Wilkes University thrives as an institution by appealing to projected students

Chart by Mike Klimek

Devoni Novak, Assistant News Editor

After Wilkes University ranked as one of the fastest growing institutions in The Chronicle of Higher Education this past August for the school’s growth between 2004 and 2009, Tim Gilmour’s departure has some wondering whether the university will continue to thrive.
When asked how his leaving may affect the school’s growth, President Gilmour is unsure of the consequences himself.
“Well, who knows,” Gilmour said. “Obviously the new president will have some ideas in this area, I’m sure some things will change.”
Gilmour hopes the new president will have ideas that will benefit students and employees. He feels that broadening the programs Wilkes offers will ensure the institutions long-term survival and success. Gilmour suggested that the approved strategic plan for 2015 offers a good starting point for the new president as they think about what they want to do for Wilkes.
Wilkes has been able to attract incoming students thus far because of the quality of its programs and faculty mentoring, according to university Provost Reynold Verret. Verret said that Wilkes offers an education that mimics hands-on apprenticeship and sets the university apart from others. He believes this style of learning is important because students actually learn how to do what they are studying instead of simply learning the theories behind the practice.
“In many ways that apprenticeship is a valuable thing,” Verret said. “Practicing [the] discipline is something students are finding at Wilkes and I think that is a very attractive part of what we do.”
As a member of the Wilkes administration, Verret makes it his personal goal to seek out the best professionals to create exceptional faculty mentoring. Not only does Verret want to make an impact on the number of students that attend Wilkes, but he also aims to contribute to the success of each student.
Verret suggested that faculty has a role in the increase in students by being a key aspect in making Wilkes attractive to possible students.
“Putting in place a great faculty that is engaged and creative and willing to actually offer the best to students (is important),” said Verret. “Students don’t come here to meet me or to meet the dean; they come here for the faculty.”
Other than maintaining a worthy faculty, the administration also targets a number of possible student groups to keep Wilkes thriving as an institution. The four primary target groups are: first-time freshman, transfer students, international students and graduate students.
About 550 first-time freshman enrolled this fall, which called for an increase in dorm space that needed to house these students. However, it has been predicted that the number of incoming freshman will decline over the next ten years. To compensate, the university hopes to attract more international students and increase that student population by 50 percent.
To date, the total university population is mainly made up of students who are studying at the graduate level. Gilmour said this is because the administration predicted that the need for this type of degree would be in higher demand and Wilkes has accommodated to meet the need of these projected students.
As Wilkes continues to grow, existing students have benefits to look forward to. Facilities will improve as more funding becomes available and in turn the institution will have greater capabilities and higher quality programs.
Gilmour suggested that as Wilkes continues to grow in student population, the university will become stronger.
“The main thing is that we as an institution are much stronger academically and financially,” Gilmour said. “That’s what growth really does for us; it gives us the capabilities to do things that we couldn’t do otherwise.”