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Adaptability and Creativity Boost Recruitment & Retention

Written by Allison Nitch and Tina Potterf

April 23, 2020

Students on campus

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Number of new spring transfer students exceeds projection

The spring signals a crucial period for campuses nationwide: enrollment season. As the entire field of higher education grapples with the abrupt changes and unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote instruction, the dedication and work of Seattle University’s faculty, staff and administration have contributed greatly to this year’s recruitment and retention efforts.

Seattle University was one of the first institutions in the nation to transition to remote instruction—on March 9, prior to the end of winter quarter—and begin putting in place the necessary infrastructure and support services to continue in a virtual environment for the remainder of the academic year.

“We welcomed 54 new transfer/post-baccalaureate students this spring, exceeding expectations,” says Melore Nielson, interim vice president for Enrollment Management and dean of Admissions. Of that, 27 are enrolled in majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, with 19 students from Albers and eight in the College of Science and Engineering.

While the news around transfer student retention is positive, it is projected that Seattle U will be down a net of 20 undergraduates—or about 0.5% of what was anticipated before the COVID-19 disruptions—this quarter. Although numbers are not final at this time, “we have seen some slight additional attrition in the continuing undergraduate numbers since the second day of class,” says Robert Duniway, associate vice president for Institutional Effectiveness and Institutional Research.

“The quality of our academic and student experience and the way in which we support our students matters more than ever in this difficult and uncertain time of crisis,” says Provost Shane P. Martin. “Seattle U’s number one value is putting the good of students first. In many ways, we are ahead of the curve because of our exemplary faculty. With imagination and creativity, they continue to deliver an exceptional education for our students in this new normal.”

Initiatives and efforts to recruit and retain students include:

  • The new Student Support Center, an online platform modeled after best practices for serving students remotely, putting Seattle U ahead of peers in moving quickly to provide virtual support for all students.
  • A triage team representing administration and staff members from across campus assembled to respond to student questions, barriers and resource gaps.
  • Multiple communications channels were built for students to connect with Student Support staff, including communication by email, phone and chat bot.
  • More than 530 students participated in the inaugural Admitted Students Virtual Reception event for the incoming Class of 2024 this fall. In total, 35 percent of attendees represented Washington state and the remaining 65 percent were from out-of-state. A second reception hosted by Admissions welcomed nearly 400 participants.
  • The week of May 4 will be marketed to admitted students as Community Engagement Week. Daily events highlighting the Center for Community Engagement activities will be offered to admitted students.

Frank Shih, associate professor of mechanical engineering and president of Academic Assembly, says faculty are showing resourcefulness and resiliency in adapting to the new way of teaching and doing so with creativity and care for their students.

“(Our faculty) rose to the challenge and are doing so admirably, showing care and providing a quality educational experience for our students,” he says.


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