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COLUMN: The new VP should focus on student needs to improve retention, recruitment


Four candidates for Central Michigan University's first vice president of student recruitment and retention spoke on campus within the last two weeks, and I sat through every single moment of each of them.

The candidates include Lee Furbeck, executive director of admissions at CMU, Dawn Medley, Anne Monroe and Jennifer DeHaemers. I was intrigued and impressed that all four finalists are females.

After hearing them talk about their plans for CMU, I believe it is necessary for the vice president of student recruitment and retention to focus on student needs.

One of the easiest ways for CMU to focus on the needs of us students is to listen to our opinions and problems and work with us to improve our college experience.

Although our campus has academic advising and counseling services, I don't think they cover all needs of students, and there should be services covering more areas of the student experience. Most of the candidates discussed how improvement in these services could improve student life, retention and recruitment.

"When we ask returning students what's important and what's not going well, they'll say advising," Monroe said. "(Second to that) is registering for courses without any difficulty, and the third is faculty not providing personalized feedback."

Monroe, a CMU alumna, hit on the importance of understanding what students on our campus want and not just implementing programs that seem to work at other universities. Listening to her say this made me realize how often the university picks up programs from other institutions that don't necessarily fit into the specific needs of CMU students.

DeHaemers really solidified the idea that not all students have the same needs as me.

"They don't all have the same needs, but on top of that, their needs are very often different than what we prepare for with traditional student enrollment," DeHaemers said. 

It's no secret Mount Pleasant isn't the most student-friendly town, and not all activities on or around campus are compelling. As student, I know these are large factors when deciding where to go to school and if one wants to be there for four years.

Medley discussed the importance of having a thriving student life, on campus and in the community, during the week and weekends, which resonated with me.

"If you have Muslim female students who are coming to school here, is there a place they can get their hair done where it is purely an all-female salon?" Medley asked. "Are you having those discussions with the members of your town community and how you can strengthen those relationships? You don't want to be the destination campus everyone leaves on the weekend."

As she talked about the services Mount Pleasant lacks, I began to think back to all the times I have heard others and myself complain about there not being a mall, proper hair salons and so many other businesses.

As student who was looking at universities not long ago and considered transferring last year, my greatest piece of advice to whoever fills the position is to focus on student needs, listen to our problems and help develop solutions. The key to fixing enrollment and retention is being a university students want to be at.