3 on Thursday: What We Learned from CIVSA SDI

2017 marks our fourth year presenting at the Collegiate Information Visitor Services Association's Student Development Institute (CIVSA SDI)! We've been honored to meet hundreds of the best and brightest college student tour guides, ambassadors and professional staff over the years, and this year's SDI hosted at Arizona State University was no exception.

What did we learn? Here are our 3 things!

Higher education is a top career choice

15 years ago, a graduating senior would fall into admissions and recruit for a couple of years while they worked through graduate school or were looking for a "real job." In 2017, we, more than ever, are hearing from tour guides that are putting admissions as their top career choice. They have aspirations of being VPs of Enrollment Management, consultants, inventors of technology to aid the campus visit and more.

So how can we all mentor, nurture and educate them to the processes and resources? Students now view themselves as (para) professionals in their roles as tour guides and ambassadors and want professional development. Attending CIVSA SDI is a start, but how are we involving them in the decision-making process? Where is their voice?

Their desire for a more active leadership role within your area leads us to the second thing we learned: For many of today’s students, their involvement as a tour guide is not just for love of school but for career experience.

We are noticing many ambassadors are behaving more strategically in their thinking about the campus visit. They understand the soft skills they gain and value in being a guide: problem-solving, public relations, the ability to anticipate, active listening, we could go on and on. We suspect this is why many students filled the front rows of our breakout session assigned for the professional staff/advisors: “Hello from the Outside: Lessons from Outside Higher Education” This session talked about how you should look at banks, hotels, and other experiences to improve your campus visit.

Why is this all happening?

A recent editorial “The Last American Teen" about Homeland/GenZ in a special “Brand Story Telling Guide” of Adweek Magazine ponders:

"What we’re looking at is an entire generation coming of age during a period of cultural crashing, where the economic and social fabric of America seems to be fraying and tearing.

Being a classic teen requires safety and space for carefree self-exploration, and Gen Z is not registering the world as that kind of place right now.

It’s more important now to sprint to the apparent safety of at least the trappings of adulthood. 60 percent of the generation thinks that you have to start “making it” while you’re still in your teens, with many looking to get on their grind while still tweens.”

If students are more focused on how big brands are staging experiences, then we think you should (as well) look outside of higher education.

Don’t look to the school up the road for best practices; look at world class and profound experience stagers. (more thoughts on this topic can be found here)

Much of our discussion at the conference happened at and centered around the host hotel, Moxy. Moxy is a new concept by Marriott focused on making millennial travelers more at home. Call it hip, sexy or cool, it is a well thought-out experience. You don't check-in at a boring lobby desk; you check-in at the bar. Stressed out at the end of your day? No worries. There's an acoustic guitar hanging on your wall so you can let it all out. Don't want to feel so isolated while you're traveling alone? Every open space had communal seating to invite community-style conversation and activity. The Moxy gives its guest the tools to create their own stories memories and experiences.

As our client, Olivia McGurken (Randolph-Macon College) said about the Moxy, "I felt like Alice in Wonderland at the Moxy…. Everything I touched either led me to interact or do something else than I’d originally intended, or I was more curious at the end of my investigation than in the beginning…. I was left wondering and set up to keep looking for surprises during my stay.”

What can you learn from the Moxy to inspire your campus visit? (Hint: do you really need that big check-in desk?)

What did you learn at CIVSA SDI? Find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email to keep the convo going.