Class aims to fix enrollment


By Walter Douglas

A business class is gaining experience in and out of the classroom by gathering enrollment and retention information to be presented to NIU President Doug Baker after Thanksgiving break.

Business management professor Eric Wasowicz said Baker’s Aug. 20 town hall meeting inspired him to assign his fall entrepreneurship and business model implementation class a project in which students act as consultants to NIU. The goal is to solve the problem of declining enrollment and retention at NIU, Wasowicz said.

NIU’s enrollment has fallen from 24,424 students in fall 2009 to 20,611 this semester while freshman retention rose from 66 percent in fall 2013 to 71 percent this semester, according to a Sept. 11 Northern Star article.

The Victor E. project, as Wasowicz calls it, involves nine students divided into four categories representing an aspect of enrollment and retention. Those focus areas are recruiting and retention, safety, operations and campus living. Senior management major Nelson Caudillo was assigned the role of Victor E. CEO.

“A unique value proposition for Victor E. is that these are students that are looking into this,” Wasowicz said. “This isn’t some administrator or some teacher. These are students and their viewpoints on these four areas that state-ran universities are facing.”

Gathering information

Victor E. is gathering information about the four enrollment and retention areas through online surveys.

For recruiting and retention, the class created a survey that mainly focused on prospective freshmen and transfer students. Members reached out to their high schools and Caudillo reached out to Kishwaukee College.

For safety, group members reached out to the Greek Row community due to violent incidents that have occurred there this semester. They focused on how to bring more safety to off-campus areas, Caudillo said.

For operations, the class surveyed faculty about their roles on campus. They also surveyed students to see what they would like to see out of administrators and faculty.

For campus living, the class asked students what kind of entertainment they wanted in the area. The group then came up with the idea for a Saturday-only student-run area where clubs and groups could sell merchandise and reach out to the community.

Working with Baker

Baker, who met with Victor E. in September, said he looks forward to catching up with the group after Thanksgiving break.

“I am impressed with how each and every one of them are handling themselves with coming up with ideas about enrollment here at NIU,” Baker said.

Consulting Baker about the project gives the group members motivation to succeed, Caudillo said.

“We’ve sat at a table with Baker and showed PowerPoints, but it was really a conversation between everyone,” Caudillo said. “It’s really not every day that a university’s president takes time out of his schedule to have four separate meetings with students to help our business idea and push us to make it a reality.”