Marketing and Recruitment Strategies in Education with Dr. Amanda Holdsworth

Marketing and Recruitment Strategies in Education with Dr. Amanda Holdsworth

✅ Testing and secret shopping are critical in marketing.

✅ The best marketing and recruitment strategies are researched-backed.

✅ Institutions need to be weary of lead generation tactics and focus on lead conversion for recruitment.

✅ Getting the marketing help you need doesn’t have to drain your budget.

How we do things in marketing and recruitment is continuously evolving based on new technology and techniques. What has stayed the same for this marketing expert is the strategies to do it the right way, for each client.

In episode 3 this season, I talk to Dr. Amanda Holdsworth who is an internationally-recognized marketing guru and educator. Amanda’s research-backed approach to all areas of marketing continue to alter the path of all levels of education she works with, especially higher education.

If we aren’t doing all the necessary research up front, aren’t you just wasting time and money?

Join us and listen to Amanda tell us about her tried and true marketing strategies and some cringe-worthy secret shops that you really need to avoid in your institution.

Links from the episode👇👇
Dr. Amanda Holdsworth LinkedIn
Cultivate & Engage
Meni’s LinkedIn
The Education Beyond Degrees Podcast Homepage

And finally, we are trying to grow our Continuing Education’s only global Slack group. Reach out to me directly and I will add you!



Meni: Hey, I’m Meni Sarris, and this is the Education Beyond Degrees podcast with The Spur Group, the podcast where a continuing education geek goes behind the scenes to talk shop about the people, trends, and ideas impacting our space.

In today’s episode I have Dr. Amanda Holdsworth she’s the founder of Cultivate and Engage, a strategic communications firm and she’s also my partner in the Spur Marketing Group.

Meni: Amanda, thank you so much for joining.

Amanda: Well, thank you so much for having me.

Meni: So Amanda Holdsworth and I, we go back about man, it’s gotta be almost a couple years at this point, which is really funny. We met on an app called Clubhouse. And for those of you who don’t know what Clubhouse is, it was it was at its peak about a year ago when people would go on and they would just be friendly rooms where you could talk about things and discuss different topic areas.

 We were always finding each other in the education rooms and the marketing rooms. And we just started talking and we’ve built a great friendship and we love to do some work together. And I am super excited to have her on this podcast because we really want to talk about marketing in higher ed and continuing education.

So again, thank you so much. So I know a lot about you, Amanda. Why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about who you are, where you’ve come from, and kind of what you’re doing right now?

Amanda: Sure. Well, you know, I started working in higher ed, gosh, going back into the late 90s, which makes me feel so old now that I say that out loud, but I always knew that I had a slant towards communications and marketing.

It’s something I want to do. And it wasn’t really until I started to work in an admissions office and registrar’s office as an undergrad that I was like, wow, actually doing this kind of work for education would be great because I’m semi addicted to education. I’ve got. Four degrees, associates, bachelors, masters, and a doctorate.

My last being a doctorate in education from the university of Southern California. And during the span of all the last 25 years. I’ve worked in everything from public and private higher ed, private schools, K through 12, you name it, I’ve covered it. And I’m always finding myself coming back more and more to continuing ed, higher ed career and technical education.

And now I own an agency where we work with schools and universities from around the world, helping them define their brand, do a lot of brand storytelling, enrollment marketing campaigns, and research. So it’s a lot of fun. I love it. And education, as we both know, is ever changing, so it keeps every day interesting.

Meni: I always forget that you were the one who taught me, you earned a doctorate, you should introduce yourself as, Dr. Meni Sarris. And I, every time I think about that, I always have to remind myself, I gotta remember to introduce ourselves that way, because we worked really, really hard on it.

Talk to us a little bit about, you know, what you do within that agency. Because what I want to bring this back to is the work that is in the portfolio that you’ve been working on with education and both in K through 12 and in higher ed, because I think it’s really important for people to understand the breadth of your expertise as we talk about marketing in education.

Amanda: Yeah, thank you. And, and, you know, I think the big component of it and just going back to what you just said about having the doctorate, part of the reason I wanted to get the doctorate in education was so that I could walk the walk and talk the talk with presidents of universities, directors of programs, department heads, deans and then going K through 12, of course, with superintendents and to be able to understand how to properly prepare communications and marketing strategies that one of the first things we always start with is research, because if we don’t know who it is that we’re trying to communicate with, where we’ve been, what our plans are, how to reach those goals it’s basically just like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping that something that you’re spending all these marketing dollars and hoping something sticks.

So really, what we focus on, and I believe that my true specialty is, is, is that research component up front. You know, I love focus groups. I love one on one. I love visiting campus. My husband, poor husband, gets dragged along to college and university campuses around the world whenever we go somewhere on vacation or I’m somewhere else for work.

I’m like, well, let’s just pop in over here to the, the University of Edinburgh and let’s just check it out. Or, oh, Oxford’s over here. Why not go visit that? But for me, actually being in place and being able to feel what the culture is like and see it and breathe it and talk to people and see what’s happening around there really does help define these strategic marketing and communications plans going forward, because you can just really get very deep into the weeds, which is what we do and we do very well, basically leaving universities and schools with these plans that we’re building the foundation. We’ve done all the hard work. We’ve done the research. We’ve done the planning. We’ve tested things. We know it works. And then our whole goal is to leave it behind so that these schools and universities can continue that foundation without having to reinvent the wheel year after year.

So that’s where I think we do a really great job. And then, of course, evaluation of plans about Gosh, now, maybe 15 years ago, I was on the Council for Advancement and Support of Education case for those of those of you in marketing or development and alumni relations, and we developed the ROI model for marketing and enrollment marketing, which is a very simple formula, but we’re figuring out how much did each lead cost? How much did each inquiry cost? What about those who were accepted? Those who enrolled those who actually registered which marketing channel worked and they’re very simple formulas but I’m just still shocked at the number of universities and schools that aren’t utilizing that type of formula And so when we go in we look at it and it’s very eye opening usually for most of our clients to say Oh did not realize we were spending that much money and we actually had no idea where our students were coming from.

Meni: I think it’s one thing that is really interesting about the way you and I work, and I think it’s coming from the academic side, is how much our work is based in research.

You know, when we talk to other agencies or any of our friends who have their companies that haven’t come from education, it seems like their research portion is a lot smaller than our research portion, because we know how much that work takes on to the final result of the project that we’re doing.

So I wonder if there’s a way to talk through when you enter a new project, let’s say a school is looking at doing a rebrand or figuring out how to figure out their brand strength. Talk us through how you would actually look at that from a research perspective that’ll guide a project you’re working on so people can get a better understanding of why the research portion is so critical.

Amanda: Well, thank you. And I think that’s absolutely why you and I get along so well, because it makes sense to us there. I know we kind of live and breathe it. And I’m going to say this and I’m sure many researchers out there are going to cringe, but I like mixed methods a lot. And so the qualitative and quantitative and I know that some people are pure quant and some people are pure qualitative, but I’ll explain the reasoning and why it works so well with a strategic marketing communication.

So we go in and when we were first starting engagement, I try to be on campus with my team within the first two to three weeks, if possible. I’ve just always had that really great sense, and this is a non-research based term, but I’ve always had a very great intuition and sense from visiting college and university campuses around the world and pretty much almost growing up on one because my mom went back to school when I was four, so I spent a lot of time with her as an adult student on campus.

A lot of what we are observing is you know where are people coming from? Are they commuting? Are they hanging out on campus? What is the general feel? Can we stop and ask people a couple questions? Can we sit in on some classes? Can we tour buildings? And that just really gives us a sense of place. And from there, while we’re also on campus, and we can do this remote, but it’s also a little bit fun to secret shop.

We’ll poke around and we’ll pull out brochures or fact sheets or rec cards, take a look at what types of advertisements are happening around campuses on digital signage. What are the posters looking like? Is everything branded? Are things cohesive? And really just taking in as much of that, almost like a site visit that you would do for a dissertation research study or field work.

And, and just really observing. How everything looks and feels is the brand cohesive. Is it chopped up? Does every school or department have their own identity? And then working with the communications and enrollment teams on campus, we’ll do an audit. So we do audit materials and it’s so old school and I love doing these. We’ll spread everything out on the floor and I’ll get up on the ladder and I’ll take a picture of it. And then we start to kind of weed through from there about . Boy, this looks like this is recent branding, or this is way off where this come from, and we start to see how the message is either cohesive across the board, or we look at how things have been segmented, and maybe we’ve had some wild cards in the bunch.

And then from there, we do everything including a digital comparison audit. So we’re looking at. Top competitors and we get into the nitty gritty looking at scores on, on things like uber suggest and SEM rush water, social media followers and engagement. I don’t think what those look like. What are enrollment levels?

What, what is their messaging across the board? How is it very easy? We’ll do user testing on the different sites to see, is it easy to enroll or get information? We’ll do secret shopping. How long does it take for somebody from enrollment or admissions to get back to you? What is their messaging like?

Does it look like it’s automated? Is it more personable? And so really get super in depth. And a lot of times, you know, once you do this once, the level of the in depth work that we do, you don’t really have to do it again for a while because you’ve got the foundation that’s there. And that’s just the very, very, very baseline.

And then From there, we’ll do focus groups, one on ones. We’ll read any type of survey data that a school has put out, so whether it’s their exit surveys or graduation surveys, parent surveys, alumni surveys, and then from there we’ll design our own work if it’s needed. Sometimes it’s needed, sometimes we’ll go in there and it’ll look like a school or university has everything all together and everything looks like it’s all buttoned up.

But then once we open one door, there are seven doors behind it. So the research is just so important because without it, you know, it’s not the, it’s not the sexy work, right? It’s not the flashy website. It’s not the beautiful brand and advertising campaign. But in my opinion, it’s the most valuable work because once that foundation is laid, then everything else can be built upon from there.

So that’s just a little tiny insight into the amount of research that goes in and, and not knocking other agencies, but as you mentioned, sometimes you, you get a plan that’s back to you in two days of the strategic enrollment and marketing plan. I just have to ask myself if you could put that together in two days without really talking to anybody, doing a site visit, doing any type of comparisons or press past branding analysis, how do you know it’s actually going to set up the school for success in the future? So it’s, we take a, a very different approach. Usually that upfront work is about eight weeks, I’d say give or take a research

Meni: When you’re doing some research and you’re doing some secret shopping from outside the institution just to see what other schools are doing. How often do you cringe at how bad the communication line, the workflows, and what goes out from an outbound marketing perspective of schools out there?

Amanda: Oh, a lot. I actually did some secret shopping you know, for a potential college client. And still on their list, I did secret shopping as an adult student going back to complete my bachelor’s degree and hadn’t heard from the school and, you know, a month, then all of a sudden last night, I’m sitting there and I get a text message. 8 minutes before 6 o’clock saying, please join us for a virtual open house in 15 minutes in parentheses 6 PM.

And I’m like, well, that’s actually 8 minutes away. So you didn’t obviously test your text service and then less than an hour later. It was almost like an email was begging me to apply for the upcoming upcoming session and there was no punctuation, improper grammar and I’m thinking your college trying to sell me a degree and it was pretty reputable college and, I’m just kind of shocked that sometimes, I mean, we all make mistakes and we’re certainly not perfect, but we have a 3 check process on our team before anything even gets in front of the client that. It’s been approved by three people on on our team, and I’m always the last one to approve it before it goes to the client so that if there is an error I know it was on me for not catching it.

And the whole goal of when the client sees it to approve it, it’s a no brainer that it’s it’s ready to go so I see it a lot. And then there are other times I see some things that are so fantastic, there, there’s one to charter school actually particular in the K through 12 space that I have saved their whole outbound marketing their drip campaign because it’s so beautiful and it’s so textbook perfect. It’s not. It’s not a target in my, my child’s area, but the way that they’ve just communicated, I mean, I’ve literally, I’ve saved the entire sequence and I’m actually in the process of putting it together. Just, just on a, on a word document, nice and clean to just show clients, look how beautifully this is laid out. Like it’s perfect timing. It’s not too much information. It’s visually appealing. It’s just enough information to get somebody interested, some great pictures. Branding was on point, spelling and punctuation was perfect and whoever did it, whether it was in house or agency, I commend them because to me, that was award winning.

So I will save the good stuff, but I see a lot of not so great stuff.

Meni: I was just doing some research for our technology product and we were going through and, you know, testing out some other schools websites and seeing how their registration products are. And if there was a way for me just to open up an RFP for the school to be like, Hey, you need this help immediately because you are probably losing students left and right. I would love for that to be appropriate. Because it is really amazing how many schools out there either have old workflows or old campaigns or don’t do that double check. And it’s mind boggling when you go on a highly reputable institutions website and they’re just so far behind and they’re not doing it right.

Or it takes so long for a student to get information that should be so easy to get. I wish we could just like reach out to somebody and be like, Hey, have you done any testing lately of what’s happening on your user experience or your student journey or anything on your website? Because you should be doing this really, really often.

Like, how often do you think school should be doing that type of testing internally?

Amanda: Oh, I think at least every quarter. And, and, you know, to your point, I I’m right there with you. I mean, I find a lot of my user testers on Fiverr or Upwork, and depending on who the school or university is serving, I’ll do everything from, okay, so I need an adult female who is in the age range of 35 to 44, and English is a second language, and I need you to go through the site and tell me how you would enroll, and go, and then they do a whole, you know, screencast recording of everything they’ve done, and how they’ve, how they found things, what they’re clicking on so I can see through their thought process of, you know, being a potential, you know, in this, this case example, I just gave a potential adult student, maybe coming from another country, or maybe just having English as a second language who wants to enroll in a college or university to get their bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree or finish a degree and be able to get in that mind frame.

And it costs almost next to nothing to be able to get some of these people who do this for a living. I mean, they make their living off Fiverr and up work of just doing site user testing. I mean, for, you know, under a hundred dollars, you can have a couple of site testers go through with a very simple task, like tell me how you would find out how to enroll at this college go. And it’s just, I mean, more often than not, it’s, it’s bad. And it’s just, it’s a little bit scary because some things that seem so obvious to us as consultants and people on the outside, like a simple, why is the enroll, you know, the enrollment button or enrolled now button, not right at the top of the homepage and bold, you know, in specific, some specific cases.

And then you almost have to prove why that that’s important four or five times over with internal people say, well, it’s gonna mess with the design or it won’t put it up there, you know, or we had it up there, nobody clicked on it, but they have no proof of it. And you sit there and you think to yourself, you’re hiring professionals for a reason. You don’t have any kind of clear call to action anywhere. And if I’m coming to your website because I just saw a great marketing piece and I want to enroll or get more information, but you’re making me jump through hoops and having to try to find somebody to get me that information, I’m going to be thinking to myself, if it’s this hard to get information right now, what’s it going to be like as a student?

Is it going to be a nightmare trying to get anything from the school or administration and so many places just don’t understand that concept.

Meni: So, I mean, we see it all the time and it’s so frustrating because I don’t want to call it easy to do it, but it’s easy to do the testing like it’s easy just to figure out what’s wrong rather than just letting it be out there and making your institution look, I mean, foolish, to be honest, some of these are just. You just look bad. And so it’s, it’s very, it’s very unfortunate that a lot of these departments and, you know, maybe it’s because they have smaller marketing teams. Maybe it’s because higher ed doesn’t put a major focus on marketing as major as it should. In its idea of how to recruit new students or how to how to make the brand look and I’m not really sure how to get them to do more.

I know that, we’ve talked about this every time we’re in meetings with presidents and chancellors and we talk about the need to invest more into marketing in order to get a bigger return. It’s hard for people that aren’t in that marketing research, recruitment world to understand what that means because oftentimes marketing dollars and when you talk about investment could be a pretty significant investment.

But on the other side of it, the return is also huge for the university or the institution. How do you go about talking about pricing with, we’ll talk about higher ed, because I know you do a lot of work in K through 12 also. But in higher ed, you know, one of those questions that always comes up is how to make it a valuable or a value driven decision when it comes to bringing in additional marketing and recruitment and branding efforts to improve recruitment. How do you even go about having that discussion?

Amanda: Yeah. So I think that’s actually a really great point. So I spent about a decade in higher ed as in house communications director and at one private institution, executive director of communications and marketing and although I love my role in my institutions leading departments like that, I was in meetings all day. And so I’m sitting in meetings about this meeting of cabinet meeting. They’re meeting with this department meeting with the missions meeting with enrollment meeting, but, you know, you’re in meetings, meetings, meetings, and you have a team that has to be able to get some of these work that this work done and interim while you’re sitting in these meetings.

All this other work is piling up because people are seeing that the gatekeeper is out of the house and they’re piling the work on the team, no matter how big or how small. And so even if we had a strategic communications plan, if enrollment was down, say, and one university I used to work at many years ago, they had seven week terms. So every or I think it was six week term, every seven weeks, we’re trying to find new students. And so if you’re on a great role for a few terms and all of a sudden one, one term is dropping, then everybody panics and everything gets dumped on marketing communication. So I say all this because I understand what it’s like to be in house, understand what it’s like to be an in house marketer and want to get things accomplished, but just not having the bandwidth to do so.

And I would bring in branding and marketing firms. I’ve worked with a few different agencies in my time who I trusted and the way that I looked at it was, I am hiring you because you’re the experts in this. I will work with you to get to whatever research you need to help paint some a vision of giving you some, maybe some examples of what I’m thinking, because I am pretty sharp. I’m head of this department. I know what I want from my, my university, but I’m trusting you to get us from point A to point G at this year. And the next year we’re going to go from H to Z, and we’re just going to go full steam. And I think it’s being able to recognize that there are limitations sometimes when you’re in house because of the day to day demands, and bringing in an outside agency to take a look at things with new eyes, agencies who have worked with different types of universities, colleges, and schools around the world, You know, I always love now talking to different schools, universities think that they’ve hit the jackpot with the tagline, I can’t stand, I’m not a big tagline fan, just so for everybody out there, but they’ll think, oh, this is the best tagline I can say. Well, I remember this school did that one in 1999, and that school did it in 2005, and the other school used it for a capital campaign in 2011. And they didn’t do so well with it.

So that has negative connotations when you’re kind of looking at people who are working with such a depth and breadth of other schools and universities, they’re able to bring that expertise and leverage it and help guide you to get you from point A to Z a lot quicker than you could on your own. And I also think there’s a trust level, you know, if you can trust your team, if you go through the vetting process and know that this is a team that’s looking out for the best of you, no matter how small or large you are or how small or large they are when they’re putting their best foot forward. It’s the same thing when a student is enrolling, right? So if it’s, if it’s going to take me as a student two weeks to get a response from the school because I had to get rerouted through four different people, it’s the same thing with an agency.

If they, if it’s maybe too big for your liking, or if it’s too small for your like, you’ve got to figure out what, what it is that you want to work with. But I think that being said, It also depends on what people in house are and who’s driving the boat. So if you have a president of a college or a Dean who’s marketing savvy, and they understand a little bit about why they need to have marketing, but they’re going to be willing to trust the people they’ve hired to do the job, that’s great.

However, I’ve also worked with some universities where I’ve had presidents and Deans who Literally thought they knew everything they wanted to micromanage every single part of projects, but didn’t matter if it was vendor in house or whatever the case is, and in my opinion, if that’s the way that a school or college is going to go about doing it, they’re just, they’re just wasting their money and time and just making everybody around them frustrated.

So you know, we’ve worked with the full scope and gamut and just, you know, sometimes even just having to say like, listen, we’re, we’re here for you. We’re an extension of your team, as cheesy as that sounds, and a lot of agencies use that. But we really are. And when, when we’re all in it together and you’re taking on projects as consultants that you firmly believe in, and it would be a project that you would work on in house if you were in house with them, I just think magic can happen.

Meni: I also wish that we would stop getting the question. So if I invest $100,000 into marketing, how much should I expect to get back? It’s like, come on.

Amanda: Right. And that’s, and you hit the nail on the head, right? And I was actually just having this conversation with a former client that I ran into yesterday up at state capitol for, for a meeting and we were talking about this and I said, you know, The problem that we find sometimes and we won’t, we will actually will not take on these types of clients. If I’ve done some research, because we do our research before we agree, you know, to interview for a project. And if I don’t think it’s a good fit, I’ll be very honest with them.

It’s not insulting. It’s just recognizing how we can do our best work. But sometimes, you know. When we recognize that the education product is not quality, that’s a big red flag for us and we won’t take that on as a marketing because no matter how great the marketing is it’s actually going to just be detrimental to the overall brand if the students come in and the quality of the product and service that they’re getting is awful because word of mouth travels quickly, especially in the digital age and in the same token, we can’t always guarantee results.

I mean, I can get you leads. I can get you inquiries. I can get you the target audience that you’re looking for, but you know, if you want wanted me to actually get you students and if it involves standing with a sandwich sign up the side of the door and just taking anybody and everybody that came in, how does that look like? What does that look like for your brand? And what a lot of universities and schools don’t recognize is when they get the wrong fit student, those wrong fit students through no fault of their own are going to become what we call a little bit of a PITA. They’re going to be a, you know, a pain in the, you know, what the, the butt a little bit because they were the wrong fit, but they were sold something else.

And so we have to take a look at marketing going, okay, we ideally want to get the right student and the right seat. And those right students in the right seats are going to attract more of the same, the same types of students. But yeah, the question of how many students are you going to get me with this? I mean, it comes down to everything. Are you going to have us do your enrollment process? Because guess what? I can, I can fill your funnel with the right number of students. But if your enrollment plot process, which I’ve seen this happen and have an early in my career and this is why I don’t agree to do these anymore, where the enrollment team wouldn’t get back to the students, or they had grammatical errors in their messages, or they went off script, or they didn’t use the enrollment calendar that we have a contact calendar sometimes we’ll set up for clients like this is the day that you text them. This is the day that you call them all based on best practices and experiences. And they decided to go off script. Well, that’s not marketing’s fault. You know, we got you the great students, but if you can’t even get them enrolled.

Then that’s on you. Sorry to say.

Meni: I think that’s one of the things that I’ve always liked about you and the way that we do our work here too, is that we don’t take every client. I think other people who are agency people, consultants, like you need to know that you don’t have to take every project. There are projects that will. Emotionally destroy you because of how hard those teams are to work with and it’s okay to pass on those projects because it makes more sense to do a project that you’re passionate about, that you enjoy and the team is passionate equally as excited to have you there as you are to be with them. So that’s like such a strong message that I try to send to people who are trying to leave academia and try to get their own consulting work or they’re being asked to do other work.

It’s just like, you need to want to be there as much as they want to have you there. So I always think that’s a really good message to pass on. And that’s something that I’ve always respected that you do because it’s just, it’s so important. There’s so many other companies out there that they’ll just take every contract because they just want the contracts rather than focusing on where their passions lie and what’s most important to them.

Well, thank you. I definitely appreciate that. I’ve had other consultants agencies come at me and say, wow, I can’t believe it. You know, this was a great fit for us. And I said, I know it was a great fit for you. It wasn’t going to be a great fit for us, but I knew that you would knock it out of the park with that.

And I think it’s almost the abundance mentality. I know what I’m really good at, I know what my team is really good at. I know what lights us up and I know what doesn’t light us up. And it’s not a knock, you know, not trying to be selective or snobby or anything, but I learned a long time ago during my master’s degree program in strategic public relations that I did at University of Southern California, and I’ve been out of that program for more than 20 years, so my master’s, but one of the first things that they told us, particularly in the, in the realm of PR, if you don’t a hundred percent, full heartedly agree with the product or service or organization that you’re pitching, you need to either pass it along or find somebody else, or if it’s given to you with, when you’re in an agency and you have to do either figure out the benefits and work those angles.

And I think the wonderful thing about being a consultant, I mean, we’ve worked with. I mean, we’ve worked with one university system that had clients that had campuses in Australia, Africa, Europe and North America, and that was really cool. I don’t know if I would do that again with so many at the exact same time because my meetings are all over the place, but just the fact that we can kind of pick and choose and we’re so lucky to work with everybody that we’ve gotten to work with, I think it just gets you better and better and better work. And when you kind of niche down, they say the riches are in the niches, right? And when you niche down as a consultant and you know, those areas that you’re really good at, it just gives you more opportunity to get better and better and better at servicing those types of clients.

Totally agree. I totally agree. And just as we wind down this, this podcast, there’s a, there’s a couple of questions that I like to kind of ask at the end. So first off, what do you see as kind of the future of higher education?

Amanda: Well, I definitely see, you know, with my, my passion for CTE, workforce development, adult education, definitely seeing reskilling, upskilling is going to be huge.

And I’m not just for any of those who are listening that know me, who know that I’m always going back for some more coursework. And I think Meni, how many times do I tell you, I’m like, I’m thinking about doing this program. And, and you have to, you always laugh at me because you’re like, don’t you have enough degrees and programs?

But I think as you know, the workforce changes. We have baby boomers that are aging out and retiring. We have Gen Xers who would love to be able to retire earlier. We have this new generation, several new generations that are coming up in the digital age, the jobs and workforces are changing and people during the pandemic gave themselves a chance to sit back and think, you know, what is it, what do I, what do I really want to do?

Am I doing what I want to do? How can I get better or how can I switch careers? So I definitely think that that is going to be a huge transition. How it’s going to look, I’m not sure exactly, but people know that they can now work hybrid or remote. So I think that the whole concept of being able to finish a college degree or a certificate or start a program either in hybrid or remote, I think that that’s going to be pretty big.

I do think hybrid education. I’ve had some clients in the hybrid K through 12 space, and that’s taken off tremendously. And I think that colleges and universities that can offer that sort of flexibility to adults or working parents or working adults, or, you know, people coming back to school refugee and immigrant is a huge population that I see being service and hopefully service better because they’re deserving of the same education equity. So I think there’s really a lot of opportunity in those spaces in particular.

Meni: I love hearing that. And it’s a, I love, I mean, this is, I’m a continuing education person, so anytime I hear people talk about workforce development or understanding that that’s the future, even though they’ve been in the higher ed space, it always, it always makes me smile because people are finally seeing what the potential is with the adult learner and as our society changes and as our markets change, the inevitable need for those types of skilled workers, no matter what age is going to be so huge. So I’m, I’m so glad to hear that coming from you also. And the last question I always ask on these podcasts is what do you want your legacy to be in education or higher ed or, or with the, with the work that you’re doing?

Amanda: Well, I’m, you’re giving me chills with this question because I love it. And it’s something that I have really asked myself this, you know, quite a bit because my interests have varied. I’ve gotten to see So many incredible programs and colleges and campuses and work with some amazing scholars, but as I, as I’ve been getting up there, my old age one of the things that I’m looking at is, is this next half of my life or the next quarter century of my life, what is it that I want to be known for and as I wind down, it’s in relation almost, you know, to workforce development and adult education, but really is my impact within career and technical education. You know, my, my dad was a tool maker. My brother’s a pipe fitter. My mom was a criminal intelligence analyst, which are all traditional CTE criminal or career and technical education fields.

And people will say, well, boy, you know, those are trades. And, you know and even when they go back and for associate degrees for business degrees or associates degree in welding or things like that, you know, you’ve got four degrees, you’ve got a doctorate in education It’s kind of surprising to hear you say CTE.

And I like to say to people, well, guess what paid for, for four degrees, the toolmaker salary paid for four degrees and, you know, without blinking an eye for me not to be, you know, I had scholarships and things, but to come out of school with no debt is absolutely incredible. And I look at, at, as we talk about innovation and where can I make my impact. It’s touting that the traditional career path that has been sold for so many years and, you know, the path to the only career you can have is you graduate high school and you go straight into college and it’s got to be the top notch college and you have to have. You know 12 AP classes and you have to be president of everything by the time you’re done high school.

I also do a lot of work and I’ve been doing a lot of research late with student mental health campaigns, which is very interesting too. I want people to recognize that that mold is not for everybody. And that’s perfectly okay. If I go through K through 12. And I graduate and I decide I’m not really sure yet what I want to do when I go to community college and I want to find myself there.

Great. And I decide later I want to come back to school and upskill or finish a bachelor’s degree. Wonderful. If I decide that, you know what, I really, I tried a welding class in high school and I want to be a welder. And as I’m getting ready to graduate school go, you know what, I actually want to work for myself. So I’m going to do a dual enrollment degree in business so I can learn entrepreneurship skills when I’m done this welding program, I’ll also have a degree paid for and I can start my own business. Wonderful.

If you’re somebody like my mom, who in the 80s was the only non-traditional student on her university campus, bringing her four year old along during snow days when she didn’t have backup childcare, because in her era, And, you know, women, you know, back in the sixties, it was very hard to go.

She was one of seven seven kids and they couldn’t afford university. And so she decides in her mid-forties that now it’s my time. Kids are in school and I want my degree. Awesome. So as I look at my legacy, I hope it’s touting that whatever your path to and through education is, is okay, because it should be accessible for everybody. It should be acceptable and people shouldn’t even have to worry about what other people think of them at what stage they are, their career, what they’re choosing that really it’s just, to me, it’s just promoting the benefits of education and that there’s something out there for everybody.

So I hope that makes sense, but there’s all, there’s a lot to there to unpack. But in reality, I really do believe that there’s something for everybody out there and whatever their path, however it takes them. Nobody should be judging them, and we should just all let everybody take whatever route that they want to take to career success.

Meni: That is… So well said, and I am, first off, so appreciative to have met you and built a friendship and being able to do some work with you. It is so exciting that, seeing somebody from a different space and understanding how amazing the work is you do seeing how much you care about this and seeing how you, truly, really, truly care about your clients has, has been it’s so inspiring to me and, and just how, and how you talk about the work that you do. And I, I just, for those who haven’t met Amanda before, she is an amazing person and you should be reaching out to her on LinkedIn or any of the places because she’s on everywhere and get to know her because she’s an incredible person to know and an unbelievable marketing, branding PR person, Amanda, thank you so much for being on this podcast.

I really, really appreciate you taking the time.

Amanda: Oh, well, thank you so much. And thank you for the kind words. I feel like everybody that’s going to be listening is listening into one of our usual conversations. Anyway, I absolutely love talking shop with you and appreciate your passion as well. So thank you so much!

Meni: Thank you for listening to this episode of the Education Beyond Degrees podcast with the Spur Group. If you liked what you heard, you can find this episode along with a ton of other resources on the website. See you on the next episode.