CARBONDALE — Each year SIU Carbondale sends glossy recruitment publications to prospective students across the state and region, encouraging them to choose SIUC.
The magazines and pamphlets are customized for students at different points in the admissions process: from a student who has never heard of the university before, to a high-schooler who has already expressed some interest in SIUC, to an admitted student, who is still weighing their best college choice.
The brochures are not the only way the university entices prospective students. But they’re an important visual element, that “showcases” what SIUC has to offer, said Jennifer DeHaemers, SIUC’s associate chancellor for enrollment management.
And this year, they’re all new.
The university updates its recruitment materials every year, with the latest prices, programs and financial aid statistics, explained Rae Goldsmith, SIUC’s chief marketing and communications officer.
But this year’s mailings are the product of a “complete overhaul,” Goldsmith said, every photo, graphic and blurb, produced in-house.
Administrators hope the new materials reflect “more energy,” Goldsmith said, and “more emphasis on things like hands-on learning, student life, and the student experience.”
With revamped visuals showing Saluki dogs, non-traditional classrooms (like the SIUC blacksmithing studio), and beautiful Southern Illinois landscapes, the publications seek to immerse students in the things that engage them, Goldsmith said, rather than focus on “what we as an institution think students must know.”
The new approach is also evident in SIUC’s latest TV commercial, which airs throughout the region.
Several years ago, a “This is SIU” TV spot touted SIU Carbondale’s “16 to 1 student to teacher ratio”, and its ranking from the U.S. News and World Report.
The new commercial, titled “That’s a Saluki,” is a fast-paced first person look at a day in the life of an SIUC student, from jogging around Campus Lake, to studying in Morris Library, to jumping in the Rec Center pool, to eating pizza with friends at Quatro’s.
Since it was uploaded to YouTube 10 months ago, the commercial has registered over 64,000 views, more than any video on the university’s account.
Work on the current batch of recruitment materials began a few months after Chancellor Carlo Montemagno arrived to Carbondale in August of 2017, Goldsmith said.
“He had a clear vision of how we should be talking about ourselves as an institution,” Goldsmith said, “and he gave us creative license to be bold and express ourselves.”
Under Montemagno, SIUC moved quickly to prioritize recruitment, hiring DeHaemers as the university’s first associate chancellor for enrollment management, and tripling SIUC’s budget for purchasing contact information for college-interested students from the SAT and ACT test companies.
“We’re already seeing some positive signs for next year’s class, like more students coming for campus visits and better attendance at open houses,” DeHaemers told the Southern. The Leaders and Scholars Reception and open house, in early November attracted 332 students, an increase of 40 percent over the same time last year.
However, the university has also faced recent recruitment obstacles, including a two-month funding standoff with controversial former SIU System President Randy Dunn, just before Dunn’s resignation.
This year’s enrollment statistics were grim: an 11.9 percent decline to 12,817 students. But until his untimely death, on October 11, Montemagno maintained that 2019 would be the beginning of a rebound in Freshman numbers, on the way to an eventual 5,500-student increase to be achieved by 2025.
“The complaints I heard when I arrived were that families around here don’t see materials from SIU coming into their homes, like they do for Murray State and SEMO,” DeHaemers said.
The university is reaching out to local students via email, text messages, pamphlets and high school visits, DeHaemers explained, and prospective students receive follow-up information about the academic program they’re interested in five days after expressing interest in SIUC.
“It’s not one thing that makes a student’s light bulb go on that they want to check us out,” Goldsmith said. “These print pieces are part of a comprehensive strategy.”
And with the unique Saluki mascot placed front and center, administrators believe SIUC’s will stand out in the deluge of recruitment pamphlets high schoolers are receiving.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback,” Goldsmith said.