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To Tell the Ketchum Story

Dr. Carmen Barnhardt is the Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services at Marshall B. Ketchum University. Previously, she served as the Vice President for Student Affairs where she established the Student Achievement Center, Student Leadership Certificate program, and other student services. Dr. Barnhardt has been a faculty member at the Southern California College of Optometry since 1996, and prior to that, received her Doctor of Optometry and residency certificate in Pediatric Optometry and Vision Therapy from SCCO. Recently, Ketchum Magazine sat down with her to discuss some of the innovations MBKU is undergoing in its admissions process.

Ketchum Magazine: In your newest role as the Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services (ESS), you and your team are in the course of implementing some changes to the way admissions is operating at MBKU. Why are these changes necessary?

Carmen Barnhardt: The admissions landscape has changed drastically over the last 10 years since MBKU became a University. We now recruit in-person as well as virtually, which means our admissions officers have exponentially more opportunities to promote our program. While this is a great thing, it more than doubles the workload, as materials, presentations and various modes of communication all need to be adjusted to serve the needs of prospective students across multiple platforms. Add in the component of keeping up with recruiting and promoting on social media, and it became evident that we needed to rethink our approach to huge tasks with a small team. Unifying our admissions processes and recruitment efforts allows us to best serve prospective students and allow our admissions officers to have a healthy work-life balance.

Of course, I always like to emphasize that we’re centralizing the operations of admissions; we’re not centralizing the academic part of it. So, for example, we’re not changing any prerequisites. Centralizing admissions will build our capacity so we can continue to do meaningful recruitment and make connections with prospective students. This means we can continue to get the very best quality students here at MBKU, who go on to be the very best quality health care providers.

KM: What kinds of things has the new ESS been working on since you have centralized?

CB: Our team has built an Annual Recruitment and Marketing Plan. This helped us identify materials to tell the Ketchum story. We have created pieces that highlight the services and support we offer. For example, support services, career services and financial aid. We want prospective students to learn what it is like on our campus. So, we created print pieces that showcase living and studying in the Southern California area but also the student activities including the co-curricular programs and learning opportunities they have on our campus. High school and college counselors are another target audience, and to better service this group we have created an informative piece to support their advising work with pre-health profession students. Another exciting project is the MBKU Campus Video so people gaining interest in MBKU can see our beautiful campus and facilities. The team wanted to create a program for high school and undecided college students to explore our health profession programs. Now we have an annual event called “Discover MBKU” that happens in the spring.

Finally, we are exploring ways to leverage technology to support our work. Having the ability to streamline processes, improve communications with prospective students and track meaningful information will further enhance the work we are doing.

KM: Of course, one of the important aspects of admissions is how it preserves the quality and character of the University. In your view, what are some of the things that make MBKU so special?

CB: I think it’s all about the relationships. Early in my career, when I was a new faculty member here, I had a wonderful mentor and that relationship really set me on this path. As I moved into all these different roles, I have always felt that there’s someone here who has my back. That’s what I love about working at this University, and it’s what I love in particular about working in Enrollment and Student Services. We have a great support system with students, faculty and staff where no one has to be out on their own. I see people across the University benefitting from these relationships.

KM: You’ve had an opportunity to shape MBKU’s Student Affairs and Admissions offices over your long career here. What has been the key to your success at MBKU?

CB: I think being able to marry all my different experiences together has suited me so well in this role. I have been a student, a faculty member, and now an administrator at this institution. I can’t take credit for building it on my own, of course! I have had and continue to have such an amazing team to work with over the years. Every single person on this team has a huge heart and a big brain, and they work so hard. They are all amazing individuals. That’s been a big reason why I think this department has been able to really transform what Enrollment and Student Services looks like at this institution.