Leadership Transitions and Tributes: MBU celebrates a dynamic partnership

When Vice President of Enrollment Management Jim McCoy asked an incoming student on an Accepted Student Day in spring 2019 why she chose Mary Baldwin, she had a surprising reply.

“I didn’t choose Mary Baldwin,” she said. “You chose me. You wouldn’t leave me alone; you kept sending me stuff all the time — and I knew I wanted to be at a place that would give me that much support.”

Responses like that speak to the success of the recruitment marketing strategy that, beginning in 2017, has re-envisioned MBU as a student-centered, co-ed university offering both an education and an experience. 

The effort was led by McCoy and former Vice President of Integrated Communications and Chief Strategy Officer Aimee Rose, whose teams forged a strong and dynamic partnership during a critical time for the university.

Rose recently announced her resignation from MBU effective on June 30, while McCoy will assume the new role of vice president emeritus for administration, overseeing the Office of Institutional Technology and remaining at MBU for a period of time. 

Through cohesive leadership and collaboration with their teams and campus partners, they have forged a legacy of success that will resonate at Mary Baldwin for years to come. 

Vice President of Enrollment Management Jim McCoy and former Vice President of Integrated Communications and Chief Strategy Officer Aimee Rose, whose teams forged a strong and dynamic partnership during a critical time for the university. Rose recently tendered her resignation from the university, while McCoy is transitioning to the role of vice president emeritus for administration.

Within four days of starting the job, Rose — who won  the American Marketing Association’s “Higher Ed Marketer of the Year” award last year — revamped the university’s entire positioning platform, quickly establishing a “war room” on campus that broke down silos and brought in people from admissions, marketing, and the entire executive staff for daily meetings.

“That was the cornerstone of the turnaround,” President Pamela Fox said. “There aren’t many times that you can do that in an institution, but I think the circumstances of change and the expertise of an individual meet at such a moment and make a difference.”

McCoy and his admissions team worked to deliver the MBU message to more students through a streamlined application process, increased personal outreach, and new academic scholarship opportunities.

“Dr. McCoy came to see me after an urgent call three years ago with the intent of staying for three months,” Fox said. “His lasting influence and impact on completely turning around our admissions efforts is truly amazing.”

Before Rose and McCoy came on board in 2017, Mary Baldwin — like many other small private schools — was facing what amounted to an existential threat from declining enrollment. But the university’s efforts have yielded the two largest classes in 178 years.

“Seeing the first new students show up on campus,” Rose said, “and seeing them all out there with the energy and the buzz was very humbling, because you could see that this was the work of so much labor from so many people in such a coordinated effort.”

McCoy says MBU’s original target for enrollment in fall 2018 was 300 students, but they ended up with 428.

“That was phenomenal,” McCoy said. “And then this last year we got 442. So we continue to make great progress.”

Last year marked the second straight year of record- breaking enrollment; and the 2020–21 academic year is only slightly below that benchmark, despite the significant disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Left: Aimee Rose was named the AMA Higher Ed Marketer of the Year last year. Right: With Minesh Parikh, chief executive officer of marketing and communications agency Lipman Hearne, which co-sponsors the award with the AMA Foundation.

One of the signatures of the Admissions and Communications partnership during Rose’s and McCoy’s tenure was the MBU viewbook, which became the inspiration behind a revamped suite of admissions materials, widespread campus improvements, and engaging spring visit days for accepted students with experiences specifically designed to help them bond with their peers and Mary Baldwin faculty.

They forged a new approach to the viewbook process, turning tradition on its head: Rose and her team paired down the viewbook (which are often hefty tomes that include anything and everything there is to know about a school) to the most relevant and vibrant content and, at the suggestion of McCoy, the university mailed them not just to students who expressed an interest  in MBU but to all 40,000 college-bound students in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

First-year MBU student Kaitlyn Savage ’23 was one of those who were impressed by the viewbook, along with promotional emails that reflected the viewbook’s design scheme.

“I was very last minute in applying to Mary Baldwin,” Savage says. “One night I was just sitting at my computer, and I got an email that was really engaging with the colors and all the pictures they added.”

“When I applied to MBU, we were bringing on all these sports teams, making new majors, and we just became a university a few years ago now,” rising junior Logan Case says. “That was really appealing to me when I first came on campus. I wanted to be part of that change.”

“That is something I tell a lot of students now that are coming to school,” Case continues. “We’re kind of working through some of the kinks, but you can be part of this change, this sort of rebirth of the school.”

Pages from the 2017-18 MBU viewbook for undergraduate residential enrollment marketing.

After Rose’s departure and McCoy’s transition, both the communications and admissions teams will gain new leaders from within the university, who have both contributed to the enrollment success over the past three years and are well prepared to lead the university forward. 

Matt Munsey, current associate vice president, will be promoted to vice president of enrollment management, effective August 1, while Ginny Clemenko, senior associate vice president of integrated communications, is taking the helm of the communications team. Both will sit on the executive staff. 

“I’m so grateful for my experience at Mary Baldwin,” said Rose. “It’s been a remarkable journey, and I leave knowing that we’ve built something great that I hope will endure and continue to empower and inspire students for years to come.”