In This Issue
- PharmD Admissions Update
- SoP Employee Sessions on Round 2 Furloughs Planned in December
- SoP Wellbeing Survey Update
- New Advertising Creative and Marketing Campaigns for PharmD Program Launched
- PharmSci Professor Tim Bugni Publishes in Science
- PharmSci Grad Students Win AAPS Student Chapter Award
- SAS Professor Michelle Chui and Associate Professor Olayinka Shiyanbola Lead NIH’s Building Up Program for UW ICTR
- PharmSci Grad Student Dacheng Fan Named ICBS 2020 Trainee Presentation Award Winner
- CDC/IDSA Webinar Features PPD Professor Mary Hayney as a Panelist
- SoP Salute: Amanda Watter
Get to Know SoP
PharmD Admissions Update
PharmD applications are pacing significantly better than last year, but projected class size may not meet enrollment target
After a bruising admissions cycle last year, the SoP is showing some signs of recovery in the current 2020-2021 PharmD admissions cycle. As of November 12, the SoP is pacing 48% higher in verified PharmD applications, and the number of accepted offers at this time increased 81% over last year. In addition, the UW–Madison campus is currently the second highest producer of applicants to pharmacy schools, generating 76 applicants so far. As of mid-November, the SoP has captured 97% of PharmCAS applications submitted by UW students.
Looking at the larger trend, while PharmD applications to the SoP are pacing significantly better than last year (2019-2020), the number of SoP applications in the current cycle (2020-2021) remains lower than the 2018-2019 admissions cycle. “I expect applications to increase over last year (2019-2020) but still be less than the 2018-2019 year,” says Jeremy Altschafl, Assistant Dean for Recruitment and Admissions. “Our yield will be very important. At this time last year, we had 55 accepts, and this year we have 100 accepted offers. I expect some attrition from this group of 100 and still anticipate that our PharmD Class of 2025 to be smaller than the 10-year average of 134 based on in-progress applicant data.”
Nationally, the number of people applying to pharmacy school continues to shrink precipitously, declining each year since 2013 with last year seeing the worst decrease at nearly -9% and this year showing worsening trends at -17% drop in individual applicants nationally as of November 2. Beginning in 2010, the pharmacy school application landscape started a negative slide in total PharmCAS applications nationwide. The national application trends began cratering in 2017 with a -20% decline in total applications submitted, followed by another -15% decrease in 2018, and nearly -17% last year in 2019. For this current cycle, PharmCAS is reporting -7% decrease in submitted applications to pharmacy schools nationally this year, as of November 2.
“The Enrollment Task Force, Admissions Committee, SAA Office, and Marketing, among many others, have done a remarkable job helping the SoP adapt to the emerging national crisis in PharmD applications,” says Dean Steve Swanson. “Our PharmD application submission numbers this cycle are headed in the right direction thanks to their hard work. While we may not meet our target class size again this year, significant progress has been made, which I greatly appreciate!”
Strong yield is critical
Yield refers to the number of applicants who are offered admission that actually accept the admission offer. A factor affecting yield this year is greater competition — more students are expected to receive multiple offers of admission. Although fewer applicants are applying to pharmacy schools, those applicants are applying to more schools this year, with the mean number of PharmCAS applications per applicant edging up by 0.7%.
“With more pharmacy schools nationwide holding PharmD admissions interviews mostly virtually due to COVID-19, applicants have been applying to more schools on average this cycle. Interviewing virtually requires less time and money resources, making it easier for applicants to apply to additional programs,” says Jannelle Frey, PharmD Admissions Coordinator. “We are already seeing an increase in the number of additional offers our accepted students have received. This may impact yield negatively.”
Among the many yield strategies in place at SoP, the biggest tool is scholarships, which the School received central campus funding for general recruitment and the Advanced Opportunity Program (AOP) scholarships designed to assist underrepresented and first-generation students.
“At this time, $240,000 in campus-level admissions scholarships have been awarded to currently accepted students, and $53,000 in AOP and donor scholarships have been awarded based on need and other donor criteria,” says Frey. “We offered campus-level admissions scholarships to those who we felt may decline our offer of admission in an effort to improve yield. All declined offers received substantial scholarship offers as well, which indicates that we had a good sense of who may decline our offer.
“We will continue to monitor accepts throughout the cycle and use recruitment scholarships as a method to increase our admission-offer to matriculation yield. Additional donor and AOP scholarships also will be awarded to currently accepted students based on need and merit as we move deeper into the cycle,” adds Frey.
Early Decision helps yield
Early Decision applicants can apply to only one pharmacy school, and they commit to that pharmacy school if they receive an admission offer. This year, the SoP saw an increase of 120% in Early Decision applications with 86 versus 39 last year. Of the 100 accepts at SoP thus far, 78 applicants are Early Decision, who are essentially committed to attending the SoP in Fall 2021.
However, Early Decision won’t be available in the next admissions cycle (2021-2022). The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) began phasing out Early Decision this year, making the current 2020-2021 admissions cycle the final year for Early Decision.
“Some pharmacy schools are not participating in Early Decision this year, so there is a trend for national application submissions to be pushed back a bit. The SoP Admissions Committee decided to maintain Early Decision to be consistent with many of our Big Ten peers that were keeping Early Decision for one more year,” says Altschafl. “Without Early Decision next year, it will be more challenging to forecast PharmD enrollment.”
By the Numbers: Accepted Offers
Among the 100 students who accepted SoP’s admissions offer:
- 78% Early Decision
- 20% Students of color, 12% URM (underrepresented minorities)
- 18% First-generation
- 68% Female
- 70% Wisconsin residents, 9% Minnesota, 20% out of state, 1% international (Korea)
- Average GPA: 3.53
- Average PCAT: 77% PCAT (33/100 submitted scores)
- Primary Undergraduate College:
- 55 UW–Madison
- 18 UW System (Green Bay, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Platteville, Stevens Point, Whitewater)
- 4 Other Wisconsin Colleges
- 1 International College
- 22 Non-Wisconsin Colleges/Universities
Thus far, 138 applicants have interviewed virtually in this cycle. The application deadline is February 1, 2021.
“After a significant increase in applications early in the cycle, we experienced a sluggish October and November. However, we expect an increase in application volume once we get into December,” says Altschafl.
SoP Employee Sessions on Round 2 Furloughs Planned in December
The SoP Business Office will be holding employee sessions in December to review the logistics of the new campus-wide furloughs that begin in January of 2021 and our School’s plan for implementation. These sessions will be similar to sessions that we held in May where we explained the specifics around how furlough days will be taken and to cover questions from SoP faculty and staff.
Dates and times for these sessions will be finalized in the coming weeks, please keep an eye out for information in an email soon.
For the most up-to-date information on round two furloughs, please review the UW–Madison Office of Human Resources’ Furlough Information web page.
SoP Wellbeing Survey Update
The SoP community was invited to complete the SoP Wellbeing Survey in October with the goal of providing a picture of our community’s wellbeing, as decision-making bodies explore opportunities to address issues in our School.
Results are being reviewed by the Committee on Academic Staff Issues (CASI), the Dean’s Advisory Council (DAC), and the SoP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Survey outcomes will be shared with the community on a rolling basis, starting in December and January.
Open to faculty, staff, grad students, and postdocs, 91 employees took the SoP Wellbeing Survey between October 19 and October 26. The survey had an overall 29% participation rate, which included representation across audiences:
- 43% (23/54) of Faculty
- 35% (37/106) of Staff
- 9% (4/45) of Postdocs
- 25% (27/107) of Grad Students
As a whole, our School community reported a high level of wellbeing. However, there are signs of distress. Issues that were captured in the 2018 Climate Survey persist, including a need to address racism and foster a more inclusive environment for our community members of color. Other themes included the need for mental health resources and work-life balance, in addition to addressing work-related stress.
The survey results will help guide future action to help build more equity and inclusion, as we continue to make progress in making the SoP a nurturing place for everyone. Thank you to the survey respondents for taking part in shaping our workplace.
New Advertising Creative and Marketing Campaigns for PharmD Program Launched
SoP Marketing resources are primarily dedicated to marketing and promoting the PharmD program, with paid advertising, inbound marketing, and owned social media in the comprehensive media strategy. During previous enrollment cycles, the paid advertising spend was split across the “enrollment funnel” — from the top of the funnel of potential students who are unaware of pharmacy as a career through the bottom of the funnel of prospects who are exploring PharmD programs and those who are ready to apply to pharmacy school.
With limited advertising funds, paid media shifted this year to focus solely on consideration and conversion, the lower part of the enrollment funnel. “Growing the category or increasing the number of people interested in a pharmacy career through paid advertising would require significant funds over a sustained long-term period,” says Alyson Kim, Associate Dean for Marketing & Communications. “Given the immediate enrollment challenges and constrained media budget, we needed to pivot and focus on conversion with more weight in media tactics devoted to lower funnel strategies.”
Paid Advertising Gets Refresh
SoP advertising is highly targeted by age, geography/location, education, declared major, field of study, and web site behaviors. The media plan has generated more than 12 million impressions, over 42,000 clicks, and over 3,000 conversions (taking the desired action) to date this year.
Since consumers tend to tire of the same ads, campaigns were refreshed with new creative for banner display ads that appear on web sites where our target audience is reading and retargeting ads that deliver a follow-up ad after the prospect visits certain PharmD pages on the SoP web site. Key messages are based on the brand discovery research conducted in 2018 with prospective and current PharmD students.
Chris LaScala, Assistant Director of Marketing, led the two-wave refresh across display, paid social, retargeting, and native advertising campaigns. In May 2020, prior to the opening of PharmCAS in July, new display and social ads on Facebook and Instagram ran that subtly acknowledged the pandemic and reinforced pharmacists as healthcare heroes while touting program quality and student outcomes. Starting in September after Early Decision closed, a new round of creative updates to ads were launched.
This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.
May Display Refresh
May Paid Social Refresh
For paid social ads, Facebook carousel and static ads and Instagram Stories were also refreshed.
September Display Refresh
September Paid Social Refresh
Social retargeting campaigns are driving media performance with more than 1,500 conversions, accounting for half of all conversions to date this year.
September Native Advertising Refresh
Native advertising is sponsored ads that mimic the editorial environment of a publication as related stories or suggested stories. This campaign was optimized with higher performing stories and updated visuals.
Story themes focused on curriculum innovation (e.g., Pharmacy OTM named option), interprofessional learning, and student outcomes (e.g., residency match).
Click on the ad to “Read More”.
January 2021 Push - Display Retargeting
Beginning in January until SoP’s application deadline of February 1, 2021, retargeting display ads will switch over to application deadline messaging for prospects who visited the PharmD Application Process page.
The second highest source of conversions for SoP is Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or paid search with Google Adwords. Due to budget, search campaigns are limited to a lower share of voice than ideal. However, our search campaigns are “always on”, meaning SoP will maintain a presence in relevant Google searches year-round. Search ads are triggered based on SoP’s list of more than 450 keywords —terms most likely to be searched by prospective students.
After paid media directs traffic to the SoP web site, inbound marketing efforts on the web site aim to turn that prospect into a lead for SoP via Request For Information (RFI) forms, gated downloadable guides and PharmD viewbook, and event registrations that capture a prospect’s information. Email marketing based on what we know about the student is essential in nurturing their interest in the PharmD program.
This year, Chris LaScala led the development of a new email campaign with the Recruitment & Admissions team to nurture prospects who request information (RFI) from SoP. In the RFI campaign, prospective students who indicated interest in SoP receive monthly emails about PharmD admissions, curriculum innovation, alumni success, and student achievement.
RFI email performance consistently exceeds education industry benchmarks for open rate and click through (CTR) — average 47% SoP open rate versus 23% benchmark, and average 7% SoP CTR versus 3% benchmark. See some of the best-performing emails:
College Advisors & High School Counselors
Another new email campaign and downloadable asset created this year is the Undergraduate Advisor Guide to help college advisors at any institution advise their pre-pharmacy students. A High School Counselor Guide and accompanying email campaign are coming next.
Current email campaigns are constantly optimized, with refreshes of the Application Start campaign that encourages prospects to start their PharmD application (4 Early Decision emails, 4 Regular Admission emails) and the Application Complete 11-email campaign to remind applicants to finish and submit their application. See examples of these campaigns:
- PharmCAS Opening #2
- Application Start – Early Decision #1
- Application Start – Regular Admission #3
- Application Complete – Early Decision #3
- Application Complete – Regular Admission #2
Another important campaign started last year and to be optimized for this year’s cycle is the PharmD yield 5-email campaign to encourage applicants offered admission to accept the offer or matriculate. A different yet vital yield email campaign partners with Undergraduate Admissions to engage UW applicants with an interest in pharmacy or PharmTox as a major to accept their undergraduate UW admissions offer.
Other email campaigns include:
- Event emails (e.g., Career Exploration Day, PharmD Open House, Application Workshop, Mock Interviews)
- Pharmacy career guide 5-email series
- PharmD viewbook 4-email series
Working with Undergraduate Admissions, a dedicated PharmD message is part of the UW undergraduate email campaign for any contact that selects the academic interest areas of Medical Professions or Lab Sciences on the UW Undergraduate Admissions request for information (RFI) form.
Owned Social Media
SoP remains strategic and active with our own social media platforms, primarily targeting prospective students with SoP Instagram and SoP YouTube. Katie Gerhards, Assistant Director of Content Marketing, leads SoP’s social media presence and has grown the School’s Instagram platform across key metrics in impressions, engagement, and follower growth. SoP Instagram showcases PharmD student life and promotes the PharmD program.
SoP became the first among our peers to launch an IGTV channel (Instagram TV) that covers prospective student questions about pharmacy careers, pharmacy school, and the application process. In FY 2020, IGTV videos garnered more than 2,000 views. Other areas of innovation include the use of Instagram Stories and Instagram takeovers by PharmD students, such as during the White Coat Ceremony.
SoP’s YouTube channel continues to show viewership growth as more content is added. The channel had more than 33,000 views to date in 2020, with nearly half of the traffic in views coming from YouTube search and YouTube’s suggested videos. Top watched videos include the alumni pharmacy career series, PharmD student testimonials, and Rennebohm Hall virtual tour, along with the videos on Zeeh Station hand sanitizer, HSRP program, and Commencement.
To: Amanda Watter, Housing Network Coordinator
From: Andrea Porter, PPD Associate Professor and Director of Pharmacotherapy Laboratories
“Amanda has been instrumental in tracking the completion of community outreach hours for our current second-year students that carried over from their first year. When things shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19, many first-year students were unable to complete their community outreach hours as part of their IPPE course.
“Amanda took the lead in tracking the student completion of these hours, making sure they were all recorded appropriately in multiple systems. Since this was out of the normal cycle, this added to her normal workload. Amanda’s responsiveness and attention to detail made the process go very smoothly.
“As of October 15th, all students have completed these hours! Thank you for all that you did for our students!”
Photo Gallery: Halloween Costumes
Pet Lovers Corner
Pet Parent: Taylor Watterson, HSRP grad student
Pets: Charlie and Winnie
Promotions/Change in Appointment
Dustin Frost, postdoc Research Associate in the Li Lab, appointed to a new position as Assistant Scientist with PharmSci Professor Lingjun Li and the Li Lab, on November 1.
Xingchen Dong, Postdoc Research Associate with PharmSci Assistant Professor Ting Fu and the Fu Lab, on November 1.
Xingchen Dong joins the School of Pharmacy from the Biochemistry Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned his PhD in August 2020. During his PhD career in Dr. Lin-feng Chen’s lab, he first studied the mechanism by which the epigenetic regulator BRD4 controls the gastric cancer cell cycle arrest and cell senescence. Notably, BRD4 inhibitors have been studied extensively in clinical settings to restrict tumor progression. Later, his focus switched to innate immunity where he deciphered the critical role of BRD4 in multiple inflammasome activation in macrophages in response to diverse foreign stimuli.
Now joining Dr. Fu’s lab at the SoP, he will focus on dissecting the essential role of the nuclear receptor Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) in restricting colitis-associated colorectal cancer (CRC). In the AOM/DSS-induced colitis and CRC model, the treatment of AOM/DSS causes severe colitis- and cancer-associated phenotypes, including the disrupted bile acids profile, the enhanced immune cell infiltration and cytokine secretion, and the elevated serum carcinogenesis markers and the tumor formation. More importantly, the occurrence of colitis and CRC upon AOM/DSS treatment is accompanied by the decreased FXR signaling, which has been implicated in restraining CRC in another APCmin/+ mice model.
Therefore, Dong will aim at:
- Examining if the activation of FXR signaling by its agonists could reverse these phenotypes caused by the AOM/DSS-induced colitis and CRC.
- Investigating the mechanism by which the FXR signaling suppresses the colitis-induced CRC, and could be used as a new therapeutic target for the treatment of CRC.
Rolando Avilés-Reyes, Assistant Scientist with PharmSci Professor Jeff Johnson and the Johnson Lab, on November 16.
Avilés-Reyes rejoins the SoP from Johns Hopkins Medicine, where Avilés-Reyes was as a Postdoctoral Researcher. Previously, Avilés-Reyes was a Research Associate and Postdoctoral Fellow with the Johnson Lab at the School of Pharmacy. Earlier in Avilés-Reyes’ career, Avilés-Reyes worked as a Research Scientist at SENESCYT in Ecuador.
Avilés-Reyes earned a PhD in neurobiology and neurosciences from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, School of Bioanalysis in Quito.
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