Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve are the words carved in stone at the opening gates of Appian Way. This year the college embraced these words with the Class of 2019 by raising the standards of what it takes to be a Keene State College Owl.
Starting with the application process, the GPA requirement was raised to a 3.0 and the SAT score to an average of 1500 points. However, the college and the admissions department weren’t only looking for those requirements.
According to Assistant Director of Admissions for Multicultural Recruitment and Outreach Kevin Justice, the college paid more attention to potential students’ academic profile and progress.
“We looked at what classes they were taking in high school, making sure that they were challenging themselves…. We do this every year, this year we were just a little more focused and were really sticking to students who prepared themselves for college,” Justice said.
Justice continued, “In the past we’ve looked for those things but were probably willing to take a couple more chances, but numbers prove that maybe some students are better off doing other tracks before they come here or weren’t as prepared and so we really shot for the students that would have the best chance of making it through all four years here.”
Along with looking closely at potential students’ files, admissions also looked into what activities they were involved in and which students would really embrace the college’s mission statement – enter to learn, go forth to serve.
“I think that the service piece is big. What are students doing that doesn’t involve themselves?”
Justice said. He continued, “We are looking for more students who are really going to embody the message of the school…We are also looking for students who are going to be vibrant and involved pieces of the community…I believe that students who get involved tend to stay around, retain better, tend to be a bigger part of the population and find success at the college level. So were looking at what students did in high school, what were they involved in, what are they interested in and what will they bring here.”
First-year students Savanna Jordan and Adam Buskey are great examples of the new selection system. Jordan is from Bedford, New York and heard about the college through two of her friends that are attending KSC. In high school Jordan said she was on her school’s dance team and participated in a zumba club. Along with dance and zumba, Jordan said she was involved with a club called the Minority Student Achievement Network.
“We focused on how to get different minorities achieving more in class, especially first generation students, and we went to a conference in Arizona. There we met with twenty other schools from around the United States and brainstormed ideas about how we could get more minority kids doing better in class, getting them to stay in classes and thinking of ways that we could make learning seem more fun, how to achieve more and get ahead in life,” Jordan said. Jordan said since she’s been at KSC she’s gone to a leadership retreat with the multicultural department and is thinking about joining the club Common Ground, playing intramural volleyball and trying out for the dance team.
Buskey is from Nashua, New Hampshire, and wanted to come to Keene to make a difference. In high school he was class president for three years and learned leadership skills not only from being president but as a varsity baseball player and a sports radio show host.
“I’m the type of person that puts others in front of me, and I want Keene State as a community to all feel accepted and welcome,” Buskey stated.
Buskey stated that a lot of his friends come from different backgrounds and he wants all cultures to feel welcome at KSC.
“I forget the exact name but I would like to join the international group at Keene and of course I’m going to join intramural sports like flag football and softball. I also want to join SAC ( Social Activities Council) and will most likely have a job working with the student activities department,” Buskey stated.
Jordan said she originally wanted to go to another college but now that she’s here she’s happy with her decision. “Keene kind of surprised me, because originally I wanted to go to Arizona State but now that I’m here I’m excited! I have a lot of friends already which is good, classes are going well, so I think this year and my coming years will be pretty fun,” Jordan said.
Along with Jordan it looks like the rest of the class of 2019 will also be sticking around for years to come, or at least this year.
KSC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Walter Zakahi said that the “Summer Melt” or the “ Melt Rate” which is number of students who decide not to come to Keene during the summer for various reasons
( financial aid, found another college, etc..) has been cut in half. “We won’t know that actual number till thirty days out but the melt rate has improved a lot, it’s gone from eight percent to four percent and I think June orientation had a lot to do with it,” Zakahi said. During the June orientation students came to campus for a few days; many came with members of their family and got an opportunity to register for classes before they got to campus, which is something that hasn’t been done in a couple years, according to Dr. Zakahi.
“They [the students] were starting to learn about Keene State, college life and really learn what a great place this is…faculty and staff also provided advising,” Dr. Zakahi said.
He continued, “In the past first-year students didn’t really have a lot of control of what they were taking so we changed that up quite a bit this year.”
Zakahi said students were able to specifically pick two of the courses they were taking and then two courses depending on their major were really identified.
He gave the example, “Let’s say a student is a journalism major … So we would start by talking to the journalism department and they [ the journalism department] would say these are the courses an incoming student should take if they want to be a journalism major. So we would then register them [the student] for those two suggested courses and then work with them [ the student] to select their ITW, IQL and an ISP course.”
Zakahi said he thinks that the engagement of the faculty and staff and the advising process has helped make a nice connection between students and the institution. According to Zahaki as of now the entering class’ SAT scores are up about 20 points but overall the college is trying to identify a group of students who they think will be more successful in the end of their college career.
Justice agreed and said, “In the end I think that it’s very important that colleges and universities put out beyond their walls, because there are a lot of students who do a lot of great things but if nobody ever hears about it, if it doesn’t go beyond the walls of Keene State it doesn’t really service the students as well as the institution. People need to know what we’re doing and that we’re pushing to the next level.”
Justice said that education is about trying new things, improving, educating yourself and being able to manipulate the world that you [ the students] are about to go into. He said that if they [ the college] don’t push the boundaries of the students that they enroll and the things that professors teach in class or the events and activities students are involved in, then the college is doing a disservice to the students.
“I thinks that’s the benefit of what we’re doing…We want more active engaged citizens, we want KSC to be on the map more than ever, maybe even outside of New England… With all the activities that went on last year and it just being a crazy year for us we have some work to do and we need to let people know all the good things were doing here,” Justice said.
President Huot was unavailable for comment.
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