'Chief experience officer' for students is the newest job in higher ed
Five universities are hiring or have recently hired a chief experience officer (CXO), an administrative position that does for college students what human resources (HR) does for employees.
CXOs have goals of increasing student satisfaction and enrollment and belong to the recent trend of ‘corporatism’ in higher education, which treats students and families like customers.
Applications are opening for chief experience officer (CXO), a new administrative position that does for college students what human resources (HR) does for employees.
“CXOs’ work is a blend of marketing, student affairs, and admissions,’’ according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The article suggests that universities are hiring an administrator to help students navigate the dizzying bureaucracy of other administrators and their services, including parking, dining, and residence life.
The Chronicle of Higher Education found five universities with CXO job postings or recently-hired CXOs: Robert Morris University, the University of Utah, William Woods University, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), and Quinnipiac University.
”Ensuring that a college student’s total experience is positive and fulfilling is critically important to attracting prospective students, retaining current students, increasing graduation rates and developing involved and engaged alumni,” John Fougere, the Vice President of Media Relations at William Woods, told Campus Reform.
”If the various areas that impact the student experience (recruitment, marketing, admissions, student life, academic affairs and alumni relations) are ‘silo’-ed, it becomes difficult to enhance that experience which decreases satisfaction at the university.”
Though these institutions range from small liberal arts colleges to colleges that deliver online education at scale, they seem to share a common goal of increasing student satisfaction and enrollment. CXOs are coming in with business backgrounds, and according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, that means that “colleges should clearly communicate the need for a chief experience officer, to ward off perceptions of corporatism or administrative bloat.”
Others explicitly recommend that colleges and universities go corporate. Ted Blashak, the CXO at William Woods, previously performed consulting services for the university. Consulting companies, as Campus Reform has reported, say that education is a commodity. This makes students and their families customers, an argument repeated by CXOs in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which referred to them as “customers” or “constituents.”
Kevin Kruger, president of Naspa, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that CXOs help university presidents “message in a particular way to their constituents about what he or she thinks is important.”
Naspa serves as a network of student affairs employees, engages in policy advocacy, and is “a thought leader and trusted researcher, executing multiple grant-funded projects aimed at rethinking the future of higher education,” according to its website.
Organizations such as Naspa often connect administrative positions to social justice issues, with one 2021 report commending universities for hiring additional positions in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Naspa researchers found that, following the murder of George Floyd, universities “focused on actions related to resource investment, with 37% of institutions starting to fund new initiatives related to DEI work, 28% seeking new grant funding and donations for DEI-related initiatives, and 21% hiring additional staff for the central DEI office.”
The report is “a useful roadmap of possible actions for those institutions still developing their approach to racial justice on campus,” according to Naspa.
SNHU’s president, Paul J. LeBlanc, compared the CXO to the chief diversity officer, who supervises other administrators in implementing social justice work.
“Everyone’s got a responsibility, but no one person can have their arms around the whole, unless you have a chief experience officer,” LeBlanc told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “By analogy, I would argue DEI is everyone’s work, but I’m not going to not have a chief diversity officer looking at the whole, collecting the data, holding us to account, helping us forward our thinking.”
Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.