Future of the Profession

A forward-looking initiative to design a stronger, healthier, and more sustainable campus housing profession.



Developing an Elevator Pitch

Campus housing and residence life departments must identify partners to develop business operations, enhance the community, provide efficiencies, and improve service. These partners may be found on campus, in the community, or within the larger campus housing industry and vendor community.

One of the outputs developed for strategic partnerships is to develop a template for housing and residence life professionals to use when developing annual reports and making presentations to campus administrators. This includes an annual report to educate internal and external partners on the highlights, trends, and accomplishments of HRL. Sometimes, there are opportunities outside of formal presentations. This can manifest itself during a meeting, in the hallway, or in a chance conversation with a campus colleague.

There are a variety of formal and informal opportunities to develop, cultivate, and maintain strategic partnerships. Having an ‘elevator pitch’ prepared for important campus groups can ensure that you are shaping the narrative in order to highlight the ways that housing and residence life contributes to their area and/or the campus in meaningful ways. This can (and should) include compelling data points, as well as anecdotal stories of powerful and positive interactions with students. 

Preparing an elevator pitch ahead of time allows for the sharing of information in both formal and informal settings. HRL professionals frequently give formal presentations to boards of trustees, campus leadership, the finance team and the campus facilities team, just to name a few. The informal conversations can happen with faculty, parents, and individual members of the previously mentioned groups. Anticipating these types of conversations and preparing for them can help consistently inform others about the positive role HRL plays within the campus community.

Resource Overview 

  • Once or twice a year, identify the people you need to prepare an elevator pitch. This could be a staff retreat or a staff meeting, depending on the size of an institution and the scope of interactions. In addition to the names, include the formal and/or informal interactions most likely to happen. This list could include (but is not limited to): 
    • University President/Chancellor
    • Vice President Finance
    • Vice President of Facilities
    • Provost
    • Deans/Department Heads
    • Influential Faculty
    • Athletic Director
    • Campus Architect
    • Parents
    • Development Office
    • Staff/Faculty Senate
  • Designate one staff member to be responsible for the important data points that are collected. To formalize the role and maintain consistency, incorporate this assignment into an existing position description. It can be in a shared folder or document, but make sure it is organized clearly so that it can be easily and quickly found. In addition to being the keeper of the data, have a conversation as a team on what is important on campus and center information about it. Be sure and use common language to ensure that everyone has the same meaning. 
  • Each year (and potentially each semester), schedule a meeting with the director of institutional research. Ask for a lesson (if needed) on how they gather information and what official statistics are reported both internally and externally. Request assistance on developing and articulating clearly the data points related to HRL.
  • Similarly, take time each month in a staff meeting (or send a recurring message) to document anecdotal interactions with students or positive stories that illustrate success stories. If you can take a quick video to add, that could provide an additional way to illustrate your pitch. Bonus: these can also assist when you develop an annual report each year.
  • Prepare a full annual report as well as a one-page summary in both print and digital form. Anticipate when it will be effective to provide a print copy and be prepared to highlight the most important component for that setting. Include a note in your email signature with a link to the information on your website, such as “Want to know more about our students? Here is a link to five fun facts.”
  • Work with the HRL marketing team, the institutional marketing team, or an approved third-party marketing firm to have a slide presentation prepared. When a formal presentation is scheduled, work backward to have the presentation complete and practice well in advance. Do not let those practice sessions be preempted on your calendar. Include a social media strategy.
  • Practice, practice, practice. This can be a fun activity for a staff meeting. Take 10 minutes and have staff work in pairs to simulate giving the elevator pitch in a variety of settings. What needs to be updated/changed/promoted? How can staff become more comfortable in highlighting values and accomplishments?


  • Discuss tangible data points regarding the benefits of students living on campus. This requires working with the institutional research office to capture the retention, grade point average, and matriculation rates of students living on and off campus. Be prepared to include data points in both formal and informal communication. Here is an illustration:
    • After official grade reports are released, highlight the GPAs of residential students versus non-residential students if this is higher. Make sure your team knows this information and can insert it into both formal and information interactions as appropriate. This is similar for retention rates, graduation rates, and any other metric that is a priority for the institution. In addition to the data, have a quick anecdote prepared about student X, that was homesick and had poor grades at midterms due to homesickness. Her RA sought her out and encouraged her to get involved with hall council. She became much happier and felt more connected to those on her floor. Her involvement led to her attending a session on academic resources that was presented to her hall council. She went to the writing center, received tips on interacting with her faculty members, and raised all her grades by the end of the semester.
  • Make sure everyone on the team knows occupancy and capacity data, including unit versus bed counts. Make all campus employees ambassadors by educating them on how room selection and assignments work, as these are common questions. People want students (including residential students) to be successful, so make sure they know that these are thoughtful processes. Be prepared to discuss challenges and successes in filling beds, giving you the opportunity to discuss the financial considerations related to a successful housing operation.
  • Be prepared for more in-depth conversations about the business operations. Understand the value that capital projects add to the overall housing program. If there are new constructions or major renovations occurring, be prepared to discuss the highlights, including costs, impact on the campus footprint, potential shifting or displacement of students, etc.  
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