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Hartman looking to build ‘EMU brand’

At the end of his first semester as a vice president of enrollment at Eastern Mennonite University, Luke Hartman answered questions on why he feels passionately about his enrollment portfolio, a new position in the university’s leadership cabinet.

How has the enrollment process changed for students entering college since your undergraduate days in late 1980s and early 1990s?

The enrollment process in the 21-century has continued to become increasingly complex. The cost of higher education in both private and public colleges or universities has increased dramatically.

We are acutely aware of the price sensitivity, especially since the 2008 market crash, and are working hard to ensure that we continue to discount a student’s education appropriately and look very closely at the need of the family.

Recruitment has become more and more competitive. Many of the same kinds of colleges are recruiting the same kinds of students. It is important to make clear the distinctiveness of your particular institution to stand out from the others. The ethnic and cultural demographics of our nation are changing rapidly. EMU understands the responsibility it has to become even more equipped to be a diverse campus and continue to be intentional in its decision-making processes in order to meet the needs of students who are increasingly diverse.

A final part of the complexity of the enrollment process is attempting to determine the most appealing feature of the university to highlight to a 15- to 18-year-old high school student. Along with that is discovering what medium should be used to communicate with high school students. The age of social media is upon us, and we are working strategically to find the best mode of communication.

What is your vision for growing enrollment?

Our vision for growing enrollment is multi-faceted. We are currently recognizing that there is a significant untapped market in our own state of Virginia. We are continuing to build stronger ties and relationships with our local constituencies, as well as working toward name recognition statewide.

Our athletic teams are diligently working toward optimal roster sizes, and we continue to develop relationships with other key affinity groups. We recognize that we are an institution that is distinctly Anabaptist, thus we do make special efforts to bring in students from Mennonite background that share the same core values as the university.

What is the ideal EMU student?

Having an ideal student upon entry into EMU would be short-sided and damaging at a minimum. However, when a student departs from EMU one would hope that the student is equipped with values of care and empathy and well-versed in the knowledge of their specific discipline. I would hope that an EMU graduate has had an opportunity to reflect upon and more fully develop their own value system, and be ready to serve using their enhanced gifts, which may have been discovered here.

Why is EMU worth the investment?

One of the most quantifiable areas of investment is the area of job opportunities. At EMU we have an overall placement rate of 98 percent and the placement rate specific to a student’s field is 88 percent. More than 90 percent of our medical school students have been accepted into medical school over the past 10 years compared to the current national average of 46 percent entry rate. In the field of education 97 percent of graduates are employed within six months of graduation and 94 percent of EMU nursing grads pass the state board on the first try.

We are very proud of these results, so we do see the education provided at EMU as a worthwhile investment. The opportunities to perform original research are also a staple of the EMU academic experience.

Another way of valuing this investment is to consider the words of western writer Louis L’Amour who said, “Whatever you commit to your mind no one can take from you.”

After five months, is the position what you expected?

The position of vice president for enrollment has been invigorating this first five months. I am passionately curious and continue to learn more and more about the strengths of the university. I have enjoyed strategic planning, collaborating with other departments, and creating detailed unified plans to help with the enrollment growth and the retention of current students. Developing new relationships within and outside of the greater Mennonite Church USA has been a privilege.

What is your background and how has it shaped you?

I was adopted into the home of a Mennonite pastor’s family. I grew up in New Mexico learning and living out the tenets of the Anabaptist faith. I graduated from Hesston College (Kan.), EMU, Wichita State University (Kan.), and I am pursuing a PhD from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. I’ve also done coursework at James Madison University. Through all these educational institutes I experienced tremendous growth and self-development. I do not take for granted the privileges and faith formation I have benefited from. I now wish to conscientiously share my gifts with EMU, the greater Mennonite Church, and non-Mennonite, public and private constituencies across the country. I wish to continue to share Christ-centered stories of discipleship with different religious groups across the country, as well as to provide intercultural teaching and training to both religious and secular institutions.

Article by Mike Zucconi

augusta free press
augusta free press