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Salesforce Foundation Higher Education Summit 2015

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the 3rd annual Salesforce Higher Education Summit at the University of Miami. I was joined by Tal Frankfurt, our CEO and Founder, and Nik Panter, our Vice President of Services. Nik, who attended the original Summit at Wayne State University in 2013, was able to confirm what I had already hypothesized by just walking towards the building: the times, they are a-changing! Based on the turnout alone, it was clear that the higher education sector was eager to collaborate on ringing in a new era for the higher education community that focuses on communication, inclusion, and transparency. Undoubtedly, they have found a partner in the Salesforce Foundation to help them blaze the trail.

Improved Constituent Management

During every session, from the large keynotes to the more intimate break-out sessions, the message was clear: there needs to be a better, more relevant way to communicate with potential students, current students, and alumni, as well as their families. Whether it be for recruitment, retention, or advancement, communication methods need to not only improve, they also need to evolve with the different media used by students and overcome the institutional silos that are too common in the higher education space today.  In addition to overcoming communication hurdles, institutions need better ways to listen to their constituents in order to understand what the needs are, tap into their social communities, and identify where to focus their resources. and the Salesforce Foundation are listening and are responding the only way they know how: by leading through collaboration! It is a unique concept but one that provides noticeable results. The Higher Education Summit is a perfect example of how much value Salesforce places on collaboration and direct input from the communities they serve.

Leading the Salesforce Foundation Way!

To be totally transparent, Salesforce has a lot to gain by moving into the higher education sector. However, it should be very obvious to those who follow the Salesforce Foundation and attended the Summit that the Foundation’s drive for success comes from a unique place. I believe the Foundation really wants to transform how institutions working for a social good operate for the better. Walking around the Summit, it was a who’s who of Salesforce heavyweights which speaks volumes to the emphasis being placed at the Foundation to ensure that progress and innovation is constant. To spearhead Salesforce’s introduction to the sector, the Foundation recently enlisted Pat McQueen as its General Manager for Higher Education. Pat has over 20 years of experience in technology and has spent the last 10 years with Salesforce. He has blazed the trail of innovation before in other industries and now he is tasked with helping realize the changes desired by the over 700 individuals attending the Summit and the countless others who could not attend. Along with adding Pat to the Foundation’s staff, there has been a clear prioritization from the Salesforce Foundation that they want to help the higher education community achieve their goals and will incorporate the most successful Foundation contributors to that cause.

The Future is Bright

My final thought about the Higher Education Summit is a genuine wow! For the better part of two days I was surrounded by members of schools all over the world looking to contribute to how this landscape is shaped. The student body is changing and schools wanting to meet their constituents on their own turf will need to change with them. The Salesforce Foundation is looking to empower leaders throughout the higher education space with the tools and partners they need to push the ball forward, and change how institutions engage with their constituents. We are excited to navigate that path and we are looking forward to helping institutions looking to lead the way.