December 19, 2007

Events help prospective students learn about SIUC

by Tim Crosby


CARBONDALE, Ill. — Opening a series of recruiting centers at Southern Illinois community colleges was a major step. Now, officials at Southern Illinois University and on the Carbondale campus are planning programs for those centers that will reach out to prospective students early in their higher education careers.

Using a grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education, SIUC officials envision a series of on- and off-campus events aimed at recruiting community college students to continue their education at SIUC. The effort is another step in a renewed push to recruit students from Southern Illinois who have shown an interest in earning a bachelor's degree or higher.

Officials also are creating the position of "Saluki Advocate" to help with the effort, said Becky Robinson, a researcher with the Department of Workforce Education and Development at SIUC, who is coordinating the programming effort.

Saluki Advocates can be students, faculty, staff or alumni who act as a personal guide for the community college student. Saluki Advocates will train twice yearly, receive a $100 stipend and represent the University at colleges, high schools and other outreach events throughout the year. Saluki Advocates soon will be a registered student organization, as well, Robinson said.

Earlier this year, SIU opened a series of SIU System Service Centers at area community colleges, including Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Southeastern Illinois College near Harrisburg, John A. Logan College in Carterville, Kaskaskia College in Centralia and Rend Lake College in Ina. The centers serve as contact points for students who want to continue their education anywhere in the SIU system, including SIUC, SIU Edwardsville, the SIU Medical School or its many off-campus sites. The centers have trained personnel who assist students in making a smooth transition to the University.

The new program, run by SIUC, will work through the centers. It will include events at the various colleges called "Dawg Days," during which SIUC students, faculty and employees will give presentations on different aspects of SIUC programs and student life. University officials hope to increase awareness, understanding and the comfort level of community college students through the events, Robinson said.

"These will be symposiums with various themes that our speakers will give on site at the colleges," Robinson said. "We want to break down all the barriers as to why someone couldn't attend SIUC. With the Saluki Advocate program, these students will now get a chance to know a faculty member or another student before they even come here."

Along with the anticipated 250 Dawg Days events, University officials also are planning a series of SIUC campus events that will steep community college students in life at SIUC. The first such event, a "University Immersion Experience," is set for Jan. 8. Officials are inviting 100 community college students who have signed SIUC contracts, plus one guest each, to attend the afternoon event. After riding buses provided by the University to Carbondale, the event will feature a warm welcome from University advisers, food and drink and other discussions, as well SIUC College Showcases, which will provide students an hour with students, faculty and staff from each of the University's colleges to discuss programs and scholarship opportunities. The day ends with free tickets to that evening's SIU vs. Bradley University men's basketball game at the SIU Arena.

"We want these students to feel like they are part of SIUC," Robinson said, adding that the University has set more such "immersion events" for the winter, spring and summer.

A grant totaling almost $278,000 from the IBHE is funding the effort. The grant, made though the IBHE's Higher Education Cooperation Act, is renewable for two additional years, Robinson said. It is administered through the SIU Office of the President with John C. Davis, special assistant to the president, as principle investigator.