First-generation college graduate, Jeff Holeman, has been placed at the helm of Keene State College’s efforts to increase enrollment in the newly created position of Vice President of Marketing, Communications, and Enrollment Strategy.
Holeman said that he first worked at Arizona State University (ASU), then for University of California, Berkeley, before resuming work at ASU again.
Between higher education jobs at ASU and KSC, Holeman said he took a break from working in higher education to work in the non-profit healthcare sector:
“I left ASU because it was a great opportunity I had to open a children’s hospital and lead the branding and marketing and communications for that initiative and sort of establishing a pediatric brand. It was a once in a lifetime thing to be able to do. I actually thought I would always work in higher ed for my whole life; I had a master’s in higher ed administration; I was teaching master’s level brand courses, and thoroughly enjoyed my time at ASU but this opportunity just came knocking.”
For Holeman, the transition between fields was not a difficult one: “Healthcare has some tremendous similarities. In many ways students are much like patients, faculty members are much like doctors; they’re both industries focused on usually improving the lives of others, focused on creativity and research, a heavy aspect in both industries. Highly regulated, typically non-profit organizations, so it was not difficult at all to make the transition from higher education to healthcare and what it would be to go back to the other direction.”
After working in healthcare for several years, Holeman said that he began to miss the interaction with students and his passion for higher education.
“Coming back to higher ed for me was just an opportunity for me to get back to the industry that I really had more passion for. I had always been shaped by my own experiences; I’m a first-generation college graduate from a small town in North Carolina and my life was so positively shaped by both my undergraduate experience and my work experience, particularly in higher education, and that’s why I want to get back into higher ed,” Holeman said.
Holeman said that what drew him to KSC was its impressive leadership team and their focus on building a stronger Keene State College:
“When I was looking for my next career opportunity it was important to me to find a place that had a strong sense of community and a dedication to always doing the right thing for students, and I saw that in Keene State College.”
Another aspect that Holeman said drew him to KSC was the opportunity it gave him to help write its story.
“While Keene State has a rich history, it has a great opportunity to tell its story and to shape its story on what the college is going to be for future generations, and I think under [Interim] President Treadwell’s leadership we have the opportunity to shape what it means to be a public liberal arts college and to define the value of a liberal arts education to students whether they are from New Hampshire or anywhere else in the country,” Holeman said.
Interim President Melinda Treadwell said that Holeman’s job will involve cooperation between departments.
“My expectation for him is that he’s going to work with our marketing and communications team, with our admissions team, with financial aid, with our provost and our vice president for student affairs to create a clear strategy for enrollment and for telling our story publically so that we could draw the future student into Keene State,” Treadwell said.
Along with working closely with KSC staff, another part of Holeman’s job will be to interact with students, both currently enrolled and graduated:
“Jeff will be creating for Keene State a couple of things: he’ll be doing a lot of listening sessions with current students, with prospective students, with alumni, to understand what it is that defines Keene State…that’s going to be instrumental in helping us shape who is the perfect student to be served by that, and then go after them from an enrollment strategy perspective, make sure we get to them, share the messages, get them connected with us.”
Holeman said that a major focus will be to better define the Keene State brand:
“What is Keene State to the people that we serve? To the students, to the prospective students, to the parents. So many people don’t understand what a brand is. They think a brand it’s a logo, or think it’s colors you use, or think its marketing. That’s not a brand. A brand isn’t what we say it is, it’s what they, our customers, the people we serve, it’s what they say it is.”
Senior math and secondary education major Samantha Sullivan said that KSC’s proximity to downtown Keene, autumn atmosphere, and education program made the college stand out to her.
“I really liked the downtown how it was so close to campus, it feels like campus is a part of a little downtown, it’s super cute, and I came in the fall and it’s really pretty here in the fall. Also, they’re really known for their education program and I play lacrosse here too so I came for sports as well,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said that to help with branding, KSC could coordinate with downtown businesses to have them offer students discounts to increase awareness of all that downtown Keene has to offer, as well as taking advantage of the surrounding countryside: “If they could exploit that, yes we’re in the middle of nowhere, but that’s kind of cool because there’s a lot of things that you can do outside that can bring people in.”
Not everything about KSC’s brand is positive. The Keene Sentinel reported in an article published February 6, 2015, that former KSC President Anne Huot wrote a letter saying that the 2014 Pumpkinfest riots had damaged KSC’s reputation.
Holeman said that while the riots are indeed a part of the college’s history, it’s important to move on from the past:
“We’re going to stay focused on the future, and the current students that we have, many if not most of them were not here then, so it’s not something that they were aware of. So we will be looking at how we support the community and how we focus on getting students to volunteer and support the community, and students can be part of that festival and I think that’ll be an important way to do it.”
Holeman said that a goal for his department is to develop an enrollment strategy that not only benefits KSC and its denizens, but also to attract students from all demographic, socio-economic, and academic backgrounds:
“Very generally speaking, that’s the focus first and foremost, is to develop an enrollment strategy that allows us to strategically recruit the right mix of students. In time what we’ll do is we’ll set a specific goal, a numbered goal, that says this is the specific of how many we want to recruit to continue to allow the college to grow over time.”
“Part of what I really appreciated about Jeff when I interviewed him was that he wanted to help write the future story for Keene State. The value of a liberal arts institution, a public liberal arts institution specifically in today’s world, and he’s the right person to do it,” Treadwell said.
Holeman said that ever since he first arrived in Keene he has been receiving positive feedback and support from the greater Keene community regarding both himself with his new title and for the college itself.
“That has been very comforting to me to know that there’s such great support in the community and I really appreciate everything that I’ve been hearing from others and its a daily encounter for me, whenever I tell anyone who I am and what I do, it makes me feel like I made the right choice,” Holeman said.
Vincent Moore can be contacted at