16:16 PM

New Centralized Graduate Admissions Team Sees 47% Increase in Enrolled Students

New Graduate Success Model Implemented, Focus on Student Experience

Left to right: Christopher Cheek, Christine Bowen, Chris Zeglin,, Amy Rose, Alfredo Gomez. Missing from photo is Vawn StearnesUST celebrates a phenomenal upward trend. Graduate admissions to the University of St. Thomas-Houston are up 47% over last year for a total of 363 graduate students versus 247.

Assistant Vice President for Graduate Enrollment and Enrollment Marketing Chris Zeglin attributes this success to a change in leadership, focus on graduate admissions and an ever-evolving relationship between admissions and faculty.

Modeling St. Louis University’s Strategy for Graduate Admissions

According to Zeglin, his team found and is using the exemplary graduate admissions model employed at St. Louis University. Adopting that model meant converting the standard Graduate Admissions Office into the Graduate Student Success Center and transforming on-campus counselors into success coaches.

“SLU was able to grow graduate retention to more than 90% with this model, Zeglin said. “Not only do we want to bring in more graduate students but assist UST with retention of these students.”

UST’s team for Graduate Admissions consists of four graduate student success counselors and a director. Alfredo Gomez, Christine Bowen, Vawn Gretta Stearnes, Amy Rose and Christopher Cheek make up the Graduate Student Success Center.

The Graduate Admissions office has a new home on the ground floor of the Carriage House.

Centralizing and Streamlining Graduate Admissions

Centralizing and streamlining the graduate admissions process has its benefits.

“With UST growing, it didn’t make sense for associates, undergraduates and graduates to be housed together,” Zeglin said. “Graduate admissions is an entirely different audience with different needs.”

Zeglin and his team now emphasize moving prospective graduate students through the admissions process earlier and more quickly. Because most graduate students apply to more than one program, a quick response from UST to engage them is crucial.

“One way to speed up the admitted-to-enrolled process was to automate several steps so that we could make subsequent decisions faster,” Zeglin said. “At UST, 98% of applicants are admitted, so making admissions decisions as quickly as possible was key to improving the number of enrolled students.”

New Graduate Programs Help Move the Needle

Zeglin also cites new graduate degree programs as contributing to the increase in graduate admissions. Two attractive, one-of-a-kind programs with a focus on UST’s mission have definitely moved the needle.

“The Master’s in Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, touted as a quiet revolution in Catholic literature, is a great success with 34 new graduate students,” Zeglin said. “Our Spanish Theology programs continue to be successful. The demand is there for our new 100% online, 100% in Spanish, Master of Arts in Sacred Scripture program that generated 33 new graduate students.”

Program Marketing Impact on Enrollment

Zeglin first met great success in leading program marketing for both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. His focused digital and print admissions marketing increased UST’s admission funnels from application to enrollment.

Zeglin believes the shift to a program marketing strategy has had an impact. 

“Two years ago, UST started program marketing through dedicated advertising for individual graduate programs. This enabled programs that have a specific target audience to drive in leads, which, by itself, has driven up enrollment.

“A program of note,” Zeglin said, “is our Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, which has been thriving since its implementation in 2016, averaging 30 new students each fall. In fall 2021, CMHC grew to 43 new students, up 39% from fall 2020.

The Focus is on the Student Experience

Zeglin’s philosophy is to focus entirely on the student experience. He envisions that UST’s Graduate Student Success Counselors will be assets to graduate students, not just in the admissions process but after enrollment.

“The needs of graduate students are different, and we want to provide them with a high level of customized service. We aim to create a bond with each student to enhance their experience from admittance to graduation,” Zeglin said.

“Without students, we don’t have a university,” Zeglin said. “In trying times, it’s more difficult for most people to continue their education. So we have to create a student experience from the very first contact and make it resonate.”