Cultural Analysis: Strategic Enrollment Management & University Academic Advising

The Division of Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) “in the works” website is symbolic of its current culture. SEM is still in the group building stages where the focus is on group conformity and search for harmony (Schein, 2010, pg. 205). I realized that SEM departments work too independently. Daniel Levi (2014) argues that “To be successful, team members must feel responsible for both their own work and the work of other team members” (pg. 65).  From my research, I gathered that UAA feels they are only responsible for advising, Undergraduate Admissions feels they are only responsible for welcoming new students, and Financial Aid feels they are only responsible for assisting with aid distribution, etc. SEM is trying to reverse the mentality through biannual team retreats as a forum for open communication and dialogue with one another. In order to achieve a collective identity, SEM employees need to realize our interdependence to one another. Currently, SEM is working toward communicating departmental contributions with unit successes, but is still largely market driven by external factors like retention data in order to receive federal and state funding. (Schein, 2010, pg. 147).

In contrast to SEM, UAA’s culture is a “being-in-becoming” orientation. Advisors focus on not only the growth and development of students, but of themselves. Through constructive feedback meetings and regular communication, our leaders focus on what the individual advisor can become rather than what they can accomplish (Schein, 2010, pg. 147). In my office, I’ve observed that the individual advisor has the opportunity to set the stage for staff development in weekly staff meetings. UAA focuses on self-development from both a student and employee perspective.

Overall, I discovered some inconsistencies between espoused SEM values and what is actually happening within UAA.  I determined that UAA is in the process of rebuilding its own subculture under SEM leadership, while maintaining some of their core beliefs in self-development and open communication.  While UAA develops its culture, SEM is trying to develop a collective identity among all its departments. My SEM colleagues are looking for a more collaborative, friendly, and family-like culture where open, transparent dialogue among departments is encouraged on a regular basis (Schein, 2010, pg. 168). The current cultural challenge for SEM leadership is balancing its commitment to the market, its employees and VCU students.