Finding Future Presidents: Vice Presidents of Enrollment and Communication and Marketing join W&J

Nicole Focareto, Vice President for Enrollment, and Kelly Kimberland, Vice President for Communication and Marketing, bring their expertise to W&J to draw in the next generation of students

Together, two new vice presidents will recruit a new generation of Presidents to W&J and increase awareness of what makes W&J a great place to be a college student today. (It’s not so different from what makes you a proud alum!)

Nicole Focareto joined W&J last fall as the vice president of enrollment, bringing with her years of admission experience in private liberal arts colleges. Kelly Kimberland ’91 pairs her background in marketing and corporate communications in the newly created vice president for communication and marketing role as she transitioned from active alumna to employee this spring.

Both of the senior staff members hit the ground running this academic year. Focareto joined W&J in November during the peak of the fall recruiting season. Kimberland started in February, just two weeks before the second annual Symposium on Democracy.

In addition to their daily work, they quickly became part of a strategic planning process in progress to chart W&J’s future. This includes crafting the messages and showcasing the stories that will attract future Presidents to a school with both a legacy of success and a bright future.

Kimberland has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and communications, previously working in public relations at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, and most recently in marketing and digital strategy at UPMC Health Plan.

“What brought me back was my passion for W&J. I believe in the school, I believe in the education, and I believe in a liberal arts background for students,” said Kimberland.

With experience on a national and international platform, her plans for W&J include increasing awareness of the College on a wider scale.

“I want to transform our reputation from regional to national. I’m looking forward to building our brand from a national perspective,” she said.

As Kimberland looks to broaden awareness of the College across the region and the nation, Focareto’s role takes her on the road, talking with prospective students and their families about W&J and why it might be the right fit for them.

“We have to understand that there are a lot of college options. This market, western PA and eastern Ohio, is the most competitive market in all of the nation for private liberal arts education, so we have to stand out,” Focareto said.

Focareto knows the value of a liberal arts education firsthand. A Marietta College graduate, she worked in the admission office as an interviewer as a senior, sparking her interest in enrollment management.

For Focareto, it’s important not to lose the human side of the college search process.

“It’s really important to lead with empathy. People are people first before they’re consumers of education,” Focareto said. “That student is going to remember more about how they felt during our interaction with them than what we said.”

She sees more opportunities to include the W&J community, including faculty and alumni, in the recruitment process. Student ambassadors give tours and talk with prospective students during campus visits, but they are now working to engage current and prospective students through social media so those connections span beyond a single visit day.

The duo face a number of challenges, including the shrinking pool of high school graduates and the rising costs of higher education.

“Enrollment management, especially in today’s higher ed marketplace, is very challenging work but it’s important work,” Focareto said. “We have the momentum, we are on the path to prepare to change and to accept change.”

Kimberland agrees that W&J needs to adapt to the needs of today’s students and the generations to come.

“No business, no organization, no college survives doing the same thing over and over again no matter how well you do it,” Kimberland said. “I want to be part of the reason why W&J is able to stay around for another 238 years.”