Open House preparation up, but fewer RSVPs


Columbia’s April 2 Open House, a collegewide event that encourages prospective students to enroll, attracted 864 potential students, only 54 percent of those who RSVP’d.

By Campus Editor & Reporter

Nearly 400 fewer prospective students RSVP’d to Columbia’s April 2 Open House compared with last year’s event. Of that, only 54 percent of the 1,596 students who RSVP’d attended.

Ania Greiner, director of Enrollment, Events & Services, said one possible reason for the low turnout of those who RSVP’d was the cold, snowy weather conditions the day of the event.

Open House is Columbia’s largest enrollment-focused event, which encourages prospective students to enroll at Columbia by inviting them and their families to campus for tours, presentations and meet-and-greets with current and former students.

According to Jeff Meece, associate vice president of Enrollment Management, the college implemented a new collegewide system for tracking Open House attendance in which people who RSVP’d were alerted to check in when they arrived at the event via an email or text notification.

A total of 864 prospective students attended Open House. Data on attendance at previous Open House events was unavailable, as this is the first year such a collegewide system tracked attendance, Meece added.

Meece said the new check-in system had previously been used for campus tours, and it should allow the college to better predict future enrollment numbers. 

“Now that we have a good tracking method we can count on, we can start to build that data and make a correlation [between Open House and enrollment] potentially down the road,” Meece said.

In addition to the new check-in system, the college took some new approaches to interacting with prospective students at Open House. 

For the first time, Vice President of Student Success Mark Kelly addressed prospective students and their families during the Open House welcome sessions along with President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim’s usual presentation featuring current students and motivational videos showcasing Columbia’s culture. 

This year also marked the first Open House in which the Office of Marketing and Communications helped develop recruiting materials for the Office of Enrollment Management, according to Deborah Maue, vice president of Strategic Marketing & Communications. She said her team also helped develop the presentations by Kelly and the various academic departments.

“The core message in terms of our educational approach is a convergence of creative arts, liberal arts and business that we provide to our students,” Maue said.

Greiner, who said Open House preparation begins a few months before the event, said she hopes to improve Open House’s marketing by targeting more admitted students of varying educational levels. Greiner also said her team is working to improve the Open House communications by making the schedule of events available online prior to the event.

Kelly said he was happy to see more students participating in interactive presentations showcasing their major, like the Music Department’s drum circle and the Photography Department’s presentation of the various forms of photography they created. Students also gave one-on-one feedback to prospective students about college life and academic experiences at Columbia.

The total number of students who RSVP’d  decreased from last year, but chairs of several academic departments, including Theatre, Radio, Television, Cinema Art + Science, Audio Arts & Acoustics, Creative Writing and American Sign Language, said they had a large turnout for their departments’ presentations

and sessions.

John Green, chair of the Theatre Department, said his department attracted the usual turnout of more than 100 prospective students. Prospective theatre students met with faculty, watched a student showcase and interacted with current students.

“Being able to talk to current students without any faculty [or] parents present makes [students] want to come here,” Green said.

Jeff Schiff, interim chair of the Fashion Studies Department, said he was disappointed by the turnout of 75 students, which he said was the lowest number of students the department has experienced. 

“Each year going forward is completely different, even if we could determine a pattern, it won’t tell us much because the educational landscape is changing dramatically every year,” Schiff said.

Larissa Mulholland, associate chair of the Education Department, said 19 prospective students attend her department’s sessions. 

She added that the college is more organized overall, but students in her department had difficulties navigating the campus.

Peter Cook, chair of the American Sign Language Department, and Diana Gorman, associate chair of the department, said in an April 7 emailed statement that the department had 28 prospective students, which was normal for the department, many of whom have already applied. They said they hope to see an increase in deaf students applying to the college. 

“[We] believe Columbia has a lot of potential to offer for deaf students, especially in the media fields,” Cook and Gorman said. 

Donnalee Huddleston, a prospective theatre major from California who said she will be enrolling next fall, said Open House reassured her feeling of commitment to the college.

“I liked talking to the musical theater people and seeing what the next four years will be like curriculum-wise,” Huddleston said.

Robert DeLeon, a prospective television major from Indiana who confirmed he will be attending Columbia, said he was inspired by the opening sessions because they motivated him to be creative and push his boundaries.

“I liked the idea that they still looked at the business side of things as far as marketing because in the end you have to make a living off of it,” DeLeon said. 

The chairs of the Art + Art History, Business & Entrepreneurship, Communication & Media Innovation, Dance, Design, English, History, Humanities & Social Sciences, Interactive Arts & Media, Music and Photography Departments could not be reached for comment as of press time. 

The acting chair of the Science & Mathematics Department declined to comment.