Administrators discuss plans for strategic enrollment

President Wim Wiewel sits in the front row during the administrative assembly. Photo by Will Toppin

Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) is a multifaceted administrative plan to improve the school. SEM was in its first planning phase last year, with implementation of these plans starting over the summer while SEM rolled into planning Phase II.

“Strategic Enrollment Management is a long-term effort to better attract and retain students at the college,” Suttmeier said in an interview. “It has a number of different aspects, but it includes things like new programming, more retention efforts, and recognizing why students come to Lewis and Clark, and why they stay and how they succeed. So really, it’s an attempt to create a better educational experience and a stronger social experience for students on-campus.”

According to the SEM website, “SEM is overseen by a steering committee and coordinated by a Director of Strategic Enrollment Initiatives. A directors’ group offers operational expertise. The success of this effort, however, depends on the collective intelligence and energy of the campus as a whole.”

A Lewis & Clark administrative assembly took place on Oct. 15 in the Council Chambers. The assembly began with a comprehensive update on the SEM effort presented by Rachel Cole, associate professor of English and director of strategic enrollment initiatives.

“SEM is a broad based collective effort to come up with new strategies to bring people here and to keep them here through graduation so that we can stabilize our enrollment, which is, of course, our main revenue stream,” Cole said.

Cole began her presentation explaining what the school accomplished last year during the Phase I planning period.

“We’re looking for what students and employers want,” Cole said. “We want to look at what we do differently, so that when we try to explain why you should come to Lewis & Clark, and not somewhere else, to get your education or to have your child educated.”

Phase I emphasized recruitment. A major initiative under this focus is the LC’s 4-5-6 Commitment.

The ‘4’ aspect of the 4-5-6 Commitment guarantees that all undergraduate students will graduate with a BA in four years, or the school will pay for a fifth. ‘5’ and ‘6’ refer to the graduate schools: LC students can graduate with a BA and a Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in five years, or a BA and a law degree (JD) in six.

“Even if students do not end up going to our grad school or law school, (the 4-5-6 Commitment) helps their parents imagine and understand that we are preparing them for careers, or professional lives or additional education,” Cole said.

SEM Phase II, which is the planning phase that started this school year, focuses on retaining students once they’re on-campus. The effort began with collecting data on student retention.

“What that revealed, in part, is that we really need to focus (on students’) first year,” Cole said. “We lose most of our students … between the first and third semester.”

As a part of SEM’s focus on student retention, LC is continuing to expand on its characteristic strengths. This includes capitalizing on the school’s location in vibrant Portland and LC’s Environmental Studies and Sustainability Programming.

“We wanted to do bigger and better programming around (LC’s environmental program), because it is already part of our brand,” Cole said. 

SEM Phase II will also focus on cultivating the fine arts programs.

“We’re looking at getting the community up here for more of our fine arts programming, and we’re looking to make sure that non majors can not only enjoy the arts, but participate in them and find additional forms of community,” Cole said.

One program that Suttmeier is excited about came from the music department.

“It’s a plan to pair every music major with a working musician, or working artist,” Suttmeier said. “It involves getting the mentor relationship going, having a dinner, helping them connect with each other … those kinds of programs are so meaningful to students, and so meaningful to the alums and the people in the community who will be doing the mentoring for us.”

Additionally, SEM aims to prepare students for the digital world. Suttmeier elaborated on this program.

“Everybody has data science — but how can we do it differently, and how can we do it in a way that looks and feels like Lewis and Clark?” Suttmeier said. “By the end of the year, we’ve charged (a team of faculty and staff) with coming up with a proposal and a plan that lays out in a lot of detail what that will look like. And, you know, I’m really excited to see how that develops over the next year, what kind of ideas they come up with.”

Another goal of SEM is offering men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams, when the funding becomes available.

Cole finished her presentation by requesting community feedback.

“Do you have an idea?” Cole said. “Several of our programs came from individuals who said, ‘I’ve had a Post-it next to my desk for the past 10 years,’ right? ‘Maybe we should try this.’ Not all of those ideas convinced enough people to go for it, but some of them did.”
LC community members are encouraged to submit a SEM feedback form, which will allow the committee to hear ideas from the community about programs to improve the school. To submit a SEM feedback form, visit the Dean of the College’s website. Students can also email

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