Students chatting in a campus store

Elevating Higher Education: Reflecting on Follett’s Strategic Evolution 

February 15, 2024

By Emmanuel Kolady, CEO, Follett Higher Education

Staying ahead in higher education means not just adapting, but leading with purpose and vision. Since joining the Follett Higher Education team two years ago, our team has embarked on a journey to connect course materials and collegiate retail more deeply to the academic journey at the more than 1,000 campuses we serve.

At this two-year milestone for our leadership team, I’m excited to reflect on our achievements and our ongoing commitment to enhancing the higher education journey for the campuses and students we serve.

Unlocking Opportunities through Access Growth

Texas State Access program launch - beginning of a new higher education journeyImproving equity and outcomes in higher education is essential for promoting economic mobility and building a workforce capable of addressing the challenges of the future, which is why I’m proud to be a part of Follett’s Inclusive and Equitable Access programs. Since 2022, we have expanded our Access programs to over 400 campuses. Take, for example, the Charger Bookpass program at Cypress College, which expands the potential for student affordability programs by incorporating lower-cost course materials with food and transportation vouchers to remove critical barriers to degree attainment. This is a tremendous example of how schools support the whole student from their first day on campus by having convenient access to the resources they need.

Additionally, we’ve invested in improving student data privacy and ease of access, highlighted by our partnership with Willo Labs, which has revolutionized how students access course materials. Willo Labs’ unified LMS integration makes course material access codeless and secure, so students can get the materials they need more easily–and faculty have the peace of mind that students are coming to class prepared. Through these investments in technology and data security, we’re not only advancing access to education but also safeguarding the integrity of the learning experience for students.

Redefining the Campus Store Experience

GW Opening DayThe campus store is more than just a place to purchase course materials; it’s a vital part of the student experience. We aim to create an immersive environment that engages the entire campus community through experiential retail, dynamic events, innovative pop-up shops, and thoughtful localization strategies.

Our recent renovation at George Washington University is a great example: we transformed a once-hidden basement store into a vibrant, flagship destination that has become a model for campus bookstores nationwide. By fostering a sense of belonging and community, we are working to enhance the overall student experience and elevate campus pride for all members of the campus community, from prospective students to alumni and fans.

Additionally, with the launch of “Elevate U” on our partner campuses last year, we’ve taken a significant step towards nurturing the whole student by incorporating a collection of wellness and self-care products into the store experience. This initiative brings mindfulness tools, stress management resources, and self-care essentials directly to the campus community, fostering an environment where mental well-being is prioritized alongside academic success.

Expanding Our Horizons

Our partnership with Dyehard has ushered in a new era of team spirit, significantly expanding our potential for college athletics support. By offering an expanded selection of high-quality, officially licensed merchandise and hosting great game day events, we’re delivering a top-notch fan experience in more ways than ever. From the electrifying atmosphere of the recent University of Montana’s FCS Championship pep rally to celebrating team pride with the right gear, our collaboration with Dyehard ensures that students, alumni, and fans have access to meaningful ways to support their teams and celebrate their school’s heritage.

Custom Solutions for Every Need

In the last year alone, more than 850 campuses have leveraged Follett On Demand to connect students, faculty, alumni, and fans with campus culture through personalized merchandise. Through our first-annual HBCU t-shirt design contest, we empowered students to put their creativity on display in our stores by creating apparel that celebrates the unique spirit and heritage of their campuses. This contest, and others like it on individual campuses, fosters a deep sense of community and pride and highlights our commitment to offering products that resonate with the dynamic interests and identities of each individual campus.

Innovation at the Forefront

This year, we’re rolling out a large-scale update to our Point of Sale system. This enhancement is set to dramatically elevate the shopping experience in our campus stores, ensuring transactions are not only swift and seamless, but also enriched with the personal touch that today’s consumers expect. This enhancement will enable our stores to quickly fulfill multiple orders in a one-step process, contributing to greater customer satisfaction and increasing operational efficiency.

Campus United at ASUAdditionally, our partnerships with industry leaders like The Container Store and Lululemon show our commitment to enriching campus lifestyle with brands students know and love. These partnerships offer products that resonate with the modern student’s needs for organization, style, and well-being. Alongside these offerings, we introduced our own Campus United line to offer classic campus looks for less. Featuring a timeless, comfortable style, Campus United offers officially licensed merchandise at everyday low prices to ensure every student, parent, and fan can celebrate campus pride.

One Team, Driven by Purpose

At Follett Higher Education, our purpose-driven culture is centered around inspiring, enabling, and celebrating the academic journey. This commitment extends beyond our work to address course materials affordability and support campus pride. We’re also dedicated to doing our part to advance environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. Just as higher education acts as a cornerstone for building a brighter future by empowering students with knowledge and skills, a concerted focus on ESG serves as the scaffolding for a sustainable and thriving global future.

As part of our commitment to reducing our environmental impact and advancing sustainability, we’ve implemented changes to promote environmental responsibility and social well-being. Our efforts have led to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions from shipments, exceeding industry averages. Additionally, we’ve partnered with GreenPlaces, the all-in-one sustainability platform, to promote sustainable practices across our business. This will allow us to measure our carbon footprint, identify opportunities for emissions reduction, and promote sustainability at the campuses we serve. By aligning our business practices with our ESG mission, we’re making a meaningful impact on the environment and the communities we serve. 

As I look back on the transformative journey of the past two years, I’m filled with pride, for the impact we’ve made on millions of students and for all that our team has accomplished. I’m also filled with optimism for the future. Together with the campuses we serve and our partners, we’ve reimagined the role campus retail plays in student success. Our strategic advancements have set a new course for Follett Higher Education and reaffirmed our role as a catalyst for positive change in the broader higher education landscape. 

Learn more about how Follett is elevating the campus experience at every stage of the academic journey.