Capella University enrollment counselors are the first line of contact for prospective students, helping them find a path to fulfill their educational and career goals.
Jacqueline Hanzal, senior enrollment counselor for Nursing and Health Sciences degree programs, shares what a day in her position looks like, and why active listening is one of the most important parts of her job.
Q. What is your role in working with prospective students?
A. My role is to ensure that prospective students and applicants are supported throughout the entire enrollment process, which includes recommending a program and specializations, assisting with the application process, and supporting them throughout university orientation and the start of their first course.
Q. What are the day-to-day responsibilities of your job?
A. Each day, I call individuals who have expressed interest in a degree from Capella. Initially, I might have a 20 to 45 minute phone conversation. I ask questions about why they are interested in advancing their education and what is most important to them in a degree program. I get a better understanding of how a degree will support their life goals. I listen, and I also answer questions about Capella.
If a Capella degree will help them achieve their goals, we start the application. Providing support during the application process is important because it can feel overwhelming to a new student.
I’ll also work with students enrolled in orientation and students starting their first course. I typically receive a few phone calls or emails from enrolled students or alumni asking a question or seeking resources.
Q. What are your favorite parts of the job?
A. The best part, hands down, is the initial phone conversation I have with prospective students who’ve inquired about Capella. They are typically brand new to Capella and are taking the time to talk with me about their lives and interests. The reason these interchanges are so exciting is that it’s my time to ask a few questions about their life, and then sit back and listen. Our students are diverse and have interesting life experiences, dreams, and goals. They often want an advanced degree because they have witnessed or experienced some frustrations or areas that need improvement in their field.
For example, I’ve talked with nurses who are determined to improve patient safety policies or public health professionals who want to increase access to quality health care. Instead of venting or complaining, they are taking action. As a result, I hear some pretty inspiring stories about where they have been and what they plan to accomplish.
Q. What is the main goal of your initial conversation with potential students?
A. My main goal is to uncover their primary purpose. Why did they initiate this communication with Capella? Why is the degree important? What are their end goals? Based on all that information, I can determine if Capella will take them where they want to go.
Q. If someone is unsure of the direction to go, how do you guide them?
A. Those situations happen all the time, which highlights the importance of working with an enrollment counselor. I spend as much time as needed with prospective students to investigate their needs and make sure we find the right fit. If they are unsure where they want to go in their career, I ask exploratory questions. Even if it means going back to, “When you were young what did dream of becoming?” Or “What do you naturally gravitate toward?”
We want to uncover peoples’ passions and help them articulate their goals, which is done by asking questions that get at what they like to do, what brings them joy, what their unique skills are, what they want to accomplish, and what is most important to them. If you can keep digging you can effectively guide them. Sometimes you discover that a degree program is not the best fit at this time, and that’s okay. I think the key is just being willing to take the time to actively listen and reflect back what they are saying.
Q. How do you know when something you’ve said or done resonates with a caller?
A. There is usually an energy you can feel on the line. It’s kind of crazy to say, but you really can feel it. The other cues are when someone gets excited when you’ve said something that resonates, and they start talking faster. Their voice rises and you hear the excitement. That usually comes when you reflect back what they’ve told you. It’s a powerful thing when someone feels listened to. That active listening and reflection can help them see things in a different light, even though the original idea or thought came from them.
Q. What do you consider to be your expertise?
A. My background is in biology conservation and environmental education, but the expertise I have comes from having worked with Capella students for so long: hearing student stories and staying updated on industry news. I’m also active with My Capella Facebook page, I’ve attended health care conferences, and I stay current on trends in the field.
Q. How does what you do make a difference for individuals?
A. Going back to school can be overwhelming or intimidating for people, especially if they are new to online education. I can normalize the experience for them by talking about others who have had similar hesitations or concerns. I help to clarify their next steps by breaking the process into small, tangible action items that allow them to make their dreams a reality.
Q. What do you think sets Capella apart?
A. The student experience. On a personal level, I care very much about the student experience, and I can say the same for my colleagues. Capella as a whole strikes me as a school with a lot of heart. We are dedicated to making sure we support students on all levels and provide education that helps them achieve their goals.
Our competency model is unique and is one of the most fun things to talk about with prospective students because Capella can authentically demonstrate how our education can build industry-specific skills. Our employer solutions team is dedicated to learning what skills are in high demand among employers, so that we can actually provide their employees with those skills. We go much farther than traditional education by having students demonstrate knowledge and theories through direct application. It creates more meaningful learning and education and it really sets Capella apart.
Q. How do you decompress at the end of the day?
A. I get pretty energized by the work I do, so I might actually do something active and outdoors, like taking a long walk or a run!