VOLUME 33, NUMBER 20 THURSDAY, March 7, 2002

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UB steps up graduate recruitment
New Web site latest in series of strategies to bolster enrollment at graduate level

Reporter Editor

With a long-term goal of increasing graduate enrollment to 9,500 students by 2004—700 more students than UB ever has enrolled in a fall semester—the university needed a different and more intensive approach to campus-wide student recruitment efforts, says Sean Sullivan, vice provost for enrollment and planning.
  New Web site to assist prospective students.

That approach took shape last spring with the creation of a unit within the provost's office designed to serve as a "catalyst" for the implementation of strategic recruitment and admissions practices in those units that in the past had not had a tradition of focusing on student recruitment.

While the undergraduate recruitment/admissions process at UB is overseen on a university-wide basis by the Office of Admissions, the process at the graduate level is handled by the individual departments and schools.

Until the appointment of Katherine G. Ferguson to head the Graduate Student Recruitment Services unit last February, there hadn't been a "concentrated and coordinated approach to graduate recruitment at the university," Sullivan says. "We needed a real pro to come in and work with the deans to develop their own recruitment programs at the graduate level," he says, praising Ferguson's work in her previous post as administrative director of UB's MBA program.

During the past year, Ferguson—who holds the title of associate vice provost for graduate student recruitment services—and her staff have implemented a number of strategies designed to bolster graduate student enrollment at the university, which is an integral part of UB's long-term, overall enrollment plans.

Perhaps the most visible initiative under way is the new Web site, launched Feb. 1, aimed at assisting prospective students in learning about graduate school at UB and navigating the admissions process.

The site, accessible at www.buffalo.edu/grad/admissions, features:

  • A searchable index of graduate programs that allows users to find programs based on keywords
  • Information about factors to consider when selecting a graduate program
  • A quick glance of the lifetime financial rewards of graduate education
  • Comprehensive information about combined degree programs
  • Guidelines for applying to graduate school and an application timeline, including a quick link to UB's online application system
  • Information about sources of funding and costs of attendance
  • A "Did You Know" element—new each time the page is refreshed—that highlights distinctive features of individual graduate programs

Nearly 3,000 people visited the site between Feb. 20-28, "so it already has become an important destination for people surfing the UB network," Ferguson said.

One of Ferguson's first tasks in her new role as associate vice provost was to create the Council of Graduate Student Recruitment Officers (COGSRO), which pulled together the distributed campus staff and faculty—about 75 people—involved in graduate recruitment at the departmental/unit level. "COGSRO has given us the mechanism to share important information with the campus, but also to gather information from the members about their recruitment practices," Ferguson said. The council's regular meetings cover such topics as GrAdMit, the online graduate application system that serves all programs except medicine, dentistry and pharmacy; using services provided by the Office of Career Planning and Placement; results of questionnaires of admitted students; the rollout of MyUB for graduate students; updates on combined-degree programs; integrating print marketing programs; managing inquiries and applications from prospective international students, and using commercial graduate program Web sites.

Ferguson and members of her staff also meet with individual department representatives to discuss ways to improve their recruitment efforts.

In a recent MyUB MyOpinion survey, 46 percent of the responding undergraduates wanted UB to actively share more information about the university's graduate program, Ferguson said. As a result, Graduate Student Recruitment Services has initiated outreach activities to better educate UB undergraduates—and those who advise them—about graduate school admissions and graduate programs offered by UB. These efforts include working closely with academic and career advisors on campus to ensure they have the latest information regarding admission to graduate programs at UB, special opportunities for UB undergraduates and combined-degree programs.

Graduate Student Recruitment Services also will participant in the upcoming CareerFEST 2002, a university-wide employment and internship fair for all UB majors featuring local and national employers. Activities will include conducting a survey of students attending the fair to gauge their interest in graduate school, staffing information tables and displaying the new Web site.

Cynthia Shore, associate director of graduate student recruitment services, who joined the staff in October after six years as the director of the School of Management's Career Resource Center, spearheads these outreach efforts, Ferguson said. In addition, Shore is heading up an initiative to assist academic units in conducting more informed enrollment planning by providing them with data about student demand for programs and labor market opportunities for graduates, she said. Ferguson noted that her office commissioned a market research project to gather data about how new graduate students went about identifying potential graduate schools, why they were attending graduate school and what factors most heavily influenced their decision to enroll. The project surveyed new graduate students, as well as those who were accepted but declined to enroll in UB. The results were shared with the deans, she said, in order to better focus recruitment efforts.

After several years of declining enrollments, the numbers of graduate students at UB has been on the upswing lately, and appears well on its way toward the goal of 9,500 students. UB posted the third-highest graduate enrollment in the history of the university—8,548—for the Fall 2001 semester, a increase of 5 percent over the Fall 2000 figure of 8,147.

Ferguson attributed the overall growth in graduate enrollment to several factors, including:

  • Record enrollments in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as the result of an outstanding international job market in that field.
  • The addition of degree and certificate programs in Japanese education and educational technology in the Graduate School of Education. The school also has achieved growth in a number of core areas, including elementary education, reading education, school counseling and higher education administration.
  • The enrollment of the first class of students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in the School of Health Related Professions.
  • Steady improvement in the School of Informatics' enrollment due to increasing appeal of the library field as a career option for people interested in the application of information technology.
  • The phase-in of the Pharm.D. program in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the corresponding phase-out of the bachelor's program.
  • Increasing market demand for practitioners with graduate-level training in the health and human services fields. UB offers the premier master of social work program in the region and has expanded its geographic reach through off-campus programs in other regions of New York State.