You like Nic Taylor.
At least he hopes so. So do a lot of other people who rely on the associate director of Admissions’ affable nature to convey SVSU’s we’re-just-like-home appeal to prospective students.
“A few of them told me the other day that, out of all the colleges they visited, Nic was their favorite presenter,” said Jennifer Pahl, Admissions director.
It’s 50/50 whether Taylor will respond to such compliments with humility or faux vanity — that’s part of the charm. Either way, he’ll consider the kudos a victory. And, in the college recruitment trade, every win counts in the year 2017.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Taylor said of lifting enrollment numbers in a state where the number of high school graduates are falling. “Even though the demographics are bad, I’ve got something good to offer them. I’ve got SVSU to offer them.”
Taylor knows the high value in that product. He was sold on it as a high school senior in 1998, and hasn’t regretted the investment since. There was an 8-week gap between his graduation from SVSU in 2003 and his hiring as an Admissions rep, but otherwise, the institution has remained his second home for nearly two decades.
Taylor credits his allegiance in part on the affable personalities of others.
“Dick Thompson, Jim Dwyer, Jen Pahl; I was really lucky I crossed paths with people like them when I was a student,” Taylor said.
Each of those individuals also influenced his professional life.
“These are people who taught me to care about the intrinsic value of the work as opposed to the money or the work,” he said. “For me, it’s about the intrinsic value of the work.”
Taylor also enjoys the competitive spirit of his profession. Like other competitions, recruiting students involves strategy, aggressiveness and counter-adjustments.
“Jim used to have this newspaper clipping with a saying: ‘If it ain’t broke, you still need to change it,’” Taylor said of the former Admissions director. “We always have to be pushing the envelope. There’s a lot of competition for recruiting students, and students are always changing.”
Taylor works hard to understand that ever-changing decision process of 17- and 18-year-olds. Sometimes adjusting to the shifting environment involves good intuition. Other times, math reveals the best approach.
Taylor’s many responsibilities include monitoring recruitment trends, right down to the minute detail. Computer programs allow him to track the many methods of communication SVSU delivers to each potential Cardinal, including how — or if — each prospect engaged with that correspondence. Unopened emails could signal the need for a different kind of approach. He charts how many correspondences were too much or too little based on which students eventually enrolled, cross-referenced by GPA and ACT scores.
“I’m kind of like Big Brother,” he said.
Other prospects call him “dad.”
Taylor sends his 2-year-old son, Brooks, all of SVSU’s recruitment material to test how others receive SVSU’s message. Still, the elder Taylor hopes Brooks one day will choose SVSU. In this case, though, a prospect’s decision to enroll may not hinge on Taylor’s likability.
“My son thinks he’s best friends with Coop,” Taylor said. “Whatever works.”