Faculty-Recruiters Contribute to Enrollment Gains

By Lauren Jefferson | December 13th, 2018

Professor Jerry Holsopple ’80 holds a lens in front of a perspective student during a special campus visit program for local high school students.

WHENEVER THEY CAN, EMU admissions counselors connect prospective students with faculty members.

“Meeting a faculty member can make a difference, often swaying a student towards choosing EMU,” said counselor David B. Yoder ’14, sharing the story of one high school senior who wasn’t seriously considering EMU until the 2017 Honors and Scholarship Weekend when she met Professor Tara Kishbaugh. The two bonded over their common love of chemistry, Kishbaugh stayed in touch and encouraged her pre-professional interests, and the student eventually chose EMU.

Kishbaugh is one of several professors involved in the second year of a new EMU recruitment initiative. The model combines increased emphasis on faculty outreach and engagement with expanded scholarship opportunities for prospective students in five “focus programs” – education, engineering, music, visual and communication arts, and STEM.

The results are “really encouraging,” said Vice President of Enrollment Jim Smucker. Last year, applications were up 25 percent in those particular programs and the trend has continued through the current recruitment cycle, with predictions expected to exceed the previous mark.

Twenty-seven first-year students earned new departmental scholarships, with seven additional students joining a new STEM-focused curricular program created by EMU faculty and funded by a special National Science Foundation grant (the chemistry-lover is among this cohort). This first-year class of 204 is not only numerically larger than last year’s, but also arrives with higher average GPA and SAT/ACT scores.

Faculty are key to recruitment efforts in a very competitive higher education landscape, Smucker said. The new initiative sets aside workload time for select professors to generate on- and off-campus programming, lead scholarship selection committees, and engage with prospective students through personal outreach such as phone calls and emails.

“We know that recruiting is a relational endeavor and that faculty are important and influential contributors to a student’s vision of what they hope the college experience will be,” Smucker said. “Developing a relationship with a professor even before arriving on campus can be a reason that a student makes a choice between EMU and another school.”

Outreach has taken innovative forms. Here’s a sampling: Esther Tian creates opportunities for her engineering students to talk about projects and answer questions in high school classrooms and at several open house events.

Steven David Johnson has critiqued AP Art student portfolios and held workshops for high school students. Music professor David Berry and education professor Paul Yoder ’06, MA ’11 (education) teamed up for a visit to Dock Academy in Pennsylvania. Yoder also set up a visit for high school students in two “Educators Rising” clubs; the students attended an Intro to Teaching class and heard from a panel of current students. (He’s made similar efforts in collaboration with the nursing department.)

“Our faculty are special and accomplished professionals with much to share about their fields of expertise,” Smucker said. “These outreach efforts in local schools and in Mennonite schools enhance our reputation, showcase our rigorous academic programs, and help to spread the word about the mission and values of the EMU community.”

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