Valdosta State University is committed to creating meaningful and personal connections with each and every student, even during a pandemic. Ryan Hogan, Director of Admissions, realized there was a pressing need to frequently communicate with students and give them relevant and timely updates during times of uncertainty. In addition, Ryan’s team had ambitious goals to increase enrollment and retention rates after seeing a decline in these numbers over recent years.

The Admissions team achieved and exceeded its goals by leaning into an innovative and robust communication strategy. VSU partnered with Mainstay and deployed “Blaze,” an AI chatbot used to send proactive nudges and reminders to prospective and current students. It became clear that a key aspect of building relationships and staying connected with students is the ability to provide instant answers and timely information. 

By embracing this technology and preferred methods of communication, advising teams were able to simplify tasks that are often perceived as daunting to students, such as going through the financial aid process. 

This year, VSU experienced a record-breaking increase in first-year incoming students. The 2020 freshman class size was 2,687 students, an increase of over 1,000 students compared to the previous year (1,582 freshman students in 2019).


  1. There is a need to frequently communicate with students and give them the most up-to-date information, especially with so much change and uncertainty caused by COVID-19.
  2. VSU was experiencing a decrease in enrollment 
  3. Building a connection with students virtually and providing frequent updates