By Kametra Nickerson-Loud, Reporter
A record 14,579 students enrolled at Eastfield this semester, a 3.1 percent increase over last year and a 40 percent increase since spring 2009.
Eastfield is the second-largest community college in the DCCCDbehind Richland, but it continues to be the fastest growing Cedar Valley is the only other campus that shows an increase over last year’s enrollment.
President Jean Conway said Michael Gutierrez, executive vice president of Student Affairs and Student Success, is a key part of the school’s success.
“When he first came here, he was the vice president of Academic Affairs,” Conway said. “He worked with the faculty, with the deans to help scheduling, to be more effective and more efficient, so that we were offering the kinds of classes students wanted.”
Gutierrez said he is not the only one responsible for the increase in enrollment.
“The instructional deans have done a very good job of forecasting to strategically schedule classes to meet community demand,” he said.
For the first two years, Gutierrez and the deans researched and listened to the needs and wants from students. Those needs are considered when scheduling classes.
“The more we had schedules students wanted, the more students signed up,” Conway said. “That also affected the reputation of the college. Lots of things happen through social media and by word of mouth. It just began to feed on itself. Students were telling other students, and they began to come more and more.”
Gutierrez said that as sections fill close to the start of semester, administrators aggressively add sections where appropriate.
The same strategy was applied to the student services area within the last year. This includes admissions, advising and orientation, which are also lead by Gutierrez.
“We had a reputation that when students came to register, it took forever,” Conway said. “Students were standing in line for hours. Students were frustrated. Gutierrez and the people in that area said this is not acceptable and we have to change this.”
To combat the problem, Gutierrez hired Kimberly Moore, director of Academic Advising and Assessment.
“She is absolutely amazing,” Conway said. “Together, [they] spearheaded the leadership.”
Moore said her department contributed to the growth by being readily available and knowledgeable.
“We provide [students] with tools to help them achieve their educational goals,” she said. “We do one-on-one appointments and various workshops throughout the semester.”
Moore and Gutierrez also worked with other staff to introduce zone registration this year.
“Zone registration is how Student Services sets up during peak registration,” Moore said. “Every major office has a check-in station to ensure students are at the right place at the right time.”
Gutierrez said students no longer have a four- to six-hour wait time to get registered, and that has a significant impact on how students are served.
“Although mistakes can still be made, they are minimized because students are triaged at the beginning,” he said. “We have seen frustration levels of students lowered during these times.”
The growth has caused more academic programs to be added for students to choose from. Moore said that although Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees are the most popular, students have begun to pursue many other programs.
Conway noted that the Arts, Language and Literature was once an area that had not reached its potential, but now students are able to view art displays throughout campus.
There are now three to four plays a year, choral and dance programs have been added.
The science area has expanded with so many students, it’s running out of lab space. Additional labs are scheduled to be built late at night on Sundays.
The college has also partnered with Honda and Toyota to make training accessible to mechanics on campus. Once the courses are completed, students can get a job with either company, Conway said.
From Digital Imaging and College Readiness to Math and Athletics, many other programs are experiencing a surge in popularity, Conway said.
“Each [division] has grown according to their own specialty,” Conway said. “Everybody has stepped up. I am pleased. I can’t wait to get here on Monday mornings. I love it.”