Registration Rocks at Volunteer State Community College
June 2009, Volume 4, Number 4
by Eric Melcher
Photos by Kristen Salter
The guitar player tunes up as the drummer raps on the snare drum for a sound check. Two young women share a laugh while eating lunch. A woman blows bubbles as she talks to students. It could be a summer festival and in some respects it is, but Registration Rocks at Volunteer State Community College has one goal: get potential students into the college process early, before the rush.
"We hold it on the day when everyone can start registering for fall classes," said Tim Amyx, director of admissions and college registrar. "It's a fun way to engage new students and potential students, without the formality and stress of traditional registration days."
The Gallatin, Tennessee, college started the event last year. A rock band plays on the campus plaza. Students can listen, eat free sub sandwiches, and interact with a number of college offices and departments, all in a low-key environment. “It makes it more lively registering when they have bands and stuff,” said 21 year old Kinsey Rippy of Gallatin.
A helicopter mom scans the assortment of tables to figure out what her teenager should do next. Other teens chat with Vol State employees about classes and majors. The event is clearly marketed to the younger crowd. “I was worried it was just going to be a bunch of people sitting in a room,” said 20 year old Mandy Coons of Castalian Springs. “This makes it more fun. It’s a good change.”
The logo on posters is an outline of an iPod and one of the big draws is a video game contest. Under a tent in front of the college library, teens grasp a little plastic guitar-like keyboard and try to keep up with the changing screen. The sounds of heavy metal guitar fill the air. The video game, Guitar Hero, gives the students something familiar and fun to break up the bureaucracy of signing up for classes. "Some people were just having fun hanging out and watching the contest, " said Derek Pennycuff, the college webmaster, who helped to supervise the video game contest. "Some people really got into the strategy and how to win. There were even parents and grandparents hanging out and watching."
The video game contest also serves the purpose of showing that college is more than just classes, books and studying. "College is also about making social connections that can last for the rest of your life," Pennycuff said.
"We encourage the Vol State employees to get out of the box when it comes to how they present themselves," said Amyx. "Our TRIO program used blowing bubbles and fun games to attract interest. We let students approach us on their own terms."
Registration Rocks came about as a joint initiative between Admissions and Public Relations. The event kicks off a fall registration PR campaign designed to get students into the admissions, advising, and registration process earlier.
The event brought in about 400 students the first year; this year’s event drew over 550 students. While the start of fall registration is typically busy, organizers noticed a 10-15 percent increase in registration the first year and estimate an additional 5-10 percent increase this year. An on-campus orientation session is held in the morning, which allows those students to experience the college and engage some of the student support offices that give out information at the event. "We look at this as an opportunity to make students aware of how we can help them outside of the classroom," said Ken Lovett, director of public relations. "They may not know about our TRIO student support services program or our NewSkills learning help center. On a typical registration day no one has time for those sorts of things. This provides the environment for students to explore a bit."
The admissions and advising offices still do most of the paperwork and heavy advising back in the offices. The tables outside on the plaza act as a form of triage, with college staff talking to students to determine needs and then steering them in the right direction.
Everything about the event has a Vol State connection, including the band. They're current students in the visual and performing arts program. "To be able to play on campus for an event like this is the best of both worlds," said Dustin Good of the band, Lincoln County Fusion. "We get to play for our friends who are already on campus and also reach some new folks. There was a lot of good energy."
In the long run, organizers hope Registration Rocks can give a little push to students still on the fence about college. "There is an impression that community college isn't as lively as a university campus," Amyx said. "This helps to show that we do have a vibrant campus life and perhaps it's time to take the college plunge."
The band breaks into a song and people take a moment to watch. The sun is shining and there are smiles. It's all part of college bureaucracy in action.
For more information about the program, contact Eric Melcher, coordinator of communications and public relations, Volunteer State Community College, 615-230-3570, Eric.Melcher@volstate.edu.
This post was provided by Eric Melcher.