover, this one sports a photoshopped bird – gold and in flight – which forms the first “I” in the 200-point Century Bold italicized title that reads: DIS RUP TION.

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Writing for the mass media: A practical how-to



On November 2, the In Trust Center hosted a webinar on “Writing for the mass media” aimed at seminary leaders. 

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Calculating the "public value" of your school


Sometimes a theological school must communicate its worth to a larger community -- perhaps as part of an outreach effort or in an appeal to donors. In these instances, it’s helpful for school leadership to make the case for the institution's value to the community. A few years ago, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary conducted an economic impact study and was subsequently able to quantify its value after local residents expressed concern that the seminary was not giving enough to the community. In addition to actual dollar amounts given, the seminary also calculated the value of residents employed by the school, hours volunteered, and benefits not easily quantified, such as diversity. As a result, not only was the school able to communicate its worth, but they also developed stronger town-gown relationships.

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Chronicle highlights challenges of rural colleges



The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article that addresses the challenges of rural colleges and the efforts of some schools to attract more students and faculty. Written by Lawrence Biemiller, the article highlights colleges facing difficulties because of their remote locations.


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Developing and maintaining effective dashboards




 

A dashboard is a display of key indicators that help institutions steer their activities towards their declared strategic outcomes. The imagery, of course, is obvious to anyone who drives a car. Just like the dashboard on your 1981 Ford Fairmont, it’s critical that indicators be visible and the data easy for a user to assimilate. This typically necessitates graphic displays such as graphs, pie charts, or something more creative.

The In Trust has presented a webinar on how to use dashboard effectively. Here's a summary of it, along with a few helpful hints to get you started.

 

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Social media strategies for good times and bad


The In Trust Center recently presented a webinar on social media to an audience of theological seminaries across the United States and Canada. 

The Center's vice president for communication, Jay Blossom, shared the webinar hosting duties with Leanne Van Dyk, president of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. 

Together they provided guidance on cultivating an authentic, trusted voice on social media platforms in “normal” times -- and then employing this voice to communicate during crises. Van Dyk relayed her experiences in developing a social media strategy during her first year at Columbia Seminary.


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Social media resources



Jay Blossom, Publisher of In Trust magazine and In Trust's Vice President for Communication, recently presented a workshop entitled Social Media and Institutional Conflict at the 2015 ATS Presidential Leadership Intensive Conference. The following was created as a supplemental resource for the workshop participants.

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News on demographics, essential skills, and more



Last year, In Trust published a report
 by Barbara Wheeler titled “Sobering Figures Point to Overall Enrollment Decline.” That article’s influence continues to grow. Most recently, it was cited in “Seminaries Continue to Attract Older Students,” an article that award-winning journalist Yonat Shimron wrote for the website Insights into Religion.

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Can your school apply the “eight stages of brand love”?

Swans

A post by Tim Halloran 
on the Harvard Business Review blog is targeted toward businesses, but seminaries might find it worthwhile to look at these stages of love in relation to their own stakeholders.

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Montana institute blends postmodern faith and fly-fishing


A group of church leaders in Bozeman, Montana,
is developing plans for a new graduate-level theological institute in their city, focusing on “emergent Christianity.” The institute’s first activities, held in summer and fall of 2013, were five-day immersion seminars that featured not only instruction, but also fly-fishing along Montana’s rivers and hiking . . . 

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A preview of our Autumn 2013 issue



 The Autumn 2013 issue of In Trust magazine is in the mail! Here's a preview of what you can expect:

"Pathways to Seminary: Where the Best Students Come From" by Barbara Wheeler.
In Part 1 of this series, "Sobering Figures Point to Overall Enrollment Decline," Wheeler explained the data that she and her colleagues have been analyzing: Over the last decade, overall seminary enrollment is flat or falling, but there are a few bright spots amid the negative numbers. In this issue, Wheeler shares what she has learned from interviews with the best students enrolled at theological schools across the United States and Canada. 

Two other articles . . .

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More discussion of student debt



Back in 2005, the Auburn Institute published a timely report, “The Gathering Storm: The Educational Debt of Theological Students.” The warning was clear: As the cost of education increases, more students come to graduate school with undergraduate debt, and they add to that burden throughout their time at seminary, graduating with more debt than someone with a clergy salary can afford. Simple math.

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What? No grad degree in enrollment management?


The field of enrollment management -- which includes admissions and financial aid -- has traditionally been led and staffed by generalists. But new graduate programs in enrollment management are emerging to help newbies and senior leaders alike cope with the increasing sophistication of this field.

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Preserve the core -- all else can change

The Alban Institute recently posted a must-read essay about congregational leadership titled "When the Mission Changes." In it, author Dan Hotchkiss reflects on the critical times in a congregation's history where the mission of the community needs radical reconsideration. This involves more than reworking the verbiage in the mission statement, he says. "[W]hat if times change so much that the original mission starts to look like a mistake?" Can a theological school find itself in a similar position? Of course. And more than a few schools are already taking the radical steps of rethinking and redefining their missions for the 21st century. For example: The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology changed its name this fall from Mars Hill Graduate School, partly to distinguish itself from a church with a similar name but dissimilar theological positions. But in the major rebranding process, the school has focused its identity on progressive evangelicalism and zeroed in on what it does best: ...

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Pastor finds that seminary education prepared him for vital questions


Rarely have I seen
such a vigorous defense of academic theological study as the column Jason Byassee just wrote for the United Methodist Reporter. Byassee is an academic -- he most recently has been a fellow in theology and leadership at "Leadership Education at Duke Divinity," a program of Duke University Divinity School.

This summer Byassee was appointed pastor of a United Methodist church in Boone, North Carolina, and he was somewhat surprised by what he found: Regular people in a small Appalachian city were eager to ask the new pastor theological questions.

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Do alumni read alumni magazines?

Does your institution publish a magazine for alumni? The Council for Advancement and Support of Education has conducted its first national survey of alumni magazine readers. The good news: well over half of survey respondents say that the alumni magazine strengthens their connection to the school. The bad news? Young alumni find magazines less useful, since they are more likely to go online to get news about their classmates. Does that mean that alumni magazines can be phased out over time? Perhaps not. The associate editor of the Johns Hopkins Magazine, Dale Keiger, suggests that magazines build loyalty over time. While it may take years, he says, those young alumni turn into older alumni, who have the resources to support the school. In the last year or two, several schools have cut at least one print edition from their annual publication cycles, in favor of special digital editions. This may help square a few budgets, but it's short sighted. Our readers -- readers of all ages -- have expressed a stro ...

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