The 40: Designing the student experience

Faculty and staff collaborate to better connect the campus community.

Members of The 40 take a selfie in the stands of the stadium.
Members of The 40 helped redesign the student experience.

Lynn University’s Campus Visit Experience is nationally recognized for the personalized service it provides to prospective students and families as they discover what makes Lynn special. Fast-forward to Welcome Weekend, and when the college move-in dust settles, how do students feel about their new home away from home?

“We wanted to hear what students were saying, and then it started to snowball,” said Taryn Hamill ’08, ’09, associate director of enrollment management. “We conducted surveys, visited classes and engaged other departments. We never had a repository of how our students felt like we do now.”

Hamill joined Lynn’s Office of Admission as a student and quickly earned her stripes as arelatable student leader and the university’s biggest fan. Shortly after graduation, her success in making new students feel at home during their first visit earned her the job of expanding the type of service in the Campus Visit Experience through the following four years. University administration charged her with increasing retention rates.

Since 2005, Lynn has improved its four-year graduation rate by over 14 percent—a significant accomplishment. And it wanted to do more.

“Our quick improvement showed that our people can make a difference in a student’s decision to stay at Lynn,” said Hamill. “When they asked me to take this on, I didn’t have experience in retention—people have Ph.D.s in it! But I know what students are going through, and I believe that if they chose Lynn, it is our commitment to see them graduate.”

“Our quick improvement showed that our people can make a difference in a student’s decision to stay at Lynn.”

Taryn Hamill ’08, ’09

That was when the idea for “The 40” was born. With the support of Vice President for Enrollment Management Gareth Fowles and President Kevin M. Ross, Hamill recruited 40 movers and shakers from departments across campus to redesign the student experience.

Identifying the opportunities

Design Thinking
The 40 used design thinking to identify opportunities to improve the student experience.

Chief Information Officer Christian Boniforti ’02 led the group through a design thinking workshop that began with a straightforward prompt: “We can improve the student experience by …”

The exercise shed light on three opportunities: the need for centralized solutions, more intentional advising, and improved community collaboration and communication.

To inspire the changemakers, Fowles brought in Ritz-Carlton’s Corporate Director of Culture Transformation John Cashion to speak about the importance of a shared vision and intention among employees to positively affect customers.

“We can learn from industry leaders in various sectors, especially those that have thrived during periods of disruption,” said Fowles. “Higher education, as well as the needs and expectations of Generation Z, are constantly evolving. We must think creatively and challenge ourselves to provide a tailored level of service that will prepare our students for the future.”

The student experience today

With Ritz-Carlton service principles in mind and extensive research and discussions, The 40 proposed immediate solutions to the student experience challenge. Within months the group’s findings inspired changes on campus, including improvements to financial aid and academic advising and improved cross-departmental collaboration.

Other student experience solutions are also in progress. A new mobile app will be a one-stop shop for student information, appointments and requirements; an employee resource hub on lynn.edu and a new-hire onboarding package will help inform faculty and staff and empower them to impact the student experience; and an information desk in the Christine E. Lynn University Center will create one centralized location for students to find what they need.

“My dream is to create emotional experiences all the time—those goosebumps moments that you remember forever.”

Taryn Hamill ’08, ’09

“We didn’t know that we would influence changes to the student experience so quickly when we first started,” admitted Hamill. “I’m amazed by the concepts we’re already creating, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. My dream is to create emotional experiences all the time—those goosebumps moments that you remember forever.”

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