OWU appoints new director of admissions

By Jesse Sailer, Sports Editor

Jesse Sailer discusses the future progress of admissions with the new director of admissions, Joshua Stevens:

With the position of director of admissions having been vacant, new hire Joshua Stevens brings hope to Ohio Wesleyan University’s (OWU) declining enrollment as well as a fresh look into the college search process.

After previously serving at Earlham College as director of admissions, Stevens brings with him 15 years of experience in directly working with prospective students and families to help them realize their higher education aspirations.

Sailer: After working as director of admissions at Earlham College, why did you decide to come to OWU?

Stevens: Lots of reasons. I’m excited about the energy on campus at OWU – new athletic programs, housing options,academic majors and scholarship initiatives for students. I think the cultural and commercial environment of the Greater Columbus Region provides OWU students with unique connections to the world outside of college. I appreciate that administration and faculty members across campus seem to be working collaboratively and creatively as the college considers the changing higher education landscape, and I am excited to provide my perspective as a student recruitment professional to those conversations.

Before joining Earlham in 2016, Stevens worked for four years as the senior assistant director of admissions at the University of Colorado, the international admissions counselor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an assistant director of admissions at Lake Forest College in Illinois and an admissions counselor at Transylvania University in Kentucky.

Sailer: What is the most fundamental part of your job as it relates to incoming prospective students?

Stevens: The “most fundamental part of my job” is to supervise and mentor the recruitment team. These admission counselors work most closely with prospective students and families to help guide them through the college search process. It is important that these staff members be prepared do the very best job they can at every stage of the recruitment process so that families have the tools and resources they need to make well-informed choices about college. I think the other visible part of my job is to represent the recruitment team when creating strategic enrollment initiatives. These initiatives include creating digital and print marketing materials, designing on and off-campus recruitment events, building scholarship and financial aid models, reviewing applications, and managing the systems and operations of the office.

As a high school teacher, Stevens took a liking to the admissions process and felt he had a good understanding of what the thought process was of a prospective college student. His love for interacting with people and the idea of working on a college campus fortified his decision to follow the admissions career path.

Sailer: What are your plans to increase enrollment at OWU?

Stevens: Vice president of enrollment and communications, Stefanie Niles is bringing tremendous enrollment management experience to campus. I really look forward to working closely with Stefanie and the full enrollment team to assess current best practices and to develop new strategies to enroll the very best class each year.

Sailer: Is there anything new you’re bringing to the table in the way of altering or adding to the admissions process?

Stevens: There is a strong team of admissions professionals already in place at OWU and I will absolutely rely on the current members of the OWU family to provide me with institutional knowledge. I bring 15 years of admissions experience to the table and a perspective that comes from recruiting students for institutions with many different enrollment goals and challenges. I’m excited to get started

Faculty members are excited about Stevens’ arrival, including Niles.

“I am pleased to welcome Josh to the Ohio Wesleyan enrollment and communications team,” Niles said. “He brings strong experience in aiding prospective students and supporting all facets of the admission process, including implementing technology, managing and mentoring admission counselors, and collaborating with colleagues across campus to reach recruitment goals.”

Enrollment update: OWU gets closer to achieving 2,020 by 2020

By Sara Hollabaugh, Online Editor

Members of the administration are enjoying considerable progress related to the 2,020 by 2020 enrollment plan.

President Rock Jones said there have been eight new majors added since the plan was initiated. One of the new majors, business administration, has drawn attention to Ohio Wesleyan.

“Nearly 10 percent of the students who have applied for admission list business administration as their top interest,” Jones said.

Jones added that business administration, social justice, computer science and communications have been popular additions to the OWU website and course catalogue.

“[The new majors] were the four most frequently visited majors in our website in the months of October, November and December,” Jones said.

In addition to the new majors, Jones said OWU is adding two new varsity sports in 2018: women’s crew and men’s wrestling.

Jones added that major changes are being made to the programs that are part of the first year experience.

“A new orientation program and a new first-year residential program … are underway to impact student success and retention,” Jones said.

The addition of a Chicago regional recruiter has already had positive results. Jones said that applications to OWU from students living in that area have doubled within the past year.

“Completed applications from international students have doubled over last year,” Jones said. “[And] we enrolled a total of 33 transfer students in fall and spring, compared to 31 the previous year and 26 two years ago.”

Jones said a third SLUplex and a new Honors House are also in the works, as well as an endowment by the Board of Trustees supporting the 2,020 by 2020 efforts.

Susan Dileno, vice president for enrollment, said her department has been hard at work.

“We have been doing quite a bit to increase our domestic student applications,” Dileno said. “Some of which include admitted student receptions, faculty calling, student over nights and programs, alumni contacting students on the OWU Facebook site, alumni and parent letters and [creating an] admitted student microsite.”

In an administrative report sent to faculty in January, Dileno provided an update on OWU’s fall 2017 applications.

Dileno said Ohio’s application numbers have increased by six percent, and reiterated Jones’ statement regarding Chicago with Illinois’ numbers being up by 26 percent.

Dileno said OWU’s target markets, Columbus and Cleveland, have changed as well with Columbus’ applications being up by 29 percent and Cleveland down by 7 percent.

Dileno also said the number of international applicants has increased, with applications submitted by prospective Pakistani students up by 78 percent.

Dileno also touched on the average ACT score remaining at 26, the average GPA declining to 3.5 from last year’s 3.6 average and SAT changes.

According to Dileno, there have been 274 applicants for the new business administration major, 26 for communications and 13 for data analytics, with one Middle East studies, three neuroscience, 10 nutrition and eight social justice.

Dileno ended her update with what the low numbers for some of the new departments mean and what steps are next.

“It may take a little more time for our new majors to gain awareness,” Dileno said. “We are doing all we can now to promote them on our website and to prospective students via email and postcards, and by pursuing names of students interested in these programs.”

2,020 by 2020: Becoming a reality

By Leah Miza, Photo Editor

As of Friday, Sept. 2 the final numbers are in. Ohio Wesleyan’s first year class of 2016 sprung by 11.4 percent this fall, creating higher and more realistic chances of reachig a total of 2,020 students by the year 2020.

This increase in numbers went hand-in- hand with newly incorporated tactics by the university.

The idea was first passed by the Board of Trustees (BOT) at their February campus retreat, earlier this year. According to the campus retreat report, the board called for a 25 percent growth in total student body over the next five years.

There has been ongoing work since.

Susan Dileno, vice president of enrollment, said many measures influenced the increase in the first year class number, including a revamp of their open house formats and tours, and paying a lot more attention to branding.

“We had Rock [Jones] travel around the country,” she said. “We did around 15 guidance counselor receptions around the U.S.”

Dileno also said the boost in allocating more need-based aid rather than merit scholarships and the addition of a new business major could be other possible factors that contributed to the increase in the freshman class number.

President Rock Jones said that this is a “great first start,” but more needs to be done, including new academic programs and increasing the number of student athletes.

“We’re working to increase transfer student enrollment and we have a significant agenda for increasing international student enrollment,” Jones said. “All of which feeds into increasing the enrollment of 2,020 by 2020.”

Jones and Dileno both stressed the importance of retention rates and anticipate a rise this year.

“We need to continue work on the campus and in particular the residential facilities,” Jones said.

“We’re looking at an idea related to housing for first year students which would be part of our much more comprehensive first year initiatives that will help improve retention.”

Dwayne Todd, vice president for student engagement and success, said that one important step in the retention plan was hiring Brad Pulcini, assistant dean for student engagement and director of the first-year experience.

Todd also stressed the importance of altering the housing facilities for freshmen and continuing students, which has slowly started through the newly built SLUplexes.

“We will begin to expand our planning to improve the housing facilities that serve our other continuing students, including those who live in fraternity houses,” Todd said. “We are currently involved in intensive work to develop plans for a new first-year student housing complex.”

Executives are also working to improve infastructre around campus, which began during the summer with the paving of sidewalks outside Edgar and behind Merrick as well as big renovations in Slocum Hall to the Office of Admission.

According to Todd, they are working with the BOT to determine financial resources, and “look forward to sharing more with the OWU community as soon as we are able.”

Faculty take aim for 2020

Matt Cohen, Editor-in-Chief

Fourteen empty chairs sat in the front row as President Rock Jones stood behind the birch plywood podium and addressed the room filled with Ohio Wesleyan faculty during their Monday, Feb. 29 meeting, the second official meeting of the semester.

The faculty discussed options to increase enrollment, but Jones began by thanking everyone who was involved with the I³ 30-minute lecture and the production of “Artifice.” He was impressed by the diverse crowd of the lectures and called the production a “terrific, major production.”

Jones then asked a popular question: What’s the right size of OWU and “what strategies will achieve that size?”

A long list of ways to reach the goal of 2,020 students by the year 2020 was presented. A couple of those items to improve upon were career services, athletics, international admission strategies, regional recruiters and the physical campus, which Jones talked about and said “we’ve made strides, but there’s more to be done.” He also specifically brought up the improvement of first-year housing.

Chris Wolverton, professor of botany-microbiology and the chair of the Committee on University Governance, began with a PowerPoint to highlight student recruitment, student experience, program initiative and physical campus.

He reiterated the importance in finding the right students when recruiting.

“Identify students who are able to pay so we can continue to offer heavily discounted tuitions to those who need it.”

When talking about student experience, Wolverton said he wanted to get the point across to potential students.

“What are we about?” he said. “We could be about 50,000 things, but if [students] don’t see themselves here, they won’t come.”

The equation “630 + 85% = 2,026” was left on the screen. Wolverton explained that 630 represents the number of students and the percent represents retention rate.

When talking about the retention rate, which is currently at 81 percent, Wolverton said there’s a lot of work behind the number.

“It’s arguable this number is doable,” he said. “Redesigning the entire student life side of campus.”

When Wolverton pointed out the bold new strategy of the Board of Trustees, Michael Flamm, a faculty member, said, “We invest in the future because the faculty don’t take salary increases.”

Ellen Arnold, Andrew Brandt, Glenn Bryan, Susan Gunasti and David Councilman were awarded tenure and a neuroscience major with behavioral/cognitive and cellular/molecular tracks was approved by unanimous vote.

Enrollment on the decline

Admission and enrollment rates are used by universities across the country like team records are used in sports: they show who is ahead. And though they are both small liberal arts schools in the Ohio 5, Ohio Wesleyan University and Denison University are putting up very different stats.

Just this year, Denison was able to reach some of its highest application rates; some 6,100 applications from a wide mix of students were compiled by their admissions office. On top of that, according to their website, Denison’s class of 2019 is among the university’s strongest academically, compared to past rankings.

When asked about these exceptional rates of application, Denison’s senior associate director of admissions Mike Hills said that his office’s hard work has paid off.

“Our reputation as a premier liberal arts college is among the best in the country, which makes our job easier in a challenging admissions climate,” Hills said. “In addition to the Midwest and Northeast, which have always been good places for us to enroll high­-achieving students, we’ve been working really hard to recruit equally qualified students from the South and West.”

In contrast, Ohio Wesleyan faced an incredibly low rate of enrollment last year with a freshman class of 490, which was significantly below OWU’s annual goal of 600. It was the lowest rate in the past five years.

To counteract those numbers, OWU began re-branding and underwent tremendous budget cuts this year.

As reported in an article on the OWU website, authored by vice president for enrollment Susan Dileno, “Our applicant and admit pool hasn’t really changed that much, but at the end of the day, it is impossible for us to control who does or does not enroll.”

Changes made to admissions process

For the class of 2018, Ohio Wesleyan saw a freshmen class of 484 students, nearly 100 lower than the university’s target.

The class of 2016 and 2017 had a freshmen enrollment of 570 and 572 students respectively. Many factors contributed to last year’s dip in enrollment, which are still problematic for recruitment going forward.

“Across the board there is a decrease in the number of high school graduates recently,” Vice President for Enrollment Susan Dileno said. “Additionally there is more competition from other schools, and more students are looking at public universities as well.”

So far deposits are up from this point last year for the incoming class of 2019, but it is still early in the recruitment process and Dileno said things could fluctuate greatly as the May 1 enrollment deposit deadline approaches.

Despite the great challenges on many levels, the university is taking steps to boost enrollment back up towards the 570 number.

According to Dileno, some of the changes in the admissions office have included looking at the way OWU brands itself. The university has hired a group called FastSpot to work on redesigning the school website, and Dileno said that they have also hired a firm named MindPower to help hone in on what exactly it means to be at OWU.

“I have always heard the push for OWU being the ‘opposite of ordinary,’ but never knew quite what that meant,” senior Emily VanNess said.

Working with firms such as MindPower will hopefully help provide a clearer picture of what exactly that slogan means.

One encouraging sign for the upcoming enrollment is the ACT/SAT scores of admitted students. Dileno attributes this to the increased awareness of the university’s test-optional policy. Last year only 100 applicants were test optional, while this year nearly 400 applicants took advantage of going test optional.

“Typically in my experience at other schools we have seen a higher yield from our test-optional admits, but we won’t know for sure until the end of the process,” Dileno said.

In the office of admissions, changes have been made to better engage students when they come to visit. In years past the admissions lobby would often be empty. However this year students have been hired to stay in the lobby and talk to visitors before they tour the rest of the campus.

“I have noticed having these new greeters has really made the office feel warm and opening to prospective students,” senior tour guide Alex Lothstein said. “On top of that I have noticed I’ve had more engaged tours this year as well.”

Dileno emphasized that it is still early in the process and anything could happen; last year’s projections were ahead all year up until April.

“There’s no silver bullet, this will take a lot of planning and resources, but I do feel positive about how it is all coming together to make an impact starting next year,” Dileno said.