Members of Jackson State University’s Presidential Tour ventured throughout Mississippi for several weeks to recruit new students and provided a sneak preview of campus life from academics to extracurricular activities.
Dr. Steven Smith, associate dean of Enrollment Management and director of Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment, oversaw the project that he created a year ago – making “Presidential Tour 2.0” greater and grander.JSU made tour stops at Vicksburg High, North Panola High, Clarksdale High and Moss Point High. Greenville, which was part of last year’s tour, was revisited this round, too, because of the tour’s tremendous popularity there. The city was “so inviting,” and it piled seven schools inside the Greenville Civic Center, Smith said. It’s a model that JSU hopes will be duplicated by other towns and municipalities. In fact, North Panola assembled four participating schools inside its venue for the JSU tour.
Smith said JSU is capitalizing on recruitment efforts by visiting rural areas, which often see the HBCU’s presence as a “big deal.” He said they get to see, feel and learn what the institution provides. As a result, the tremendous response from local communities led JSU to expand the tour this year.
“We’re the only school in this state doing recruitment at this level where we’re traveling with a majority of entities from the institution,” Smith added.
“Everywhere we go, we are gaining new students who had not even considered applying to this institution, which tells us this works. It’s an investment. I’ve met students on campus who said, ‘I’m here, and I remember you from coming to my school for the Presidential Tour,’ ” he said.BECAUSE of stiff competition for students by other Mississippi schools, Smith said this type of recruitment is important. “There’s only so many students in the state that we can garner.”
Also, Smith credits JSU recruiters for instituting a new recruitment approach. He said they identified students who have been awarded scholarships and admitted to the institution. Then, they honor the students on location by supplying gifts, photographing them with Bynum and recognizing them in front of cheering peers. Some students even receive scholarships during the event.
“This alone has been a hit. This creates more interest. Now, we have schools contacting us to bring the tour to them,” Smith said.
He said a recent comparison shows that out-of-state applications have now tripled the number of in-state applications.
JSU President William B. Bynum is one of the main highlights of the tours. Others include the Sonic Boom and academic departments. The MADDRAMA Performance Troupe, Prancing J-Settes and cheerleaders help rally the crowd, too. “This is truly a ‘One JSU’ effort,” Smith added.
“Dr. Bynum does a phenomenal job each time and knocks it out of the ballpark. He connects so well with students. We have not gone to one school where he’s given his presentation and not receive a standing ovation. He talks to them about needing a spiritual belief. He lets them know there will be challenges, and they will need God to lean on.”
Also, Smith credits alums residing in various host cities for helping to make the tours a success.
“Now, we’ve been charged with bringing in a huge class in the fall. These tours will go a long way toward making that happen,” he said.