Admission Staff Trek Long Hours and Miles to Attract SMU Students
As the words 'Norfolk, Virginia flight 7305' and 'delay' flashed across the Chicago O'Hare International Airport monitor, Anne Seed, Director of Admission, rebalanced her laptop, and caught up on her email correspondence, unfazed by the news.
"This kind of stuff happens," says Seed. "Fortunately for me I can do some school work sitting right here. There are always emails to respond to and phone calls to return."
For Seed and her team of Admission Counselors, nicknamed 'Road Warriors,' travel delays, hotel stays, security checks, and checking-in a large bag full of school pamphlets and brochures, is all part of the job. From August through November, the team gives presentations to further the public awareness of Samuel Merritt University (SMU) at hundreds of healthcare events, college and university fairs, national admissions and counselor conferences. The staff often travel as far north as Washington State and as far east as New York, spending anywhere from one to three weeks at a time on the road.
Pam Harrison, Associate Director of Admission, has been recruiting students since 1990 and is well acquainted with the travel routine that takes her from places like Santa Fe, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, to most community colleges in Northern California and to almost every UC and CSU campus in the state.
"I am very familiar with the L.A. traffic and radio stations," jokes Harrison. "Usually I start off with UC Irvine on Monday, and then drive to Loyola Marymount University the next day, then to UCLA, and by Thursday I am at UC Riverside."
Over the course of the year, the Road Warriors plant the SMU seed in minds of prospective students throughout California and the nation. While Harrison is on the West Coast and Seed is in the Midwest, Janessa Reinblatt is covering in Oregon, Andre Singleton is in New York City, and Karena Reinhardt is working Tennessee.
Though it's only spring, the team says it's their fall recruiting months that help SMU become 'nationally recognized.'
"Spring is when we follow up with the student contacts we have made, as well as networking with the Pre-Health Advisors at four year college and universities," says Seed. "It's also a time for us to go back to some of our top 'feeder' schools to reinforce SMU as a first choice school. And then before we know it, it is fall and the cycle starts all over again."
Given the current recession, and that healthcare professions ranked as one of the top five best jobs, it's no wonder enrollment numbers have more than doubled from last year.
"Education becomes a recession business," explains Harrison. "As people lose their jobs, they look for jobs that are steady work and affordable. At one time some of these students considered a profession in healthcare, but veered off. Now they are coming back to it. We also have students who want to come to SMU because their mother, or father, or grandmother went to the institution."
Fortunately for the frequent flyers, the University's growing reputation as a health sciences institution is making their job easier than it was twenty years ago when nursing was the sole major. The academic programs have since expanded to represent physical therapy, podiatric medicine, physician assistant, and occupational therapy.
"We have a strong reputation here in the Bay Area, all the schools know us," says Seed. "When we go to Davis, we are mobbed by the students who are interested in coming to SMU. They are lined up three and four deep to talk to us. The same is true at San Francisco State University and most of the local colleges and universities."
Some of the admission staff say they can spot a potential student who is serious about coming to SMU. "They are inquisitive, excited and passionate about the field that they are interested in," says Seed. "They did not wake up that day and decide, 'maybe I should pursue nursing, or occupational therapy, or maybe podiatry.' These students have done their research and really thought about what they want to study. They come with lots of questions. They are serious about their profession and serious about SMU."
And finding the right fit is important, not just for the students, but for the University as well. "Students for whom SMU is a 'good fit' will be happier inside and outside of the classroom," says Seed. "And a positive and enthusiastic recommendation from a currently enrolled student or graduate is about the best publicity you can have." This all adds to SMU's growing reputation as a nationally recognized health sciences institution.
So despite the long flights and road miles, the Road Warriors agree what they do is a team effort that stretches across the campus from the Financial Aid Office to the Dean who takes the time to meet or email a potential student and discuss the program.
"It takes the whole SMU community to recruit a student, though we like to think it does start with us," says Seed. "I have the best job in the world."
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