By Jaci Schneider, Staff Writer
As Amber Wiard joined the many freshmen who flocked to campus two years ago amid the whirlwind of Welcome Week activity, she wondered, “Why am I here?”
For many students, such as Kathleen Spivey, sophomore chemistry major from College Station, the answer was easy. She came because her family attended; it wasn’t too close to home, but not too far, either.
But many students, like Wiard, sophomore mathematics education major from Livonia, Mich., remain unsure of why they chose the university.
The responsibility of getting students to ACU previously belonged to recruiters, who spend many hours trying to convince high school students that the university is the place to be. However, the recruiters were not always as effective as they hoped.
“The phone calls and letters really had no effect on why I chose to come here,” Spivey said.
In the past year, the recruiting office has undergone changes to improve recruiting. With the old system, students like Wiard and Spivey received letters and phone calls from paid recruiters and may have toured campus.
Students now are recruited in different ways, said Corey Patterson, director of admissions and recruiting.
In December, the office was incorporated into the newly created Office of University and Alumni Relations. Mark Lavender, Chris Campbell and Jacob Martin work to encourage alumni to get more involved in recruiting.
“They’re building an alumni army to help us recruit,” Patterson said.
Workers in University and Alumni Relations encourage alumni to take on a different aspect of recruiting that’s more personal, Patterson said. He said the old method of recruiting is still in place, but now more dimensions are involved.
One way alumni help is by writing letters, said Lavender, University Relations officer. The alumnus writes to a prospective student who is interested in the alumnus’ field.
“I believe prospective students want to hear from our alumni-why did they choose to attend ACU and what was their experience like,” Lavender said in an e-mail.
Wiard said this approach could have swayed her more.
“A personal letter like that might have had more of an effect on me and my decision,” Wiard said.
Another new recruiting tool is purple-and-white parties, where large groups of high school students meet with alumni and recruiters, Patterson said. Alumni help make guest lists for the parties, and the party is held at an alumnus’ home.
Last month a purple and white party took place in Tyler. Alumni and recruiters invited about 450 prospective students, Patterson said, and about 40 attended the party.
The recruiters’ main goal, Patterson said, is to get prospective students to campus, where current students are the real recruiters, he said.
“Anything we can do to get them to drive to campus-that’s where we want to show up,” Patterson said.
Showing off on campus worked for some students like Jessica Masters, junior English major from Tallahassee, Fla.
“Meeting the people and seeing the campus really made me think that ACU was the place I wanted to be,” she said.
Alumni now play a more important role in who is recruited, Patterson said. Previously, only recruiters visited schools and churches to find interested students, but now alumni do more.
“They are our eyes and ears to the youth groups at their home churches,” he said.
The alumni can gather youth lists and notice which students are playing well in sports and help personally recruit, Patterson said. And alumni involvement seems to be working.
“It targets the right students that already have some connection to ACU,” he said, “so we can get in and close the deal.”
Patterson said the office is seeing an improvement in the quality of those referred by alumni to ACU. And applicants and admissions are up, Lavender said.
Although no data are available yet to see if the new office and more alumni involvement are having a concrete effect on applicants’ interest, Patterson said the office has begun collecting data this year.
Even with the attention paid to recruiting, Patterson said he knows nothing is up to him.
“We trust that God will bring us the right people,” he said.
Students like Wiard, who said it took awhile to get adjusted at first, said she cannot imagine going to college anywhere but ACU.
“When I got here, I didn’t know why I was here,” she said. “But I knew that this was where the Lord wanted me to be, and he was the one who brought me here.”