August 18, 2005

SIUC ag college names recruitment coordinator

by K.C. Jaehnig


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Lucas D. Maxwell's new office in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's College of Agricultural Sciences is small and spare, but that doesn't bother him.

"It doesn't look like I'm going to be spending much time in it," said Maxwell, a Farmer City native and former ag teacher at Iroquois West Community Unit School District No. 10 in Gilman.

"I don't know how long it will take, but I'm going to be canvassing the state, waving our banner and saying, ‘We're here, and we have something for your students.'"

Maxwell, who earned his bachelor's degree from the college in 2001 and just finished up a master's degree there this year, has become its first full-time coordinator of recruitment, retention and placement.

"The students will see a lot of me," he said with a grin.

"I'm supposed to get them here, keep them here and find them a job when they leave. It's a lot, but it's all part of serving the students."

Ag dean Gary L. Minish, now in his second year, early on identified lagging enrollments as a key challenge and set members of the college to work on it. Together, they came up with brochures and fact sheets that describe each major, the courses involved and the faculty who teach them, as well as the clubs, organizations and career opportunities available in each. They also set up a system of faculty counselors in each unit — people who know the programs well and can answer questions in depth.

"We have set some things in motion, and now we're putting it all together with somebody who can quarterback the system," Minish said.

In redesigning an older recruitment position, college representatives decided to add a placement service, figuring that might be the best recruitment tool of all.

"We can say all we want to say about how great we are, but our students' parents want to know there's going to be something good for them at the end of the road," Minish said.

When the hiring committee interviewed candidates for the retooled job, they quickly decided that Maxwell seemed tailor-made for it.

"He's a graduate of the programs so he knows this college as well as anybody could, and he was active in college organizations," Minish said.

"As a high school teacher, he recruited students for the agriculture department, headed a lot of activities, even helped place some of the students. And in his spare time, he's an auctioneer — you better believe he can sell things!"

In his first few months, Maxwell plans an ambitious "personal appearance" campaign, visiting high schools, community colleges and folks in the ag industries.

"We have always taken a personal approach, going out and meeting people individually, learning from them about their needs," he said. "We have done that better than anyone else — it's why I came down here as a student myself."

He's also bringing back the college career fair, an event that fell by the wayside some years back.

"As part of that I've been calling people I know in different areas to pick their brains about what they're looking for, the skills they want their employees to have," Maxwell said.

"So far, everyone I've talked to has been very excited about our programs and glad we're getting back into circulation."

In addition, he's looking to foster stronger ties with college alums.

"We do an excellent job of using our current students to go out and speak with people, and our faculty members are starting to realize that personal connections do help, so the next step is to get our alumni more involved," Maxwell said.

"We'd like to have them out there meeting people, spreading the word and sending names of prospective students to us."

Maxwell hopes to meet many alumni at the college's annual state fair barbeque taking place this year at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, on the governor's lawn at the Du Quoin state fairgrounds. He'll also man the college's booth Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur. Folks can call him on his cell phone at 618/967-9501 or reach him by e-mail at And look for him to be showing up in your neighborhood soon.

"I love e-mail, but there's nothing like a knock on the door and a, ‘Hey, do you have 15 minutes? I just want to introduce myself and see what we can do for you,'" Maxwell said.