Program takes Dragon experience on the road, builds on last year’s success

BY KRISTIN MILLER — millerkr@mnstate.edu

The past few years have seen a decline in enrollment on campus. While some effects of that trend have been decidedly negative for students and faculty, it has also been the catalyst for a new, innovative program aimed at increasing admission.

Drawing off the plan put forth for the university, “Fulfilling Our Promise,” which outlines MSUM’s values, goals and strategies for moving the university forward following a period of shrinking enrollment, the Admissions Office has created their own program. “Fulfilling Our Promise in Your Neighborhood” recently kicked off its second year, as teams of admissions staff travel to cities in North Dakota and Minnesota, giving prospective students a well-rounded taste of what MSUM has to offer.

The program is the brain-child of Yvette Underdue Murph, who is currently in her second year working as Vice President for Enrollment Management at MSUM.

“This is one of the last cities I thought I’d end up in,” Murph said, however added that she is “falling in love with this campus.”

That love has translated into a collaborative program which integrates several components of campus life and academics.

“There’s a sense of urgency … We needed to create some new initiatives,” Murph said. She said that they wanted to focus those initiatives first on areas in Minnesota and North Dakota, where a large portion of MSUM students hail from.

“We went into the database and asked ‘how are we doing in our own backyards?’” Murph said, adding that once they identified key areas they wanted to begin “really intensive outreach and recruitment and engagement.”

The department is working to bring the entire Dragon experience on the road.

“During the event, we showcase our campus,” she said.

They do this by forming teams and hosting events in cities throughout our area. Teams include both admissions staff and academic faculty.

Murph said that they bring along a few student-favorite professors to give applicants a sense of what their classroom experience will be like at MSUM. Lisa Nawrot, Matthew Craig and Margaret Sankey are among the professors who have participated.

“The faculty do classroom engagement sessions for the prospective students and their parents,” Murph said.

Representatives from the living-learning community program on campus, along with residential life, financial aid and the bookstore also come along for the events, rounding out the sample of what campus will have to offer new students.

Some of the ambassadors for the program are also MSUM alums, providing a unique take on what it really means to be a Dragon.

“They can talk about that experience,” Murph said, and can pass on a little wisdom to future Dragons.

Another factor which makes this event stand out from other similar recruiting workshops is the fact that potential students can be admitted on the spot.

“A key piece of what we did at this event…was on-site admissions,” Murph said. “The admissions processing team went with us…and we were able to accept documents, do an admissions evaluation and make and render admissions decisions.”

The Office of Financial Aid is also on-hand to help newly-admitted students and their parents discuss options for financing an education at MSUM.

Murph said that getting everyone where they need to be can be hectic at times, but has created a greater sense of collaboration in the department.

“An unintentional outcome that occurred was that the Admissions Office, they started to gel,” she said.

They have also partnered with a popular radio station and event based in the Twin Cities. In conjunction with radio station KDWB, they hosted a live broadcast at their Nov. 19 event in Woodbury, Minn. during which they gave out free passes to Jingle Ball, an annual concert series, which this year features artists including Demi Lovato, Meghan Trainor and Iggy Azalea.

“This is really huge … We’ve never had this kind of exposure,” Murph said, adding that not many other universities have acted as sponsors for the event, “We’re one of the trailblazers, and we’re taking advantage of this opportunity.”

Murph and her team have had more time this year than last to pull everything together, as planning for the first year of events was completed in a only a few months.

“I got here in August, we did this in December,” she said. “This is the second year that we’re doing this, and we’re doing it earlier than we did last year.”

One effect of beginning events earlier is to catch students sooner in their college-search process. Murph said they did see several students who attended last year’s events go on to apply and be accepted to MSUM. They hope to build on that success with this round of events.

So far this year, teams have traveled to Alexandria, Baxter, Bloomington, Woodbury and Plymouth, Minn. Upcoming events are planned to be held in Grand Forks and Bismarck as well as one in Moorhead on Dec. 9 in the CMU.

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