In the Spotlight: Jeff Kallay on Personalizing

Cofounder and CEO at Render Experiences

Render Experiences helps colleges and universities craft better campus visits and attract students who are well aligned with the institution’s enrollment goals. According to Jeff Kallay, CEO and Co-founder, he has the greatest job in the world because he’s paid to tour colleges—places focused on the future, where young people thrive, transform, and become good citizens.

Why the campus visit?

Jeff Kallay (JK): You know the saying, “I just visited, and it felt right.” When you say “yes” to a university, you’re making an intimate buying decision—you’re going to eat, sleep, learn, get sick, and even get naked there. You need to choose carefully. Selecting a college is not about buying a building; it’s about buying a slice of a community. So engaging with many members of the community during a campus visit is crucial.

What does the principle of Personalizing mean to you and your work?

JK: For a long time, Personalization in our work often meant “what is your major?” and clustering students into preset groups that met existing criteria. I don’t agree with that. I believe Personalizing the campus visit should be persona matched—such as if you are an entrepreneur, an activator, a do-gooder, or a social butterfly. This approach would mean that prospective students would find the five campus elements you must see or the three people you should meet based on what you told us your preferences were. But no one in higher ed is willing to invest in this kind of Personalization—yet.

That said, there are universities making great strides. For example, Hendrix College, a small, quirky liberal arts college in the South, invites prospective students to customize their visit through their website, selecting which class to attend and who to engage with. Students are welcomed to campus with a Personal parking space including a sign with their name and “class of 20XX” on it. If they take their sign, they are rewarded with a secret message on the back and admissions knows they are interested. Students also receive a “loaner backpack” filled with pencils, pens, water, and a notebook. They sign a contract that says they’ll take notes, engage, and stay for the whole class. That notebook becomes a visual identifier that you’re one of us. Every step and interaction is about engaging with the community. Will the prospective student want to be a part of that community? How did they feel there?  

What advice do you have for our health care leaders eager to make health care better?

JK: In health care, you are labeled by your health issue. You’re the cancer patient, HIV patient, pregnant mother. It’s the same way we label majors, and its depersonalizing and dehumanizing. A student is asked five times on the tour what their hometown is and what their major will be. Why haven’t we solved for this? Why don’t we already know the answer? Everyone is afraid to ask questions of their guests.

When I am in the waiting room, why do you yell my name? You probably have my photo on record or know the color of my shirt based on when I checked in. Why not walk up to me, shake my hand, and greet me by name. That would make me feel special, seen, and acknowledged.

It really all comes down to how you make the person feel. What the Intention for Personalizing is and how you go about Staging the Experience to achieve it. Patients and families need to know the why you are asking for the data and what part it will play in the process. Be transparent and open. Acknowledge patients as human—someone in need of care. See each person’s individual humanity and Personality. Find the Connections you can make today to make it Personal.