Ep. 36 – Breaking Assumptions: Navigating Graduate Studies with Dr. Kevin Bradley

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Shiro Hatori
All right. Hello, everyone. Welcome to the higher ed demand gen podcast hosted by concept 3d. On this podcast, we discuss marketing topics on creating and capturing demand in higher education specifically, before we jump in with our guest speaker today, we do have a message from our sponsor. So concept 3ds purpose is to foster connections through technology, elevating the way businesses connect with their community by leveraging the power of events and locations. If your school needs an updated interactive map, virtual tour or a centralized events calendar, please reach out to concept 3d dot com. Alright, so my name is Shiro. And I will be your host today for this episode. And I’m very, very excited to introduce our guest speaker today. He’s a leader in higher education, enrollment management, and professional development. And he’s currently serving as the Director of Graduate Professional Development at Morgan State University. Please welcome Dr. Kevin Bradley.

Kevin Bradley
Shiro How you doing? It’s a pleasure to be here this afternoon.

Shiro Hatori
It’s amazing to have you and Kevin is actually taking time out of his vacation to talk to me today, which I just found out about. So, you know, he cares about, you know, this podcast and the industry as a whole. And so I’m, I’m really happy to have you here today.

Kevin Bradley
Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Shiro Hatori
I do have an icebreaker that I love to ask everyone now is what do you love about higher ed?

Kevin Bradley
The thing I love about higher ed is the students and I love working with students from the time that they start in their program from the time at the end. I think it’s a it’s very fulfilling to see the maturity of the students through the entire matriculation process. So to me, and higher ed, I love working with students that have all evolved degrees. Love it.

Shiro Hatori
That’s amazing. Thanks for sharing that. And could you tell us a little bit more about like your role at Morgan State University and maybe about the school as well? Sure.

Kevin Bradley
So Morgan State University is the largest, Historically Black College and University of Maryland. It is known as the national treasure and I am actually an alum of Oregon, I have received my undergrad my master’s degree at Morgan State. And so in my role as the Director of Graduate Professional Development, I am responsible for providing programming for our graduate students to help them as they matriculate in their programs. And so that entails putting together workshops, I’m responsible for our new student orientation series for all of the new students coming in. I also review all of the theses and dissertations for all the students that are graduating, I have two coaching fellows that work with me in the process of editing those manuscripts. And then I’m also the faculty advisor for our Graduate Student Association. So and that’s a lot of fun as well, because they are fairly, very similar to the student government, government association that you would see for undergrad. And they’re responsible for putting together programs and events support for our grad students. So I do like maybe one or two things that’s about it.

Shiro Hatori
You gotta follow their responsibilities. In our intro call, we really talked about a lot of things. But one of the things that I thought was, you know, very unique and unique perspective was your your view on some assumptions around graduate students, especially around the resources that they have. And I’d love for you to discuss a little bit more about that.

Kevin Bradley
Sure. So in my opinion, undergrad has a lot of resources provided for their students. And that makes a lot of sense, because you have some of those students are coming directly from high school right into right into college. And so the assumption that I shared with you is that for grad students, there are resources there, but they may not be as many. And some of that may be because there’s this assumption that grad students, they’ve already have one degree. And so there may be this assumption that they are very familiar with how I how school works. And so in my opinion, that’s not always the case, because you could have that one student that has gone from undergrad straight through to grad school and has not been and the professional has had any professional experiences. And so what I love about my role is now trying to assist those students that may not have those life skills and things that there’s the assumption that they may already have as they’re coming into the programs.

Shiro Hatori
Right. And I think that use case we talked about was like a student, if they moved right on to grad school after their undergrad, they may have never really stepped foot into the real world. Right. Like it’s I think you you mentioned a specific use case where that’s occurred and like, like how to interview for a job and stuff and so, I can completely see that misalignment that there is an assumption but the reality may not be in you know, in regards to this What are some things you’ve specifically done? I know you’ve done some event workshops with Morgan State, I’d love for you to describe how you’re addressing this problem.

Kevin Bradley
Sure, so one of the things that we’ve created, we created a series of workshops that are under different umbrellas to meet the needs of this population. So one of the first series that we put together was called the great series. And great is an acronym for graduate researcher education and training, and long title. But the really, the result of this is that it’s designed to provide students with some key information about research, because in your master’s programs, and then definitely in your doctoral programs, you’re going to be doing a lot of research. And so one of the things that we did is we partnered with the Institutional Review Board of the university, they put together a great workshop, that was actually our first series where they walk students through the IRB process, which is something that all doctoral students, if they’re dealing with human subjects, are going to have to know how to navigate through. And so as we move throughout the series, we then put together a series of workshops in conjunction with our writing center that dealt with writing anxiety, that dealt with how to put together a literature review, things along that lines that we’ve received great feedback. And so that was one series that we did, that a series that we just launched in the fall of 2022, was our grad Life series. And I’m really excited about that, because to your point, this dealt with life skills that are outside of the classroom. And we have at Morgan we have a wonderful career development center. But these were again geared towards grad students that dealt with such topics as how to apply for faculty jobs, how to stay motivated, while in grad school, we had a panel of experts that talked about how to balance life, work and school. And these are real life challenges that grad students face because again, the demographics for grad students can range from 25, all the way up to 70. And then those people, students need to understand how do I navigate, let’s say, being a single parent or being married, having children working full time while going to school. And so that series really loved putting together because, again, students were able to gain some what I like to think some great knowledge that they were able to take and use in their day to day practices. And that along with, with a couple of workshops that we put together with our coaching fellows, again to explain how to navigate from the dissertation and thesis process from the beginning, all the way to the end. So this is just a few of the topics that we put together.

Shiro Hatori
That’s fantastic. And if I recall correctly from our intro, you are you’ve spearheaded this whole workshop program, right? You it was a new, it’s a new program or a new campaign. For the graduate school, you started this whole thing, what were some of like the initial like learnings around marketing and registration that you learn very quickly?

Kevin Bradley
Well, one of the things I share with you our very first grant life workshop that we did back in August, so I’ll even go back we had a previous session in April, where I just put the information out on our canvas page. And, and we partnered with an outside company talking about using LinkedIn as a networking tool. And so I said, Okay, if I put it out on the on our canvas page, and I, and I share it, then everybody is going to come and so we had maybe about 20 students come and I was like, Okay, not bad. So we we go to August, and it’s the same thing. We partnered with the campus dietician with some of our faculty from our public health programs, and, and it was talking about dietitian, dietary habits for grad students. And I was like, Hey, this is great. I’ve just, I just sent out one announcement. And I’m thinking, okay, she was gonna come in, we’re back to 2020 students. And so getting the feedback from the students, they were like, This is a great topic, more students should be here and I’m like, Okay, I had to step back and, and put my put myself in the role of a student and like, Okay, if this is something I really want to attend, students, I’m bombarded with so many different messages from their program. There are other things, other competing programs and different things that are taking place at the university. I’m like, I have to change the approach. And so one of the things that we did is we then started to ask every student to register for the event because what that would do is that then would give me an idea to be able to gauge what interest was like, and so from that first, that first event of having no registrations and 20 people just showing up at this at the set time, we went from zero to 120 people registering, which I thought was awesome. But outside of that, I then said okay, I need to be able Want to keep the message and keep the event in the face of the student because again, as I just shared with you, they’re getting, they’re getting a lot of information thrown at them. So what I would do is about three weeks out, I would put the information out to them and say, hey, here is the event coming up. Two weeks out, if I if there was a panel, I wanted to give them the bios of the panel so that they could see who was coming. So that way, they get an idea of who’s going to be on the panel. And that way they get an idea to see, is this something I really want to come to. And then a week before we let him know, hey, one week, you have one week to register for the event, the week of I’m telling you okay, the day before, I’m like, it’s those type of things to keep the messages in front of them. So that’s really, really as turned around the response. And the I think the enthusiasm of our events

Shiro Hatori
got in. So I’m just going to repeat back kind of what I’ve heard is, you know, from when when you went from the 20 to 120 registrants, a big part of that was creating that registration instead of just showing up right. And so it created that. What’s the word like responsibility to attend the event? Is that one of the reasons?

Kevin Bradley
Yes, I helped out a lot. And we also, I mean, we were creating flyers for the event before but I also think, simplifying the registration process, I’ve never used QR codes before. So we put QR codes are now on all of our flyers, that makes it really quick and easy for someone just to pull up their phone, scan and go right to the registration page. And then one of the things that we had not done before is now utilizing working with Morgan’s IT department to make sure that all the flyers on our events are featured on the School of Graduate Studies main page, and then also on the events page on the campus so that way tasks and students, let’s say they don’t receive the emails, that was another thing, too, that we did is we created an email listserv, and we’re sending out emails to all the students, but then also to all of our campus partners that have worked with me, and work with the department in different capacities. So we’re sending information out to them, so that they are aware of what’s going on. And now if a student let’s say they don’t look at our let’s say, they don’t read the emails, and they say they don’t look at the messaging on canvas on the Canvas course right now, but they just happen to be going through the main Morgan site, they can see the events there, and they can register there. And that, I think, has been been something that I’m really excited to see, when I see our events listed there, then weekly work, and we’ll send out a like, sort of like, these are the key or coming activities coming out. And they’ve been featuring our events. And I get really excited when I see that. So lets me know that what we’re doing is working.

Shiro Hatori
That’s fantastic. So what I’m hearing is if you’re not requiring registration, right now, for your campus events, highly consider it because apparently that you know, will create the motion and talking to partners creating that email list building and sending out those, you know, three week cadence that you shared, is really helpful. And then the flyers with the QR codes, and then also communicating with other departments. And then lastly, getting working with it and getting it really on your main event calendar of your website is really helpful to boost that 20 to 120, which is, you know, phenomenal like was that 5x increase in numbers and registration 6x. That’s, that’s great. Right.

Kevin Bradley
And, and what what no one noticed that too, and just full transparency is if you have 120, let’s say you have 120 students registering your your attendance percentage is going to be around 50%. That’s what we’ve been noticing. But to have to be able to see that going from nothing before. That is where I then can share with with the staff at the School of Graduate Studies. Look at the response of the topics that we’re putting together and look at what the students are interested in. And what I’ve also found just in sharing it with our partners is I would have representatives from our financial aid department say, Hey, thanks for sharing this, we’re going to put this flyer on our LinkedIn page, or we’re going to put this flyer on our Facebook page, which again, is extra eyes helping out us. And it’s sort of like we’re collaborating to share information about what we’re doing in our department, which is great.

Shiro Hatori
That’s great. That’s amazing. And then you mentioned, you know, surveying and understanding what the results were like, What is your process to understanding like a successful workshop versus a not successful workshop? Like, how are you going about that to optimize and create more future workshops and events

Kevin Bradley
requested? So every workshop that we do, they’re all recorded, and they’re all saved and then they are shared with the students a couple of days after the workshop takes place. And so every workshop I always put a a, typically like a three to five question. survey asking the students please rate the survey, please rate the workshop. Tell us what do you think about the topic I asked them was the topic relevant to where you are and then I asked them to give us suggestions on how the workshops can be better. And so there time students are like, hey, maybe the time, maybe you can adjust the time a little bit. Sometimes students are like, Hey, I will have more time spent on this topic. And so I tell them every time we have a workshop that I am going to read every I’ve read every comment, and if there’s an area where I can tweak it going forward, then I’ll take it. And then we’ll keep building on that. And I definitely saw that with our new student orientation summer series, where where there were things that the students were saying that I was like, Okay, let’s try to tweak this so that it can be so that the students can have a better workshop experience.

Shiro Hatori
That’s fantastic. So are you also looking at just the registration numbers as a whole to like, see if you’re creating an engaging topic as well? Like, are you doing that in the front, and then also serving and in the back, or I guess, in the end to kind of do a multisegment assessment of it.

Kevin Bradley
We’ve done it in the more so on the back side, because with the grant Live series working with these were topics that I thought would be good for students. And so I collaborated with the staff and to get their thoughts on Hey, what do you think these topics will look like? And sometimes when students are when they’re filling out what they would like to see, there are topics that are right on the cusp of coming up in like, let’s say in the spring semester, so it lets us know that we’re right where we need to be. And there’s some times where students have given us some ideas that we’ll be able to use in the next school year, because this is going to be an ongoing building process that students hopefully will be able to use, as they develop, develop professionally as they go through their degree program.

Shiro Hatori
Fantastic. And what are some of the tools that you’re using for like serving and hosting events and such? Or have they have they been useful for you and kind of scaling this completely new program from literally zero to 120?

Kevin Bradley
Well, the main thing is just using using, I would say, Zoom is great zoom has great abilities to use surveys there. We’ve also again, as I shared with you earlier, utilizing the it our campus IT department and utilizing Canva. I’m a wizard Canva and putting together flyers. And so I utilize that to make sure that we get the information out from there. I think also too, is just old school, Excel spreadsheets, Google Google Sheets, just to be able to track the attendance of our students, and then also to take a look as an a long haul, how has it how has our registration, and how has our attendance been throughout each workshop that we have just in the fall, we had 10 workshops. And that’s amazing in itself. And with the 10 workshops that we had, we had over. We had I mean, I’m actually looking it up as I’m talking to you, we had over 650 students register for those workshops with over 300 students attending those workshops. So that you talked about that’s around a 47% Attendance conversion percentage, which again, I think is pretty significant, especially since we have not had this many workshops before since that’s great, a new new to the department. So

Shiro Hatori
our webinar and virtual event, attendance is around 33%. So you’re crushing my numbers.

Kevin Bradley
It’s great, no competition, there’s, there’s, there’s room for us to work together. So that’s all

Shiro Hatori
I’m gonna think on my next webinar that I host like, I gotta be Kevin.

Kevin Bradley
That’s great. No, that’s funny,

Shiro Hatori
you know, taking two steps back about, you know, analyzing each workshop or each event, like, what are some of the big, like, high level outcomes you’re hoping to accomplish with these workshops, you know, especially from like a marketing lens, you know, like, obviously, you’re, you know, you’re educating the students with life skills and other areas that they may not understand about. But, you know, my thought goes to like, maybe like student retention or persistence, or creating better ties with the central marketing team, like, I’m just thinking, like, you know, what are some outcomes you’re maybe hoping or haven’t even anticipated that have happened?

Kevin Bradley
Well, one of the things that I want to work on is to build a better bridge with our alumni, because some of the workshops have featured alumni. And so this is a way for our alumni to give back in a sort of a time capacity, which has been great because when I’ve asked alumni to sit on the panels, they’ve been been enthusiastic to be able to give back to our students. So that’s one aspect to and working with different different partners that I know professionally, I want to continue to be able to provide a resource for our students to be able to network with these companies that now there’s a there’s another way to bridge a way of Okay, once I am, let’s say done my program, maybe there’s an internship opportunities, maybe there are some job opportunities that now I can be able to look at a company before that never may have been on my radar. And so that’s a way of trying to expand opportunities for our students to really assist with our Center for Career Development. So that is another way of trying to provide those companies and those organizations with another recruitment Avenue or Avenue with our students. So that’s another goal that I’m looking to do.

Shiro Hatori
That’s fantastic. Yeah, I think that’s a hot topic, you know, like that. What is student ROI? I know it’s a more of a business term. But I think that’s a very hot topic in higher ed right now. But Nick, what, what can the school do for me, if I’m a student, like, what is my outcome? What is my trajectory in life. And so that’s great that you’re thinking about, especially that second topic there.

Kevin Bradley
And one last thing to from a marketing standpoint to is when we look at our students that are coming in, they’re looking at Morgan. Of course, we have some wonderful programs here. But I also want that grad student to know that they’re going to receive support from their program. But I also want them to know that the School of Graduate Studies is also going to be here to provide them with that, that student support that sometimes grant programs may not necessarily offer. And I want those those students to know that when you come here, that we’re going to make sure that we’re taking care of you not just that at the beginning of your enrollment, but we’re going to be with you every step of the way until you graduate across that stage. So I just wanted to add that in as well.

Shiro Hatori
Thank you so much. Yeah, thanks for sharing that. And that’s how Kevin and how Maureen stays supporting students, you know, at each step of their journey through grad school, and also his insights on how to boost your attendance at events. That’s fantastic. I was wondering where learners could connect with you if they’d like to reach out or want to, you know, follow you or so.

Kevin Bradley
Sure, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn. My LinkedIn, I’m sorry, I think you broke up on me.

Shiro Hatori
Oh, I’m back. Okay, my back.

Kevin Bradley
I was gonna sorry. Okay. Yeah, you’re back. Cool. No, no problem at all. I was just gonna say that. You will reach out, reach out to me directly at LinkedIn, on LinkedIn. I, my I guess my page is Dr. Kevin hyphen Bradley. And then also, they can reach out to me directly by email, which is Kevin Dodd bradley@morgan.edu. So either way, and I would love to be able to continue to connect and to collaborate. It’s the name of the game.

Shiro Hatori
Thank you all. Thank you, Dr. Kevin Bradley, for all your insights here today. I think it’s going to make for a fantastic episode. And thanks for all of our listeners for tuning in today and joining us and make sure to listen to our next one. And of course, if you’re looking for interactive map, events, calendar solution or virtual tour, please reach out to concept 3d. Thanks again everyone. Thank you

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