There are many adjectives students use to describe Drury’s College of Continuing Professional Studies—awesome, caring, satisfying, accepting, challenging. However, life-changing is the watchword that hangs in the forefront of our minds following a 450-mile trip across Southwest Missouri this summer to meet with students at each of our branch campuses. What started as a standard market research project to understand who our students are, how to reach them, their decision-making process in selecting a school, and what makes Drury different —became much more.
“Life-changing” is their expression, but it also describes the experience we had in discovering how Drury is making a measurable difference in the lives of people living in these rural communities. A Drury education at our branch campuses is advancing individuals, elevating families and changing communities.
For a single mom who quit school at age 17, it’s proving to herself and her two young children that anything is possible. For a high school student in the A+ program who lacked guidance in college and dropped out of three different schools before enrolling in Drury’s CCPS program, it means finding the confidence necessary to regain his career footing. For a retired military soldier with PTSD, it has been an experience that—in her words— changed her life. All of these students are close to earning a bachelor’s degree, and all intend to stay in their communities to be a child counselor, a history teacher, and a psychologist, respectively.
Students shared intimate details about their lives and how Drury is contributing to a personal transformation—helping them discover, or rediscover, themselves on the road to a better future for their families and themselves.While diverse in age, ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds, the one common bond is the sense of community and experience Drury provides. “I went to another local college, and they didn’t want to help me. They pushed me into a corner. Drury is different. They want you to succeed,” one student shared. For most, Drury is more than a university. As one student noted, “Drury is like a best friend —someone who’s always there to make your life better and push for a better future even when you don’t believe it’s possible.”
And while it is clear that Drury is changing lives, our students are also shaping Drury’s future. They inspire us to adapt to their evolving needs, so that their Drury experience remains always relevant, stirring and innovative.
So, back to the purpose of our trip. What did we learn from a marketing perspective? Affordability and location are key drivers in selecting a school, followed by the convenience of class schedules and the number of degree offerings. Most important, when asked what single thing distinguishes Drury from other schools, the response was always the same: personalized care and attention. When asked to choose between affordability, location or the concierge-style service given by Drury’s advisors and site directors, students quickly agreed that the personalized attention was the difference maker. We are already using information gleaned from the interviews to help shape future marketing and communications.
If Drury’s mission is to help students prepare for a better life while becoming better people, all within a tolerant atmosphere that cherishes diversity, that mission is alive and well in the CCPS program. Beyond providing an education, Drury is building character and personality in every student that walks through a branch campus’ door.
We want to express our deepest gratitude to the students, site directors, administrators and faculty who facilitated these dialogues. It was a journey well worth taking, and one that gave us a new perspective on the power of a Drury education.