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"CRM gives us a 360 degree view of the student, but Communities give students a 360 degree view of our university." - Rebecca Joffrey, Director of Interactive Services, Cornell University

Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Uses Salesforce to Enhance the New Student Experience

The start of a new school year is an exciting time filled with hope and anticipation. Between registering for classes and navigating a new environment, a school’s on-boarding process can define this new chapter for students. A disconnected and cumbersome on-boarding experience can quickly take the wind out of an excited student’s sails.

The typical on-boarding process for new students at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Science (CALS) was information-heavy and lacking in personal engagement. Students used to receive several disconnected emails from various Cornell offices over the course of a summer and were told to reach out if they had questions. Short of a student (or parent) picking up the phone to place a call, there was no good way for faculty and staff to connect with students on important questions about arriving on campus, registering for classes, and meeting with advisors. “Our service models were either personal and not scalable or scalable and not personal. We needed to create a different experience for new students,” said Rebecca Joffrey, Director of Interactive Services.

The CALS Student Services team set out to move from an information-based experience to a community-based experience, and to provide a high level of support during the stressful period of course enrollment. “Students live in the feed. We wanted a way to communicate with them in a channel that was natural to them and that would require little or no training,” explained Torrey Jacobs, CALS Registrar. The college launched Salesforce’s Community Cloud over the summer of 2014. Instead of receiving emails with to-do lists and links to dozens of websites, students are now directed to log into the college’s virtual world, where they connect and engage with a community of peers, faculty, and staff. In the community, students are able to join groups like ‘New Students’ or ‘Transfer Students’ and familiarize themselves with both their major and the enrollment process. Students can post questions or comments and receive crowd-sourced answers in a feed from other members of the community. “By engaging our students in this online forum, we significantly increased interaction—we had more than 2,700 posts and comments in a 10-week period,” said Jacobs. CALS Student Services staff reported a 48% decrease in call volume during this same period.

The team also wanted to make it easy for students to navigate the university’s plethora of resources. Using native Salesforce functionality, they introduced online libraries full of articles, links, and other resources directly into the community. At any point in time, a staff member can add new libraries with a few simple clicks, ensuring the tool always has an up-to-date and ever-expanding body of knowledge. “CRM gives us a 360 degree view of the student, but this gives students a 360 degree view of our university,” said Joffrey.

As Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences continues to make the on-boarding process engaging and personal, its use of Community Cloud will serve as the cornerstone. “Salesforce is helping us take the administrative burden off of students so they have more time to focus on their careers and make an impact in the world,” said Joffrey. The university also has plans to add an Employer Community so students can follow and engage companies during their career search process.

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