On a typical day at the International Education Corporation (IEC) Service Center in Meza, AZ, Jesse Shikenjanski spends a large portion of his time focusing on analytics.
And, while these analytics are all important from an operational standpoint, Jesse says the secret to his daily and long-term success – to the entire team’s success – is a passion for who we help: people.
“The fact that we’ve touched as many people as we have and impacted so many lives is incredible,” he said. “But, there’s always room for more. I’m ready to do more.”
What Jesse is referring to are prospective students for schools that operate under the IEC umbrella. Members of the team at the Mesa Service Center are often the first representatives from United Education Institute (UEI), UEI College, Florida Career College (FCC), and U.S. Colleges to interact with future students, and they don’t take these interactions lightly.
After all, Jesse says, these are individuals from various backgrounds and walks of life who often reach out to IEC schools with the noblest of intentions: to improve their own futures and those of their family members by seeking education and career training.
It’s the job of the Mesa team to walk them through their options, answer their questions, help them work through potential concerns, then ultimately connect them with the admissions teams at their local UEI, FCC or U.S. Colleges campuses.
These efforts are critical in helping to optimize enrollment opportunities at each campus while shouldering much of prospect load for the schools. They’re also significant in the role they play in supporting the would-be student through one of the more significant decisions of her or his adult life.
“Our students come first,” said Jesse, manager of recruiting, training and analytics. “I was raised by a single mom who struggled to make ends meet at times. Knowing we can help folks so they don’t have to go through similar things is great. I love doing what we’re doing so we can help people make those changes.”
Establishing the Mesa Service Center
The IEC Mesa Service Center was established in 2019 by director of call center operations Paul Ruoti, who hired Jesse (who was the call center trainer at the time) and Heather Cluff to help him out.
IEC had previously outsourced the work of calling and connecting with potential students, but the company was underperforming. It lacked the culture, compassion and empathy Paul felt the job required to properly help people make serious, potentially life-changing decisions.
So he, Jesse and Heather created a system that was not only smarter in its utilization of technology, but which centered the team’s focus on where they felt it should have always been: on students and their individual needs.
“Right out of the gate, we wanted to convey the students come first,” Jesse said. “Our entire training curriculum is designed around that mindset – a mindset of student success.”
The new Mesa Service Center took its first call on Oct. 9, 2019. At the time, they had eight people on staff.
Today, the service center has grown to employ more than 110 people who support IEC campuses across the country in various capacities, from admissions, student finance and education to collections and registrar services.
“Everyone here had a contribution in getting us to where we are,” Paul said.
Making it All About the Students
Yet, through all the success, both Paul and Jesse said the team continues to bend over backwards to ensure everyone knows and understands exactly why they do what they do.
For starters, the center’s training room features 12 large photos of UEI, FCC and U.S. Colleges students working and studying in various classroom settings – a reminder of the people affected by the work they do. Managers strive to fill this training room with employees with a passion for people and service.
“It’s really all about hiring the right people,” Jesse said. “If we hire the right people, it’s not hard to succeed. The employees out on the floor right now have the same passion that we do. Together, we’re excited about these students and want them all to succeed.”
Daily huddles and regular training sessions ensure all employees are prepared, improving, and feel that they have a voice to contribute in improving the center’s efforts. This is especially important as each employee wants to ensure the people they speak with face few roadblocks as they strive to establish a new path in their lives.
“We understand how nerve-wracking it can be to go back to school for some of these students,” Jesse said. “Our goal is to get in contact with students while they’re still excited about it. We want to build on that excitement and share our excitement with them.”