Improving the NYU student experience
Universities and the cities they serve have been tied spiritually, economically, emotionally, as well as physically, and only continue to grow more intertwined as academic institutions become increasingly engaged in tackling universal problems that manifest in the local context. Through their work in scholarship and research, universities help create a better-prepared workforce, increase employment, stimulate local redevelopment, draw investments and new businesses to their neighborhoods, and raise academic performance in the population at large.
When we were presented with the opportunity to improve the student experience for New York University’s 50,000+ students, we saw it as an extension of our mission to improve the quality of life for a key demographic of our city’s population. We leveraged our expertise in developing engaging public awareness campaigns for NYC and our collective empathy for what is traditionally known as the least exciting part of college life: the administrative experience. That’s right– we’re talking the University Registrar, Bursar, Financial Aid, Global Services and Global Programs offices that students commonly equate to an endless stream of meetings, paperwork and email correspondence. The root of the unnecessary complexity? It really comes down to two key missing elements: clarity around what it is that each entity does and an effective system to inform and notify students of what needs to be done (and by when!)
NYU sought to address those gaps and overhaul the clunky student admin experience with the launch of the StudentLink Center– a comprehensive resource for students and their families to obtain information, receive answers to inquiries and provide direction about policies, tasks and requirements related to student billing and payment, financial aid, registrar, housing, meal plans, and other student administrative areas. The student-centered and technologically rich service model delivers accurate and efficient student services in a comfortable and supportive environment reminiscent of the Apple “Genius Bar” experience. Expanding upon the model developed at the University’s MetroTech campus, the Manhattan center is equipped with well-trained “front-line” staff, subject-matter academic specialists to address student-specific queries and a text-based scheduling service for appointments.
Ultimately, StudentLink is an important resource that gives students confidence that their enrollment management questions can be handled with expertise so that they can remain focused on what matters most: their academic ambitions.
Our goal for this engagement was to do the following:
- Inform the entire university community that StudentLink is the single destination for Financial Aid, Bursar, Registrar, Office of Global Services, and the Office of Global Programs.
- Increase the number of current NYU students using StudentLink and shift their behavior to using text messaging as their primary method for interaction with the center.
- Equip other NYU departments with simple communication tools and methods for encouraging students to use StudentLink.
For 8 months, the BB team engaged with student services and stakeholders from the participating offices to develop a print and digital campaign with the language and visual direction that evoked the ethos of the StudentLink experience: welcoming, transparent and–most importantly–simple. In the process of ensuring that our campaign resonated with the breadth of the NYU community, our team prepared to tackle to following challenges:
- Audience diversity
The NYU community is in many ways a microcosm of NYC, especially in the diversity of experience and origin that characterize the student body and staff. The audiences we needed to take into account for this campaign, in terms of messaging and method of engagement, include the following:
- Incoming students, specifically those entering NYU in January 2017;
- Current students, particularly students graduating in January or Spring 2017;
- International students
- Parents, partly as ways to reach students, and partly in their own right as center users;
- NYU faculty/staff, who need to be aware of StudentLink when referring students who have questions or need
- Location, Location, Location!
Occupying the first floor of 383 Lafayette Street, the StudentLink center presented a geographical shift from the locus of NYU’s Manhattan campus– namely the West 4th and Washington Square Park area. Our campaign needed to serve a dual purpose of informing both function and facilitating wayfinding for new students and those accustomed to the original location.
- Encouraging text engagement
One of the biggest deterrents of the administrative process is what seems like an inevitable wait in line. StudentLink’s text-based appointment and reminder system presents a functional solution enabled only by getting users on board! The campaign was an essential vehicle through which to generate that engagement.
We're proud to say that through our strategy-driven approach, we successfully rolled out a successful multi-media campaign this past spring and summer that has culminated in the unveiling of the center just this week!