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Engineering Impact Report

Transforming Undergraduate Recruitment


Sweeping changes are coming to higher education because of a looming baby bust.

By having the right people in the right positions, the School of Engineering has taken a leadership role across campus to transform the student recruitment process at the academic level and prepare for this shift. 

The Great Recession of 2008 left many scars, including a birth rate that dropped precipitously from 2008-2011 and has yet to rebound. With the population of college-age students expected to decline by 15 percent in much of the country over the next several years, universities are competing for a smaller pool of traditional students. Catholic universities, which rely heavily on students from private schools, will be especially hard hit. 

After years of record-setting enrollment growth in the School of Engineering, in 2016 the School got a sneak peek at the new reality when enrollment unexpectedly dropped 20 percent for the incoming engineering class.

The University responded by creating an Academic Collaboration Team to take a look at how enrollment management can better work with academic units. The idea was to provide a seamless experience for visiting students and their families.

Laura Bistrek, executive director of the Diversity in Engineering Center (DEC); Scott Segalewitz, associate dean for student success and experiential learning; and Kelly Mofield, director of communication, served on the task force and began reimagining what a better recruitment experience would look like. 

They teamed with Shawnee Breitenstein, director of engineering engagement, to transform the student recruitment cycle. 

The first step was to identify the strengths of the School of Engineering to craft a unified message. Recruiting materials, including new brochures and a multi-media dean's presentation, were developed. Using a data-driven approach, every recruiting event was evaluated with student/parent feedback and yield in mind. 

Explore Engineering, a hands-on event for high school students interested in STEM careers, introduced a passport component. Students are encouraged to have their passport sheet stamped by participating in engineering modules, visiting with clubs and organizations and learning about opportunities like cooperative education. The passport encourages students to circulate at the event and engage in a variety of activities. 

Engineering modules at the Explore event were updated with new activities that appeal to student interests such as sustainability, bioengineering and mechatronics. Promotional literature uses language that is less technical and more accessible. 

The School has invested in Ambassadors, both faculty and student, because of the large number of recruitment events and personal appointments each year.

Student Ambassadors are engineering students paid and trained to staff events and give building tours - with an emphasis on student success stories and experiential learning opportunities. They schedule the more than 500 academic visits that take place each year and offer a personal touch to visiting students, including a welcome sign and thank you notes. 

"The most successful change we have implemented in the last three years is the centralization of the visit process," Breitenstein said. "Before I arrived, families would reach out to each department individually to set up their visit. Depending on who they reached, those experiences could be very different. Now Student Ambassadors handle all communication with families, and we have a designated space where each family is greeted."

Faculty Ambassadors receive a stipend and meet monthly to advise the DEC on how events can be improved. They liaise with their academic departments, meet with potential students, and staff recruitment events such as Fall Open Houses, Explore Engineering, Admitted Student Days, and summer engineering camps. 

"The Faculty Ambassadors Program has given the different departments the opportunity to share with one another and collaborate with each other on everything from recruitment materials to reimagining our summer camp experience," Breitenstein said.

Since implementing these changes, the University has held its own in the competitive recruitment arena. Despite being located in close proximity to a number of high-quality, publicly-funded engineering programs with significantly lower tuition, UD has achieved its goal of roughly 500 first-year students each of the last three years.

Going forward, the University is working hard to diversify its applicant pool. Again, the Diversity in Engineering Center is leading the way with a variety of programs that support the success of female, underrepresented minority and international student engineers. That work is paying off as UD's first-year retention rate is 91 percent overall and 93 percent for African American students.


School of Engineering

Kettering Laboratories
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 0254