Under a green awning fixated on the back of the Gannon University building that houses the undergraduate admissions offices is a downward facing staircase.
The molded concrete leads into a long rectangular room with computers and corresponding headsets equipped with responsive inquiry and data designed to help prospective students select their undergraduate institutions.
This office is occupied by the Gannon University Knight Callers.
Here selected Gannon work -study students spend up to 10 hours a week calling prospective students in an effort to answer any number of questions, provide further information on specified areas of interest related to the Gannon community and schedule campus visits.
The Knight Callers are given spreadsheets listing the prospective student’s name, address, phone number, desired major (if determined) and his or her regional admissions adviser.
This information is collected by the university at college fairs, through online inquiries conducted by the prospective student, previous campus visits, and high school visits from Gannon admission’s staff.
Each spreadsheet is organized into a category designated by Zachary Flock, assistant director of eMarketing for the Office of Admissions.
Categories include students whose deposits have been received, those who have shown interests but have not yet applied, students whose applications are not complete, follow up after a campus visit, and others regarding different stages in the college search process.
It is very likely that many prospective students are given multiple opportunities to ask relevant questions and gain information essential to making their college selection.
“The people are interested and ask good questions,” Knight Caller David Okienko said as he reflected on the positive correspondences he has had with prospective students.
“We always try to help them out.”
According to Okienko, the students he has spoken to in the past appreciate the information being relayed by real students who are already invested in the university.
He added that they are immediately more attentive “when they hear we are current Gannon students.”
The Callers are urged to respond honestly using their own opinions about questions pertaining to cafeteria food, class scheduling and housing options.
Keefer Kopco, a junior Theatre and Communications major, was heard responding to a scheduling question honestly.
“I don’t generally schedule my classes before 10 in the morning,” he said, admitting this as an attempt to schedule his classes around his sleeping patterns.
Knight Callers are also faced with the task of answering questions about campus clubs and organizations, recreational activities, the Erie community and nightlife.
Other colleges and universities around the country utilize automated messaging and admissions counselors to fulfill these same duties.
Okienko, a senior criminal justice major, said he believes that Gannon’s approach is more appealing to the prospective students “because they can relate to us and we discuss our own experiences.”
Devan Omahen, a senior international studies major, agrees that speaking with current students leaves a lasting impression and that she is often recognized as a Knight Caller.
“Multiple times new students approach me talking about how they spoke to me on the phone before choosing and attending Gannon,” Omahen said.
After speaking to the students and collecting information on their interests, apprehensions and inquiries, the Knight Callers often compile individually executed mailings.
These include Gannon produced fliers, information pamphlets and personalized letters.
The Knight Callers’ diligent work efforts are directed toward reflecting the Gannon community through one swift dial of the telephone. For some prospective students, their first conversation with a Knight caller may be their first contact with a Gannon representative and subsequently their first impression of the university.