Interview with Claudia Rodriguez-Wright, Director of Admissions, Records and Student Services at Sul Ross State University
What changes have you seen recently in Sul Ross College's enrollment?
Sul Ross College is a junior, senior, and master’s level college with a mother institution in Alpine, Texas. Our campus has about 1000 students. As Director of Admissions, Records and Student Services, I handle undergraduate, graduate, international, and student exchange programs. It’s a very complex role, and requires that everyone in my office takes on more roles than they might in a bigger institution.
One interesting factor affecting our enrollment has been the recent nearby oil boom. When there is increased entry level employment and a positive economic impact in the area, there is a negative effect on the enrollment of an institution like ours. Southwest Junior College, our feeder school, has seen double digit drops in enrollment semester after semester. Through our efforts we were able to keep Sul Ross College’s enrollment stable, but it was not easy. Since the initial oil boom, we’ve managed to maintain the gradual growth of 3%.
What strategies did you use to keep enrollment steady and growing throughout this change?
Our enrollment strategies are fairly traditional in terms of communication. We use emails, mailings, college fairs, career fairs, and local events to get our name and value in front of prospective students. One strategy that helped us keep enrollment stable throughout the oil boom was calling. Aside from walking to their houses, calling is as personal as you can get. We asked prospective students if there was anything we could do to facilitate registration. We served as mentors and educated them about their education.
When we made these calls, we did not use student volunteers. We thought it was crucial that an expert walk them through enrollment and registration. Our staff have great knowledge bases, higher level skills, and more knowledge of systems we use to enroll students. We made the decision to walk them through that process on the phone, rather than bouncing them around or giving them a link. This strategy was time consuming but paid serious dividends for us.
How do you keep morale high when everyone in the office is working so hard?
It is difficult - especially when you can’t give out regular raises - to prevent morale from going down when your staff are working so hard. Allowing our staff to have flexibility over their time has worked well for us. We also provide professional development. Our staff have come back after taking advantage of these professional development opportunities as much more valuable employees to us. SACRAO has been an invaluable resource with annual conferences and workshops. When others hear how much we do with so little, they are always impressed with how focused and disciplined the staff at Sul Ross is.
The fact that we were able to remain stable and grow, when our sister institution was seeing double digit drops in enrollment is one of this office’s biggest accomplishments. When you consider what’s going in the region and how other schools are doing, to me it’s something that we need to be very proud of. My advice to other schools would be to change gears and try something new. Our strategy was time consuming and complex to do with one student, but those small gains were significant for us. We were successful.
Dr. Claudia Rodriguez-Wright
Dr. Claudia Rodriguez-Wright, Director of Admissions and Records for SRSU Rio Grande College, earned a BS in Criminology and Corrections from SHSU, a MEd in Counseling from SRSU, and her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from UTSA. Her wealth of experience encompasses work with Walker County and Brewster County CSCD as an Intensive Supervision and Court Services Officer, a Management Auditor with the TDCJ-CJAD, and most complimentary for SR RGC are her experiences with SHSU and St. Edward’s Univ. as an Admissions/Academic Counselor and Transfer Orientation Coordinator.