East Carolina University is a public university with more than 23,000 undergraduates and 15,000 applicants each year. ECU came to Mainstay (formerly AdmitHub) in 2019 as part of GEAR UP NC‘s initiative to automate personalized conversations with students interested in North Carolina public universities — particularly those in rural and low-income areas.

ECU’s project managers in the admissions office mentioned to the Mainstay team that they were extremely busy responding to repetitive, transactional student questions. They wanted to decrease the number of FAQ-related calls that they received in the admissions office, so they could focus on connecting with students personally for conversations that require face-to-face interaction.

In July 2018, ECU launched their new chatbot “Pee Dee” to interact with students through SMS text messaging. This new addition helped enhance their communications strategy with conversational, student-centric messages and nudge campaigns featuring relevant, timely information. 

After using Pee Dee for 2 months (July 2 – August 31, 2018), phone calls to the admissions office decreased 13.4% — from  8,492 to 7,357in the same time period the previous year. Estimating 3 minutes per phone call, that’s more than 170 staff hours saved!

This increased capacity allowed the admissions office to spend that time connecting with students on more complex situations, visiting high schools, and attending events where they could help students in person.

Here’s a look at a real interaction, where a student asked a question and received immediate, accurate responses in real-time. 



In 2020, ECU set a new goal of increasing the number of completed applications. Through a partnership with Mainstay, ECU reached (and surpassed) their initial goal — receiving more than 20,000 applications for the 2020 – 2021 academic year. In addition, ECU saw an increase of 147 enrolled students compared to the previous year