‘After Millennials’ lecture offers insight on different generations in the college search process

Laurel Deppen

Jeff Kallay, principal of Render Experiences, gave a talk Friday morning hosted by WKU’s division of Enrollment and Student Experience meant to help faculty and staff relate to Generation X parents and Generation Z students.

Render Experiences is a company that helps colleges improve their campus visits and student experience, Kallay said.

The focus of the talk “After Millennials” was how colleges can tailor their campus visits to appeal to parent Gen Xers and student members of Generation Z based on the Strauss-Howe generational theory.

“This new generation of students is not millennial, and for so long, higher ed has focused in and honed in on the student,” Kallay said. “And things have changed, and the parents today are aggressive and in charge.”

Kallay said generations can be defined by events that happened when they were children. He said members of Gen X started being born around John F. Kennedy’s assassination and came of age during multiple crises including the Vietnam War and Watergate.

“Generation X was probably raised in one of the most chaotic times in American history,” Kallay said.

Because of all of the “social upheaval,” Kallay said Gen X does not trust institutions. In the college tour setting, Kallay said these parents go in with an innate sense of distrust in the university, despite its credibility.

Kallay said the most asked question on a college visit is, “Is it safe?” The desire for safety is something inherent to both of the generations discussed in the talk.

Kallay explained the desire for safety has to do with the nature of both a Gen X parent and a Generation Z student.

For members of Generation Z, Kalley said they cling to safety because they grew up after 9/11 and the Columbine shooting. Though their generation has been noted as one of the physically safest because of the culture of fear, Kalley said they exhibit much higher levels of anxiety.

Kallay said that both generations are focused on projected outcomes, including what students and young alumni have achieved, and finances.

As opposed to their baby boomer counterparts, Kallay said Gen X parents are more focused on internships for their children and not on study abroad opportunities.

Jace Lux, the director of recruitment and admission, coordinated the event and said it’s good for faculty members to get a better understanding of the perspective of students from a different generation.

“I think Jeff helps to encourage us to rethink the way we approach our interactions with students and the services we provide to students,” Lux said. “Are we giving students what they really need or really want?”

Madonna May, a WKU alumna, has two children: one a millennial and one a member of Generation Z. She said it was interesting to see the differences in what each wanted out of a college and what she, as a parent, wanted for them.

May said she primarily wanted safety for her children but also wanted to make sure a college had plenty to offer them.

Kallay said that smaller schools like WKU should “own their greatness” and not compare itself to larger schools.

Features editor Laurel Deppen can be reached at 270-745-6291 and laurel. [email protected] Follow her on twitter at @laureldeppenwku.