Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Welcome, Wildcats

There’s something special about the fall semester at Fort Valley State University, especially Wildcat Welcome Week. Orientation activities are held for freshmen the week before the upper classmen arrive. On Sunday, the FVSU family opened its arms wide to help the pride of new Wildcats. The new students met their surrogate family - student ambassadors and representatives in housing, financial aid, admissions, plant operations and volunteers who shuttled them in golf carts and buses to help with their move. It’s such a nice touch. My grandmother and sister helped me move into the dorms at UF many moons ago. I can’t remember ever seeing administrators help anyone lift a box.

When I arrived at the orientation’s location at the HPE Complex, the parking lot was packed with cars and a huge blue and gold tent. At noon, the District 2 FVSU Alumni Association, led by the Warner Robins chapter, grilled and served hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks to a thousand students and their families for free. When I say families, I mean not only immediate family – but aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins.

Waves of campus guests poured out of the gym after the convocation ceremony that featured speeches by Miss FVSU, Mr. FVSU, the Student Government Association President and President Larry E. Rivers. The Blue Machine Marching Band and Dancing Dolls added high energy to an already charged atmosphere. Instinctively, feeling my journalism mojo kick in, I pulled out a notepad to interview parents. I couldn’t help myself. Every parent I met gave the president’s speech a thumbs up.

I interviewed several students and mused about the months and months of work the entire FVSU family spent beating the bushes to recruit them. Georgia is a competitive market in higher education. We’re in a battle to win and retain every student interested in matriculating here.

For the marketing department’s part, we embraced a “by any means necessary” approach to selling the school to potential students. We designed print and billboard ads, placed them in publications; wrote radio and tv spots and loads of press releases, then distributed these to the media throughout the state. We helped produce editorials in daily newspapers and produced a television show called the Wildcat Report. Free time was booked on any public access station that agreed to air the show. Then there were endless calls made to book interviews on tv and radio stations throughout Georgia to discuss our victories and challenges. We opened an account on Facebook and MySpace for Dr. Rivers to give students more access to the president and placed video blogs on You Tube.

So far, our efforts are paying off. As students pour in this week to register, I’m counting each one and celebrating. FVSU’s enrollment increase isn’t one department’s accomplishment. It’s a unified, collaborative effort that the entire FVSU family can be proud of.
--Vickie Oldham is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Fort Valley State University

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