International Partners and Leaders (IPALs) is a student group under the International Office at the University of Cincinnati (UC International). I initiated 10+ in-depth interviews with members from 10 countries to improve student engagement and paired it with a digital marketing campaign that improved the organization’s branding and outreach across campus.
Qualitative User Research
Lack of Feedback System
The staff at UC International organizes programs for IPALs and other international students without collecting their feedback on recurring events and activities. This doesn’t help with improving the programming and quality of the services.
Unclear Positioning on Campus
IPALs is one of the very few student groups that promotes international cultures and has high engagement rate and comprehensive leadership programming. Yet it was unable to publicize its value propositions and position itself clearly.
Low Awareness on Campus
IPALs is an amazing student group that all members speak highly of, yet not many people on campus have heard about it. A boost in the organization’s branding would help spread international culture and D&I initiatives on campus.
Conducted 12 individual interviews with members who were graduating in May 2020. Due to COVID-19, all interviews were conducted via Zoom.
Interview questions cover the following topics:
- Feedback on detailed logistic arrangement
- Lasting memories
- Personal takeaways
- Suggestions for IPALs and UC International
- Upcoming plans
Every interview was recorded. The data was well–collected and important quotes were documented.
The Results & Impacts
Findings that Prompted Immediate Changes + Future Research
A comprehensive, well-organized report that covers feedback on logistic arrangements and process improvement was made and presented to my supervisors at UC International. We instantly made changes based on the interviewees’ suggestions and feedback:
1. We revamped the weekly newsletter layout to make it more concise and well-structured;
2. We improved the accessibility of the sign-up portal;
3. We set up a clear direction on our social media campaign and organization positioning.
View full report here.
My supervisors and colleagues were amazed by the findings. They encourage me to conduct such research regularly every semester.
Storytelling — Feature Articles
Every interviewee’s story was written into a short feature article and published in the internal weekly newsletter. Other members of the organization showed keen interest in the series and the stories received many positive feedback from the community. They enhanced the understanding and connections between all members.
Digital Campaign for IPALs Branding
Every interviewee was prompted to use one vocabulary to conclude their impressions or feelings towards the organization. A pithy version of their feature article and a customized visual were posted on IPALs’ Instagram for branding purpose. The #IPALsClassof2020 digital branding successfully gained traction for the account and set the organization up for success during Orientation week in August 2020.
1. Storytelling as the Key to Connect
Qualitative interviews may be time-consuming, but they allow the interviewer to take a deep dive into the interviewees’ personal world and perspectives. The data collected is more authentic and useful. The story write-ups are powerful tools to not only connect members and staff within the organization, but also the audience of our social media, or other students who may be interested in joining the organization in the future.
2. A Regular Feedback System is Needed
While this project focused on members who were graduating, the team realized that feedback from members across the board would be helpful in our future programing and logistic arrangements. Consistent interviews and surveys are needed to make sure what we are serving meet the students’ needs.