BUCKHANNON - Incoming students at Wesleyan College are finding a welcoming atmosphere in the Buckhannon-Upshur community, college officials said Tuesday.
John Waltz is the college's director of admissions and enrollment marketing, while Bernie Valento is vice president for enrollment management. They were the keynote speakers at a noon meeting of the Buckhannon Rotary Club at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.
Not only do incoming students experience Wesleyan College, they experience everything the Buckhannon-Upshur Community has to offer, Waltz and Valento said. Thanks to organizations like Rotary, those community experiences are positive and supportive.
Waltz related the story of one out-of-state student who wasn't thrilled about attending college in West Virginia.
"By the time she got to me, she had fallen in love with Buckhannon. That is thanks to the community you have helped to create," Waltz said.
This year's incoming class consists of 417 freshmen and 45 transfer students, Waltz said. Student enrollment is over 1,500 for the first time in 10 years, which is up from just over 1,200 in 2006.
In addition to increased enrollment, the college has seen a 7 percent increase in the retention rate for first- and second-year students, Valento said. The college staff places a great deal of emphasis on creating an atmosphere where students can succeed, and it's an effort that involves the entire community.
"It's about finding students who are a good fit for Buckhannon and the college," he said.
Recruiting the right students and providing them with the tools are part of the formula for student success, Valento said.
"We're trying to create a model with a lot of different streams of enrollment," he said. "It's a great time for the college and the community. We hope to continue to grow our enrollment and continue to do great things."
While students in this year's incoming class come from 25 states and nine different countries, half of them come from West Virginia. This is important to the college, Valento said.
"We're pleased with that because it means we remain affordable," he said.
About 1,200 of the school's students live on campus, while the majority of the remainder live in fraternities or sororities around the school.
Some of the students find niches within the community. For example, two students are living and volunteering with the Buckhannon Volunteer Fire Department while going to school. Additionally, there is a student living and volunteering with the Upshur Cooperative Parish House.
"What I'm hearing from students over and over again is how nice the community is," Valento said.