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Why students don’t read your e-mails: A critical look at how university email communications guide or confuse students through the student experience and the COVID-19 pandemic
This paper examines the perception that ‘students don’t read e-mail’ through the execution and analysis of a comprehensive e-mail audit conducted by New York University’s Enrollment Management Marketing division from May 2019 through May 2020. By looking at the volume, content and quality of e-mail received from the university, we see how institutional messaging can either support or complicate the student experience. This research includes a human-processed dataset of all incoming e-mail communications received during the audit period, quantitative and qualitative analyses of the communications and focus group testimony from undergraduate students. We examine e-mail communications through both the everyday business of being a student and through high-stakes events like the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper illustrates that while volume should not be dismissed as an area of concern among university communicators, the underlying practices that cause e-mail to be ignored are more complex and demand a more strategic approach to studentfacing communications.
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Jenny Mcmahon is Director of Marketing for New York University’s (NYU’s) division of Enrollment Management. She leads the global marketing strategy for all of NYU’s undergraduate and high school programs, as well as enrollment communications for the undergraduate population of NYU, the largest private research university in the United States. Prior to joining NYU, Jenny’s experience was in broadcast news and television production, where she worked for major media organisations, including CNN in New York City and abroad. Jenny holds an MA in Global Communications from the American University of Paris and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business.