Landing the Class

An Analysis of Innovative Enrollment Strategy and Leadership during the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Delonte LeFlore University of Cincinnati
  • Aleque Novesl University of Cincinnati
  • Everrett Smith University of Cincinnati



strategic enrollment management, access, affordability, college readiness, urban, higher education


The devastation of COVID-19 substantively impacted enrollment opportunities for colleges and universities in the United States. Many higher education institutions responded to the crises by moving students off campus, enacting furloughs, increasing tuition, and appealing to their state and federal legislators for financial resources. At the University of Cincinnati (UC), critical considerations for campus leadership were how to best stabilize enrollment and resources and what needed to take place to ensure that underrepresented students were not lost in the process. Disparities exist in how the pandemic affects people of color and people from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. That, undoubtedly, was true for many of UC’s students and their families from historically underserved backgrounds. UC launched a strategic initiative called Landing the Class to address enrollment concerns. The effort, which this article features, discusses how UC used innovative strategy and planning to address its enrollment challenges during the pandemic. Using a variety of institutional and national data, we provide an analysis of the extent to which the Landing the Class initiative was influential in helping the university reach its enrollment goals and implications for higher education leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Author Biographies

Delonte LeFlore, University of Cincinnati

Delonte J. LeFlore (he, him, his) is a higher education practitioner and educator with almost 10 years of experience in recruitment and retention initiatives, enrollment management, cultural diversity, and student affairs. Currently, Delonte serves as Co- Interim Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Admissions and Director of Recruitment & Outreach at the University of Cincinnati. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Studies with a concentration in Educational Policy and Higher Education. Delonte's area of research includes recruitment, retention, student success, and strategic enrollment management. Delonte holds a B.A. from Northern Illinois University and an M.A. E.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Aleque Novesl, University of Cincinnati

Aleque Novesl is the Director of Special Projects in the Office of the President at the University of Cincinnati. In her role, she manages a wide range of responsibilities, including external relations and outreach, digital media, event management, and research support for university-wide initiatives. Before her role at UC, Aleque worked in the Office of the President at the University of Louisville. She completed her master’s in human resources and organizational development. She then served in various capacities within the office, including Director of the Commission of the Status of Women and Commission on Diversity and Racial Equality and Executive Assistant to the President. In addition to her role in the Office of the President, Aleque is currently studying higher education policy and administration in the Educational Studies doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati.

Everrett Smith, University of Cincinnati

Dr. Everrett A. Smith serves as an Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Program Coordinator of Educational Leadership in the School of Education at the University of Cincinnati.

Dr. Smith’s research contributes to the understanding of the factors that influence financial and governance decisions in higher education. This includes exploring trustee, faculty, and student involvement in the governance process, as well the policy, financial, and political decision-making at institutional and state levels. Most recently, his research has focused on the community college and the financial and governance elements of these institutions as they provide access to postsecondary education.

Previously, Smith served as Director of Assessment for the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Arkansas and worked in student affairs and enrollment management at Christian Brothers University. He also served as a public school Spanish teacher in the Memphis City School system. He was a Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Award recipient and completed his interdisciplinary doctoral studies in public policy specializing in higher education policy at the University of Arkansas. He is a native of Memphis, Tennessee.


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