Gannon University is currently working on two important goals for the upcoming academic year — in fact, they’re so important that officials have taken to referring to them as “wildly important goals,” or WIGs.
The two are known as WIG1081 and WIG703, and each one has to do with fall 2018’s enrollment. University officials are working toward enrolling 1,081 total graduate students and 703 incoming undergraduate first-year students.
President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., and his team, which includes Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., vice president of Academic Affairs, and Bill Edmondson, vice president of enrollment, selected these as the most important on their list of goals to accomplish this year.
“WIGS are a couple wildly important goals and they let us focus our energy on getting those done,” Iwanenko said.
According to Iwanenko, the WIGs allow the team to concentrate on certain goals and get them done so that they don’t get spread too thin trying to accomplish multiple goals.
Iwanenko is technically the lead person on the WIG1081, but he said it will take a university-wide effort to accomplish this goal. Iwanenko said the university has put together a team who meet every week, and they’ve divided their WIG into four areas.
“We’ve got our current graduate students, the second group is current undergraduate students and [keeping] our Gannon students here to continue graduate degrees, the third group is international students and the fourth group is our demographic target areas,” he said. “These are new domestic graduate students that we would bring to Gannon.”
The number 1,081 came from looking at trends in each of the four groups and previous application and acceptance data.
“The way that we set our goals, we have what we call our lag goals — these are goals that we aren’t going to see right away, but we have to get things done in order to meet those goals,” Iwanenko said.
“[For example] out of our current students, how many students do we expect to be back? That’s a lag goal.”
The team also has what are called “lead goals,” which are goals set in place to help make sure graduate students come back. One of the current lead goals is asking all faculty to report midterm grades for graduate students, something that has only been done at the undergraduate level.
By doing this, the university is taking a proactive approach to identifying students who might need help and keeping them at Gannon.
“When a student is in a graduate major and maybe things aren’t going as planned, before it’s too late and maybe they’re being separated from the institution, we can have conversations that say, ‘Maybe this isn’t the best major for you, let’s see what else we can offer, and let’s set you up for success,’” Iwanenko said.
The administration is also making sure a faculty member is contacting each accepted international student in a graduate program. Iwanenko said things are going smoothly and each goal is on pace to being accomplished.
“We are on time, we are meeting our lead goals, we put benchmarks in place and the teams have worked really hard to put systems in place to track,” Iwanenko said.
Edmondson heads WIG703 and has a team made up of members from various departments. The team has broken down WIG703 into four sub-groups like WIG1081 did.
“The teams are made up of members of the Gannon community, from academics, student engagement, marketing and enrollment,” Edmondson said. “The team is broken down into four sub teams: departmental yield and social media plan, athletics and student engagement yield and social media plan, yield events and global.”
The number 703 came from mathematical data used to project enrollment, and Edmondson said that the team is seeing success as members work together to accomplish their WIG.
One of the biggest roadblocks facing Gannon and the nation in terms of graduate international enrollment is how other nations view the U.S. Gannon has seen a recent decrease in these types of students, and Iwanenko said there are multiple reasons for that.
“One of the biggest obstacles is the current perception of how the U.S. embraces international students,” he said. “So we’ve seen a shift of international students going to other countries for their education.”
Other countries such as Canada, Germany and Britain have capitalized on this and welcome students to study in their countries.
Gannon is making sure to take care of the students — international and domestic — to increase enrollment and fight the stigma that the U.S. isn’t welcoming to other nations’ students.
“We want the international students to share their story and let people know to come to Erie, they get a great education, they feel at home and they’re well taken care of and again they’re part of the Gannon community,” Iwanenko said.
Edmondson agreed that international enrollment has decreased at the graduate level, but said Gannon has seen an increase in global enrollment at the undergraduate level.
Once these WIGs are accomplished, the presidential staff — with the help of various departments and input from around the university — will pick out more WIGs based on the need of the university.
Given that it’s a university effort students can help as well utilizing social media.
“Most people are using social media right now,” Iwanenko said. “Students can be a big help by sharing their stories on our social media platforms. We set a goal that all of our academic programs will have social media platforms…students can help tell those stories so that we can share with people that maybe aren’t as familiar with Gannon some of the great things students and faculty are doing. We would ask for some help getting the positive message out.”
Edmondson encourages undergraduate students to help out by applying to graduate school at Gannon, whether that’s in Erie or Ruskin, Fla., because there are several new academic degree offerings for both online and on-campus programs at both campuses.
Iwanenko said the best way to reach the WIG is to make sure that it is a university effort and not just one person.
“It is all of us including the students and we definitely want your input and we want ideas, and we appreciate everybody’s efforts,” Iwanenko said.