Members of the JSU Presidential Recruitment Tour recently journeyed to Meridian and the Mississippi Delta with the Sonic Boom and other revered campus organizations, leaving hundreds of awestruck students asking how to enroll at the urban institution.
Overall, more than 1,300 students experienced JSU “up close and personal.”
Inside Greenville’s Washington County Convention Center, about 1,000 juniors and seniors from numerous Delta schools assembled. They were from Greenville High; Sunflower County Consolidated Schools; Humphreys County; Simmons High School; Leflore County High School; O’Bannon High School; Ray Brooks High School and Greenville Christian School.
Meanwhile, at Meridian High School, more than 300 seniors gathered inside its auditorium. Juniors were permitted to attend JSU’s organizational fair, where information was distributed and questions answered about the urban institution.
Dr. Steven Smith, associate dean for JSU’s Enrollment Management and director of Admissions and Recruitment, spearheaded the tour. Areas strategically selected were because of past relationships with leaders there.
JSU’s trip to Meridian, for example, resulted from Smith’s previous association with the high school’s principal, Victor Hubbard. In addition, Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons, who had been recruited by Smith to JSU on a full scholarship, strongly supported the visit to the Delta by the HBCU.
Smith said visits such as these are vital to JSU and to thousands of students statewide.
“We want to ensure that every corner of the state has an opportunity to view JSU up close and personal and to provide them access to areas within the university community they wouldn’t have ordinarily. Our visit allows students to see various aspects of recruitment: financial aid, academic areas of study, the Sonic Boom of the South and other student organizations,” he said.
During the event, Smith said students are amped from the very start when the band ushers in JSU President William B. Bynum Jr. and a parade of others representing the university.
After video highlights of JSU, Bynum’s rousing speech energizes the crowd, Smith said. “Dr. Bynum takes them through the trials and tribulations of his personal life, giving them points of reflections and advising them on what they should and shouldn’t do.”
Following Bynum, there are introductions and appearances by the MADDRAMA performance troupe, cheerleaders and staffers representing academic colleges, financial aid and admissions. Afterward, the legendary Sonic Boom rocks the room again.
There are other key players, too, Smith said.
The JSU Blue Ambassadors is a central recruiting tool because members are close to the ages of the spectators and can “speak their language.” The mission of the Ambassadors is to share the “True Blue Tiger Experience with prospective students, their families and community members.” During their tour visits, Blue Ambassadors captivates the crowd with high-impact dance moves and other pep-rally styles.
After all the electrifying appearances, students prepare for the organizational fair by speaking to JSU representatives armed with vast knowledge and material. Staffers and others addressed dozens of questions posed by prospects. Among the inquiries included scholarships, academic programs, admissions requirements and about everyday life on the JSU campus.
Because of the success with the prospective students, event hosts described JSU’s appearance as “unmatched” when compared to other visiting universities. Smith credited their accomplishments in Greenville and Meridian to its army of students, faculty and staff who converged on their host cities with dazzle and flash. He also praised Bynum for “skillfully” catering his message to the environment of his audience.
As for the end result, Smith said, “We were able to close deals with students who were up in the air as to where they wanted to go to continue their education. They got a chance to see and touch the president.”
Smith said JSU expects to expand its tours. The university aims to travel to northeast and northwest Mississippi, venturing to Tate and Itawamba counties, Tupelo, then back south to Hattiesburg.
As a graduate of JSU, Smith said the tour unleashes memories. He recounted his first experience at JSU when he was recruited to play football.
“Everything was new to me then. This tour allowed us to go into those communities to show what we offer and provide information to those who know absolutely nothing about JSU. That was me back in the day,” Smith said.
“Had I not been given the opportunity to be at Jackson State, I would never have had the opportunity to know about it. We are really planting seeds that are going to grow exponentially in the future. So, we want to make sure every year we capture juniors and seniors.”