The campus was bustling and energy was high Feb. 16, when more than 5,500 visitors turned out for the Presidents’ Day Open House. A record number of students—2,132—were registered to attend, bringing with them family and friends.
“We had registrations from 19 states,” said Admissions Director Gary Swegan. “The weather cooperated, and we had our best turnout in 14 years.” In light of University concerns about enrollment and the economy, “it was the shot of morale we all needed,” he said.
The campus community rose to the occasion with an all-out effort to make the guests welcome and provide them the best possible experience. “Hundreds and hundreds of people participated in some way,” in addition to the 125 general-service volunteers who directed visitors, were tour guides and manned information tables, Swegan said.
For Albert Colom, BGSU’s new vice provost for enrollment management, the day was “fantastic and a wonderful event for students and their families to interact with the University. But what I was most impressed with was the spirit of volunteerism to put on such a large event. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was very special.
“From talking to parents, it exceeded expectations,” he said. “It was good to see they felt a connection to the campus and the community. These are the kinds of events we need to let people understand the great level of commitment we have to students in terms of how we care, and how special that is.”
“From the display areas in the ballroom to the open houses in the departments, it was a great way to showcase our strengths,” said Lisa Cesarini, associate vice provost for retention initiatives. She and Brady Gaskins, student affairs, were among the volunteers riding the buses bringing guests across campus.
“I really enjoy connecting with students and their families on Presidents’ Day and preview days,” Gaskins said. “The experience gives them a look at the whole college experience and really lets them see how Bowling Green can be a home, in addition to their academic life.
“I had a lot of positive conversations with parents and families as we were riding the buses from Lot 6,” he said. “There was a high degree of energy and excitement about being here, and I heard more this year about ‘What is the next step?’ Many visitors were already admitted and were eager to make their housing deposits and choose their housing. They wanted to see what the dining experience is like here, and the residence halls.”
“People really appreciated getting to come on a real school day to get the true pulse of campus,” Cesarini said.
Student organizations play big role
Student organizations across campus got involved to a higher degree this year, which all agreed was an important enhancement. In addition to their traditional displays in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom, they had tables along the hallway by the Bowling Greenery where students waited to leave on tours or for information sessions to begin.
“They were recruiting pretty heavily,” said Kelly Jo Larson, coordinator of student organizations and leadership programs. “We had everyone from the largest organizations like UAO and Dance Marathon to some of the smaller but important ones like the BG Reel film club, the men’s rugby team (that table was always very busy), Alpha Phi Omega and Vision. The HeeBeeBGs were walking through the crowd singing. One of the most popular tables was the Homecoming Student Steering Committee. They were doing a trivia contest, and they had prizes like T-shirts. There was always a crowd around their table. They all worked really hard for five hours.
“We have great groups,” she said, adding, “Student organizations are a key point of what makes BGSU great. Having them there helped build the BG picture for the visitors.”
Gaskins noted that the student organizations’ participation helped show how what is done outside the classroom connects with what happens in the classroom. “The students visiting could see that from the day they set foot on campus, there are many ways to be involved.”
Also new this year were two multicultural information sessions offered by the admissions and financial aid offices. President Carol Cartwright welcomed families at two First Year Experience sessions in the morning, which each had about 800 people in attendance, Swegan said.
Optimizing the experience
“People on campus were really willing to be flexible and help families make the most of their visit,” Cesarini said. For example, she said, a family with whom she was talking had a student who was considering two majors. In order to get more specific information for him, Cesarini called the college office and Dr. Julie Barnes, associate dean for student services, “made the time to meet with the family right then and there to help them make their decision. They were very appreciative.”
Other volunteers also reported hearing compliments and positive responses from visitors on how well organized the event was and how friendly and helpful the campus community was.
The effort to reach prospective students continues apace. The admissions staff and others who helped with Presidents’ Day barely had time to catch their breath before hosting the annual two-day guidance counselor advisory committee meeting that began Feb. 19.