Melinda Roy

This is the second post in the Introduction to SEM Frameworks series. The first post outlined why SEM teams should understand the framework they are working in to build better SEM plans, implement processes, and assign responsibility. Many post-secondary institutions struggle with bridging communication and decision-making between the Academic Units and Financial or Administrative perspectives. SEM plans are tools to align these perspectives and priorities toward a common goal, and frameworks provide the structure for building together.

To continue the analogy of the soapbox car, the institutional mission is the catalyst for building the car and the values determine which category of award a SEM plan is going to prioritize. The SEM Framework connects the steering column to the wheels, and brake pedals to pads, and outlines how a driver makes and implements a change as the conditions of the course change. In any SEM framework, differing perspectives should work in tandem to keep the institution safely and consistently moving towards its goals. Often this is achieved through developing a SEM Committee.

In a Committee Framework, the SEM car is not driven by one single driver. It’s more like a relay, where the drivers change based on the skillset best suited to the upcoming length of track. The committee brings together their collection of parts and determines how best to fit them together (or fabricate new parts) to develop a SEM plan and activities. While the committee may need formal approval from upper leadership, the committee members shift roles between driver and pit crew for SEM. No restructuring of the governance or organization chart is necessary as decision-making follows the already in place governance structure (tricameral, bicameral, unicameral). But the committee works to make decision-approval easy for leadership through designing robust, evidence-based SEM plans.

While the committee may not receive special funding for SEM, in explicit committee frameworks, members are given release time to participate. In an implicit framework, there is no formal SEM committee, but rather collaborative and consultative enrolment management is an inherent part of how they do their work. The catalyst for implementing SEM in these frameworks often develops out of wanting to increase transparency of and engagement with planning decisions, making explicit the institutions already strategic approach to enrolment management.

In a Coordinator Framework, the SEM car is driven by a single person. Before SEM planning or activities start, the coordinator brings together specialists to collaborate on design, implementation, and assessment of the car. The coordinator continues to bring together relevant team members as the pit crew to ensure the car stays in good working order. The SEM Coordinator may initiate the development of a committee (explicit Coordinator Framework) and be the catalyst for implementing SEM after learning about it at a conference, through professional development, or having prior knowledge learned elsewhere but do not sit in an executive decision-making role. Or the SEM Coordinator may use the relationships they’ve developed over time to influence peers towards thinking more strategically and acts as hinge between two different areas to ensure enrolment management activities are connected at key points.

The coordinator here is driver, coach and promoter of the SEM vehicle. The committee is pit crew, and senior leadership and governing bodies may set the car standards required to meet before launching (sensitivity of the brakes, turning radius, harness and helmet type). In an explicit Coordinator framework, SEM is funded through release time for committee members or through temporarily increased staffing for areas identified where additional support is needed to successfully implement SEM activities.

In a Matrix framework, a senior administrator holds the role of SEM driver and promoter in addition to part of their overall duties. They may have once been a coordinator but have been given more authority and accountability for the SEM car design and achievements. They may be the most knowledgeable person of the team on SEM, and so provide build recommendations, suggest tweaks to tire alignment, and relay feedback to their peer administrators in the pit and upper leadership who check in on lap times. This administrator likely has upper leadership guiding them in one earpiece, and the pit crew of peers in the other.

This is the most complex framework in terms of determining accountability and responsibility. The driver may identify a problem to the pit crew but does not do the repair themselves. When it comes to who is accountable and responsible for SEM effectiveness, the governing authorities view it as the driver’s role, but the driver has no real power to assign tasks or types of repairs to the pit crew. The driver has only influence, but no authority over how the pit crew is assigned duties, the quality tools or parts, or time they are given to do a repair or add a new SEM process. The driver relays SEM activity concerns, brings proposals to, and requests support and sponsorship from the governing bodies.

In a Division framework, the driver and promoter is a dedicated senior administrator who’s role is to manage the pit crew, find and allocate funding, make decisions, initiate, implement, assess and report on SEM activities for the institution. The flow of decision-making, participation, and information gathering requires restructuring to make the chain of authority explicit, to assign clear accountability and responsibility for specific tasks to the pit crew members. The Division driver may choose their pit crew members from managers, deans, faculty, analysts, and other operational staff with relevant expertise and assign them to specific committees who oversee one function of the SEM plan. The institution supports SEM at every level, on both sides of governance, and committees and task forces reflect this diversity.

For institutions where SEM is relatively young in an institution with a bicameral or tricameral governance system, a SEM framework may be difficult to identify. Integrating the academics and administrators towards SEM may be a challenge in early SEM development and be the reason why some institutions decide to restructure to a Division or Matrix SEM framework. Restructuring can provide decision-making and assessment transparency, and establish channels for feedback, participation, and information sharing between units when collaboration has been challenged in the past.

In the next post, I’ll introduce specific challenges that arise in each framework, and how sometimes the necessary repair is to rethink your SEM structure.

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Check out our whole series on Beyond the Strategic Enrolment Plan:

  1. An Introduction to SEM Frameworks & Why They Matter
  2. Uniting Academics and Administration in SEM Frameworks
  3. Framework Challenges & Knowing when to Restructure
  4. Indicators of a Resilient Framework
  5. Examples of Target Setting Processes in the Frameworks