How to convert more Applicants into enrolled Students

    My job in higher ed: Nathalie Naveda, University of St Gallen

    Nathalie explains how she manages the recruiting, marketing and admissions of St Gallen’s SIM-HSG programme, ranked #1 by the FT for the last six years
    Last updated:
    February 14, 2024

    Nathalie explains how she manages the recruiting, marketing and admissions of St Gallen’s SIM-HSG programme, which has been ranked #1 by the Financial Times for six consecutive years.

    What’s a typical day like at St Gallen? Is there such a thing?

    There isn’t. I manage the recruiting, marketing and admissions of the Master’s in Strategy and International Management and oversee things from the conceptual to the operational to the executional level. A day will highly depend on where we are in the academic year.

    Recently, it's all been about admissions. From tomorrow onwards, it will all be about travelling: going to recruitment events around the world. In a short while, it will be about creating marketing materials.

    What are the most rewarding parts of your job?

    When you're a programme manager, your assumptions and perceptions are constantly being challenged. You get to help a lot of people open doors they wouldn't have been able to open themselves. When I see someone coming here and succeeding, it’s incredibly rewarding. I think we're all in this industry because we want to help people somehow. It’s very fulfilling to be able to open those doors.

    What do you look for when interviewing applicants?

    We’re recently went through the process of redefining our admissions process. We came up with a list of qualities we look for in students. They are:

    Global mindset: this isn’t necessarily someone who has travelled around the world, but someone who’s able and willing to understand and accommodate other perspectives. This also means having an awareness of diversity.

    Analytical aptitude: University of St Gallen holds very high academic standards. On top of these standards, we’re also looking for critical and creative thinking. These skills are important because the programme encourages students to challenge the status quo and get out of their comfort zones. They must be able to question and reflect on things critically.

    Maturity and integrity: our programme is part way between a Master’s in management and an MBA. We're looking for people who already have a certain level of maturity and experience. We don't judge that purely on age or past experiences but on the specific things they’ve learnt and incorporated from their experiences.

    Self-reflection: we want people who already have a high-level of reflection regarding their own life, background and experiences. They need to be able to know what their developmental needs are so we can help them develop those skills.

    How important is an international approach to business education?

    For our programme, an international approach is extremely important. We want our students to be confronted by different realities. We have very diverse classes and there are two occasions in the programme where students have to experience something different: a social project and an internship.

    We also encourage students to make the most of the exchange network of the university. After all, St Gallen is a remote city in a corner of Switzerland. The only way we can strengthen the St Gallen brand is to take it beyond.

    St Gallen’s SIM programme has been ranked the #1 Masters in Management by the Financial Times for six consecutive years. What are the reasons behind the programme’s consistent success?

    The community aspect is very important. In addition to delivering a high-quality Master’s programme, we're trying to create a community. We do this by foregrounding cooperation and friendship. The programme is very much based on relationships and personal development and we want our students to feel part of a whole.

    Another reason is that we challenge students to get outside of their comfort zone. We do this by encouraging them to tackle daunting experiences and to make a real effort to grow.

    The third reason is our global mindset. This applies to our students, as I’ve explained, but also our staff. Our members of staff and faculty have very diverse backgrounds. When meeting and assessing applicants, it's very important we have this variety of perspectives and perceptions.

    When did you decide you wanted to work in education and how did you go about it?

    I’m originally from Venezuela. I studied sociology and I came to Switzerland to develop my career. I then spent six years working in the aviation industry. As a sociologist who likes to learn about different cultures, different interactions and how different kinds of people react to certain situations, aviation is extremely fascinating.

    I then moved into business education as a recruiter for Hult International Business School. It soon became clear how much sense it made for me to work in this industry. In aviation, I learned about internationality, human interaction, and how different people solve problems: all skills I need to work in education.

    How do you think business education will change in the next ten years?

    More programmes are becoming aware of the need to help students lead more purposeful lives and go beyond just hard and soft skills by offering value-based education. I think this will continue, and that schools will increasingly encourage students to critically reflect and ask relevant questions. I also think business schools will increasingly recruit students based on potential rather than just their past achievements.

    What has education meant to your personally?

    For me, it's my fortune. It's the tool that has opened all doors for me. I had access to good education and good learning. Thanks to that, I've been able to adapt and be flexible enough to face any challenges that have come my way. I'm here today thanks to my education.

    That’s why I love working in admissions and recruiting. We’re able to give opportunities to people through education, which is such an important thing.

    Education is beyond just having access to schools. It's beyond being able to share your knowledge, to reflect upon our knowledge, to discuss ideas, to come up with ideas. Education is not about reading books and memorising things. It's being able to debate and being confronted with different realities.


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