We hope to increase satisfaction with communications students receive by making them more meaningful and engaging.

Since 2015, MSU has been considering the role of campus communications in relation to students’ ability to thrive and succeed at MSU.  As the result of intensive examination of our undergraduate communications, we have discovered a deluge of student emails that flood our students’ inboxes and the proliferation of portals and social media channels that make communication a very “noisy” and chaotic experience from their perspective.  

Through conversations with students, previous communications projects, and meetings with undergraduate student leaders and student surveys, we have learned that: 

  • Almost all students dislike the Confidential Message Center and accessing a separate website to get their messages 

  • There is too much communication about things that do not apply to them 

  • Students would like less lengthy emails, with more video content and more events in one email 

  • It would be helpful to them if information was divided into buckets of prioritization. 

 

We were compelled to respond to these experiences by renewing and restructuring the Student Communications project to address what we fondly call the MSU version of an email Pac Man. We began our efforts by trying to create more meaningful, more engaging, and more visually appealing emails from the campus community.  

Since July of 2021, we have been producing a consolidated monthly email from Vennie Gore and Mark Largent on behalf of the university. These emails bring together information from six to seven offices (or more) into one email with the subject heading “action items and resources.” After the first email in July, we quickly shifted to highlight the five key success areas for students that were identified by MSU’s (Re)orientation efforts. We learned that we needed to emphasize for students what activities would support their adjustment to being together again on campus:  

 

1) Take care of yourself and others 

2) Fully participate in classrooms and labs 

3) Find your way, engage, make connections 

4) Get involved outside the classroom 

5) Connect with important resources 

While we have no method for understanding student open rates, 38% of emails were opened by students’ family members and supporters. The emails are currently generated by the offices involved in our consolidation efforts and we are shifting toward a process that will gather input from departments and units across campus with a set of guiding principles for what we communicate to students. We know that if we keep sending long emails without more graphics and video content, we will lose students’ interest in hearing from the “collective MSU”.   

The purpose of the consolidated student email workgroup is to: 1) provide clear action items for students and their families in a concise, consistent manner that is easy for them to digest 2) provide connections to people and resources who can assist them if they have questions and 3) reduce the amount of email being sent to students.In addition, we continue to work with the Registrar’s Office and IT to better understand and align our bulk email processes and policies to reduce the amount of email going out to our students daily. We plan to send out one email a month that outlines actions and critical information, streamlines messages from departments as much as possible, all while meeting length and language recommendations based on communication best practices.  

Two members of the “best practices” working group, Bret Miller and Katie Kelly, have been working over the last several months to gather communication best practices from campus partners, their own research with students, and national best practices. They will be reporting their findings to the Campus Student Success Group and to the email consolidation group over the next couple of weeks to help us further refine our efforts. 

Overall, we hope toincrease perceived relevance/satisfaction with communications students receive by making them more meaningful, more engaging, more visually appealing, and applying MSU brand standards across units and colleges. In addition, we plan to use the work of our current project team as the foundation for a future project that will ultimately create a more robust and student-centered digital experience at Michigan State University. 

 

Executive Sponsors:  

Vennie Gore, Mark Largent, Heather Swain 

 

Project Leadership: 

Kelly Mazurkiewicz, Amy Martin 

 

Project membership: