Western Michigan University (WMU) is a large, public research-intensive university that has been helping students reach their potential through a pursuit of purpose since 1903. Around 20K students find that purpose each year across a range of undergraduate and graduate programs at WMU. With admissions expanding and the institution’s commitment to its students growing by the day, the time had come to reinvest in WMU’s technology and offer an expanded suite of tech solutions.
Building a Broader Vision
As with many institutions, WMU had experienced interruptions in student and staff engagement as a result of a lack of centralization with its student support processes and technology. Partnering with Cloud for Good, the institution sought out Salesforce to implement a new connected campus experience for enrolled students and campus staff. This new experience would provide a single, digital source of internal information, a knowledge base, academic support, and engagement across campus.
Dr. Edwin Martini is the Vice Provost for Teaching & Learning at WMU as well as the Dean of Merze Tate College (a recently launched college within WMU built around student success) and one of the executive champions for the institution’s Salesforce implementation projects.
“Salesforce allowed us to think about a much broader vision for what a connected campus experience could feel like, not just for students but for faculty and staff as well,” said Martini. The initial objective of WMU’s Salesforce project was to leverage the power of the Salesforce Student Success Hub and customize the institution’s “GoWMU” portal with Experience Cloud to offer enhanced service desk capabilities with enriched case management.
“It really started from a student success standpoint, but as we gathered people together and explored what legacy systems we wanted to phase out, we saw an opportunity for a much bigger project.”
Solidifying Student Success
Release 1 of WMU’s Cloud for Good-implemented Salesforce project revolved around upgrading the GoWMU portal and the Information Technology Service Desk with Experience Cloud and solidifying WMU’s Connected Campus vision. Education Data Architecture was also implemented to serve as a foundation for customizations, constituent management, and data visibility/security; Service Cloud, too, was utilized to support case management, including queues, routing, and automation, as well as task management and the aforementioned knowledge base.
A number of integrations, migrations, and AppExchange packages helped round out an intuitive solution creating exceptional experiences, greater efficiency, and streamlined processes. “With Salesforce, we’re creating a holistic view model to create the conditions in which all students can thrive,” Martini elaborated.
With the previous iteration of GoWMU portal now greatly enhanced, WMU and Cloud for Good have progressed to configuring a new portal to serve as its replacement. Salesforce Student Success Hub will be the new portal that will allow WMU to grow and scale. In addition, WMU will be able to add new Service Cloud functionalities, such as live agent and chat bots.
Success Hub will also bring a far greater number of internal stakeholders onto a unified ticketing system. This will help to break down the departmental silos that previously existed as a result of disparate systems utilized across divisions and departments through the previous portal. A mobile app is also in development to effectively bring the new portal to the pockets of students, staff, and faculty. “Putting all of our IT help desk information on the same ticketing system allows us not only more consistency internally but a much better set of data going forward as well,” said Martini.
WMU will also harness the power of Marketing Cloud, in conjunction with the Success Hub project, to bolster engagement and communication. Transitioning the institution to an enterprise Marketing Cloud solution will help to enable a unified and centralized Marketing Cloud instance to manage all WMU marketing engagement and communications with enhanced reporting capabilities. “All of the time and effort we’re putting into student success is built around keeping students engaged, making sure we’re communicating with them on the right channels at the right time,” explained Martini.
Salesforce has helped WMU reimagine business processes associated with its IT service, advising, and data governance. While much of the initial Salesforce implementation initiative has been focused on academic affairs, WMU has a long-term vision for Salesforce integration that will reach all manner of student affairs, such as housing and dining, in subsequent releases. “The goal is to achieve a full 360-degree view of the student and really take advantage of the power of Salesforce,” Martini stated.
The overarching hope in all these various Salesforce projects is that with greater engagement through student success, WMU will be able to move the needle on overall retention and graduation rates. This is doubly true for some of WMU’s key demographics, such as first-gen students, students from historically underserved populations, Federal Pell Grant-eligible students, etc.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
Through a broad suite of Salesforce solutions connecting the power of the Education, Service, Experience, and Marketing Clouds, and a number of high-impact add-ons like Tableau and Einstein, WMU is poised to set a standard for technology application and student success in the higher education sector.
Looking back on the Salesforce success WMU has already found, Martini said, “I’m most proud of the fact that we took on a really ambitious project. Not only have we launched something that’s going to take us where we need to go, but it’s helped senior-level administrators and leaders on campus get a sense of what’s possible down the road.”
And with a detailed technology roadmap planned featuring even greater utilization of the Salesforce platform, Cloud for Good and WMU are just getting started. “Cloud for Good has been a great partner. We were able to come together and be very open and transparent with one another. It’s really developed into a great partnership. Now it’s on us to execute on that vision and see what we can do.”