Plan to increase graduate student enrollment leads to reorganization on campus

Oklahoma Christian University's decision to boost graduate enrollment prompted the reorganization of several departments on campus. Photo by Elise Miller.

Oklahoma Christian University's decision to boost graduate enrollment prompted the reorganization of several departments on campus. Photo by Elise Miller.

Administration at Oklahoma Christian University announced plans to stimulate growth in graduate enrollment, on Sept. 5th, which will lead to changes in the Office of International Programs and Admissions.

Associate Dean for Academics Lee Anne Paris said the decision will change the structure of several offices across campus without compromising any positions. Although it may seem complicated at first, she said the change has been in the works for a while now.

“No positions were eliminated, it’s entirely a reorganization,” Paris said. “People are moving from four different areas. It’s kind of complicated, I’m not going to lie. Effectively, our admissions records group is going to start handling records for all students, so not just for undergraduate students. They’ll also handle admissions records for graduate students.”

Paris said this change is an effort to better accommodate the large number of graduate students on Oklahoma Christian’s campus. She said the new system will allow the various graduate departments to work together as one unit.

“We’ve had graduate programs for a long time here, but we’ve never really had a unit,” Paris said. “We’ve kind of relied on people in the individual areas to support those students. This is an attempt to kind of move in that direction to acknowledge the fact that currently roughly 20 percent of our student body is graduate students and we want to serve them.”

According to Paris, these changes affect not only domestic graduate and undergraduate students, but also international students. She said a new group, Graduate Students and Adult Learner Services, will serve the entirety of the graduate programs, rather than one individual department.

“Graduate international students will be serviced by this new unit, and we’ll be serving all graduate students regardless of origin — domestic and international,” Paris said. “As far as kind of serving our current students, that had already kind of transitioned as of last summer. The piece that was still left was undergraduate international recruiting, and that piece is now going to transfer to our undergraduate admissions.”

International Admissions Counselor Kelsey Herndon said his job as a recruiter dealt with both reaching out to potential international students and caring for those already enrolled. He said, following the changes, a new group of people will step in to fill his previous role.

“I used to recruit both graduate and undergraduate international students, but a lot of my time in that recruiting was also taking care of current students,” Herndon said. “It has evolved over the last few years, but that piece is going now to the domestic undergraduate admissions office.”

Director of International Programs John Osborne said, although it will see some changes, the office of international programs will remain on campus. He said the office will relocate and put more emphasis on study abroad program promotion.

“People and functions are being realigned in different places,” Osborne said. “The Office of International Programs is continuing, but we’re moving upstairs to the space where Admission Records currently is, which is right beside the Admissions office. We’ll continue to focus on two things primarily, and one is our study abroad programs. Our goal is to grow the numbers of students who are studying abroad.”

Osborne said the second goal is to focus on strengthening relationships between Oklahoma Christian and international universities. He said they will offer more study abroad and exchange program options — bringing international students in and sending domestic students out.

“We’ll be focusing on the study abroad programs, because at the university we’re trying to expand our offerings,” Osborne said. “The second thing that we’ll be responsible for is our global partnerships, like with other universities — Ibaraki Christian University, Korea Christian University and other university partnerships. That’s both sending students there on study abroad programs and receiving exchange students and faculty.”

According to Osborne, two people are leaving the office of international programs to pursue different jobs on campus. He said the new jobs vary slightly from the old, but retain aspects of the previous position.

“Greg Gillham has been an international admissions counselor for the last 11 years, and Greg is going to the graduate recruiting group,” Osborne said. “I think he’s going to help spearhead the international recruiting piece for that new group. Joslyn Hill has been the international student advisor that is primarily about immigration, student visas, reporting to the appropriate government agencies, that kind of stuff. She’s going to the admissions records.”

Paris said she is staying involved in the reorganization process to make sure the transition runs as smoothly as possible, and avoids obstacles along the way. She said she hopes to work with faculty members while everyone adjusts to the new structure.

“I think any kind of change is challenging,” Paris said. “It’s a really good long-term thing for the university, but it’s always hard in the short term to make change, so we’re just working through that. I’m just working with all the people to kind of really listen, and to make sure that I hear what they’re currently doing, and what would work and what wouldn’t work so that we can kind of make those decisions all together.”

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