The University of Southern Mississippi held an open forum Wednesday, which featured Richard Mullins, one of two finalists being considered for the positions of associate vice president for enrollment management and dean of admissions.
Mullins has been on campus working in a temporary capacity since November 2014. A self-proclaimed “admissions geek,” Mullins has been working in higher education for 27 years.
The open forum took place Wednesday morning in the Polymer Science Research Center auditorium.
Several members from different departments and offices across campus attended the forum to hear the ideas Mullins wants to implement at Southern Miss. The forum also was made accessible to members of the Gulf Coast campus.
One of the first things Mullins mentioned was the university’s need for goals in order to succeed in enrollment.
“Simply saying you want more students is not enough,” he said.
Mullins believes that the university needs to take a closer look at what each department needs as far as the number of students needed in their department.
He suggested the same tactic be used for areas such as Residence Life and student life.
Mullins also suggested the university expand the pool of students it reaches out to.
Currently, Southern Miss enrolls 60 percent of the students it admits. That is an exceptional number since, according to Mullins, Ivy League schools enroll 65 percent of the number of students they admit.
“We have been so efficient that we have made a small pool,” Mullins said.
By expanding the number of potential students the university contacts, Mullins believes Southern Miss will not only increase the quantity of students, but also
He suggested the university do this in several ways. One way is for the university to double the number of campus visitors.
According to Mullins, there have been three studies that indicate a student who visits Southern Miss is 52 percent more likely to enroll, whereas if they do not visit campus, there is roughly a 18 percent chance they will choose to enroll.
Another suggestion he made was for USM to reach out to out-of-state markets. Mullins said both Florida and Texas are the fastest growing states for high school graduates.
Southern Miss is located less than 10 hours from some of the major cities in both states. For out-of-state recruitment, Mullins believes alumni support will play a vital role.
One of the last points Mullins brought to the forum was the university’s need to implement some form of enrollment indicator.
He believes that by initiating some form of commitment for students who are admitted, whether it be an enrollment fee or a pledge to sign, will help the university to better assess how many students to expect for the coming year.
“We will never cease to be fishermen,” he said.
Mullins began his career in 1989 as a graduate program assistant for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Stratton Student Center.
Since then, Mullins has worked at Miami University, Lambuth University, St. Peter’s College and several other universities and colleges where he has either worked with enrollment or worked as the vice president for enrollment management.
The university will hold another open forum in the Polymer Science auditorium March 4 for Deborah Heslep, the university’s second finalist for the positions. Southern Miss encourages all interested students and faculty to attend.