A #SHRM19 Interview with Aubrie Dunn, an Exhibitor From eCornell


By way of full disclosure, I did not conduct my interview with Aubrie Dunn from eCornell with journalistic neutrality. I have two degrees from Cornell (ILR ‘70, Law ‘73). I bleed BIG RED. But, to overcome my predisposition towards anything Cornell, I decided to pitch some tough questions at Aubrie to see if my Cornell bias was justified. I invite my readers to be the behind the plate umpire to see if I threw her any anything that was easy to hit out of the ballpark.

But, before I begin to bring on the heat, let me introduce you to Aubrie, eCornell's Director of Marketing Operations. In that role, Aubrie unites teams throughout eCornell to ensure swift and successful marketing and product launches geared towards delivering quality content with focus on student acquisition, engagement, and retention both for individual enrollments and corporate learning solutions. She also manages projects and resources covering all aspects of the customer journey. To accomplish that, Aubrie works with key stakeholders (within eCornell and across Cornell University campus) to set priorities and expectations for projects ranging from marketing, website, creative, events, partnerships, sponsorships, to new product launches in both the B2C and B2B realm. Aubrie was raised in the 1000 Islands in Northern New York State. She studied Integrated Marketing Communications and Economics at Ithaca College in Ithaca NY. Her career at eCornell started six and half years ago, the last four working remotely from Boston MA and Pittsburgh PA.

I started Aubrie’s telephone and email interview with a fast ball, high and inside. For the sake of my readers, I reminded Aubrie that when attendees at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition (#SHRM19) see that eCornell is a vendor, they may surmise that they can learn about eCornell on its website and decide that there are so many other booths that they can visit instead. So my question was: How do you convince conference attendees that there is real value in spending time at the eCornell booth and meeting you and your team in the booth—beyond what they can see on the eCornell website? To my surprise, Aubrie didn’t flinch from the pitch aimed right at her head. Instead, Aubrie stared me down and responded that visiting eCornell’s booth (#1647) at SHRM is a great opportunity to speak directly with expert staff and learning consultants who can help understand and define your needs (for yourself, a team, or entire organization) and identify the best program for you -- whether an existing professional certificate program or a custom-tailored executive education experience that may include blended learning pulling from elements of online coursework and in-person faculty working sessions. With over 150 corporate partners, our team works with organizations large and small every day and excels at helping companies craft solutions to meet their most urgent learning and development initiatives. Without going to the eCornell booth, attendees would not be able to see that for themselves.

Next, I tried to see if I could get Aubrie to swing at a curve ball off the outside corner. I thought it would be tough to respond to this question: If you were an attendee at #SHRM19 who came to the eCornell booth and decided to take an eCornell certificate program, how would you explain to your employer the value of eCornell so that your employer will approve your taking the eCornell program at the employer’s expense? But, instead of swinging at a bad pitch, Aubrie was unphased by my attempt to throw her off her game. She explained that the majority of companies today offer some form of tuition assistance and many would be happy to subsidize some or all of the cost of a certificate as part of your professional development and employee engagement initiatives—especially if you can make the case that it will pay off in your work. She suggested that it never hurts to ask your manager or your HR department if they are interested in helping you gain new skills that will benefit the organization. As for help in needing to convince your boss, Aubrie offered this pitch for you: Cornell University certificate programs help you (further) develop your edge by quickly gaining in-demand skills with short (but rigorous) two-week online courses. Students have the opportunity to learn directly from Cornell University faculty and industry experts, network with students across the globe, and earn a professional credential. Programs are flexible with your work schedule, affordable, and can be aligned to your organization’s existing initiatives so that you’re meeting both the company’s and your personal goals.

After that response, I realized that I couldn’t strike out Aubrie by getting her to swing at bad pitches. So I threw a dirty slider, low and away on the outside corner of the plate: What follow-up communication does eCornell have with Certificate recipients to ensure that eCornell is delivering the value that they expected they would receive from an eCornell education? Aubrie’s response was a home run over the left field wall. I knew Aubrie crushed it when she started her response with: eCornell operates with a student-first, lifelong learning mindset. She continued that during your student experience, you’ll receive various communications from your Enrollment Counselor, your Course Instructor, and a whole team dedicated 24/7 to supporting you with your studies. Each program leverages Net Promoter Score and Outcomes and Career surveys to rigorously measure the student experience and collect data that can be used to inform course updates. Aubrie concluded by mentioning that students who complete a professional certificate program through eCornell also have the opportunity to join a LinkedIn networking group to stay engaged.

Aubrie will be joined by a full team at the eCornell booth (#1647), including Jim Morris, Senior Vice President, Corporate Programs; Mark Dembo, Director of Corporate Programs; Robert Merlo, Director of Corporate Programs;Tim Hastings, Director of Corporate Programs; and Tom Lanzarone, Director of Corporate Programs


I will get to meet Aubrie in person, along with the rest of the eCornell team, when I live tweet from the eCornell booth early Monday afternoon. I hope I’ll also have the opportunity to meet some of you there.



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