Mikyla Kerr left her home state of California and came halfway across the country to William Woods University to learn to be an American Sign Language interpreter.
Her choices were limited because only about 30 colleges offer a four-year degree in that field. William Woods is one of them, so she has found a new home.
“I love how everyone is so welcoming and friendly everywhere I go,” she commented shortly after joining approximately 270 new students on campus.
Classes at William Woods University started Aug. 25, and preliminary enrollment figures show nearly 900 traditional undergraduate students studying on the Fulton campus.
While new student and on-campus enrollment dipped slightly this year, evening and online undergraduate enrollment increased by 13.2 percent.
“We are holding strong with enrollment numbers despite many challenges this year,” Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, WWU president, said. “I am proud to say we continue to experience a strong retention rate; once our students enroll, they want to stay.”
According to U.S. News, “As many as one in three first-year students doesn’t make it back for sophomore year.” The retention rate at William Woods is 76.3 percent.
In her back-to-school address, Barnett shared what she called the “good news about the entering class of 2014” with the faculty and staff.
“Twenty students have received the WWU merit scholarship (full tuition) with a 30 or higher on their ACT or SAT equivalent. Last year that number was 13.”
She added that the number of incoming international students in the new class is 18, up from eight last year. This includes nine students from the United Kingdom, one from Canada, two from Bolivia, two from Brazil, three from France and one from Scotland.
Overall, nearly every state is represented in WWU’s enrollment, with Missouri, Illinois, California, Indiana and Texas being the top five. The top countries represented in the student body, in addition to the United States, are the United Kingdom, France and Bolivia.
The incoming class includes 29 students with alumni connections. Barnett attributed the large number of “legacies” to the positive experience their siblings, parents or other relatives had at William Woods.
Sarah Munns, dean of admissions, said, “The entering class of 2014 has been a joy to work with and my team and I look forward to watching each of them flourish during their William Woods career.”
Students continue to select a professions-oriented curriculum, and are increasingly interested in WWU’s graduate program after completing their undergraduate degrees. Top intended majors for both the incoming class and the overall student body are American Sign Language-English interpreting, biology, business administration, equestrian science and sports management.
Munns remarked that the incoming students seem to be focused on their professional goals.
“They have put more preparation and thinking into where they want to be and what they want to do after college, and they are looking for fields that will offer them job stability. They are more outgoing, more independent, self-reliant and ready to stretch their wings.”
One of the ways students are encouraged to “stretch their wings” is through the school’s innovative LEAD (Leading, Educating, Achieving and Developing) program. This fall marks the 13th anniversary of the creation of LEAD.
Any incoming student who agrees to make a commitment to campus and community involvement is eligible for an annual tuition reduction of $5,000 for residential students and $2,500 for commuter students.
The program provides awards to any incoming student who agrees to make a commitment to campus and community involvement through a tuition reduction of $5,000 annually for residential students and $2,500 annually to commuter students.
LEAD is intended to encourage and reward the types of activities that make for a complete, well-rounded liberal arts background. The impact of the successful LEAD program, coupled with the popularity of WWU’s evening, graduate and online programs, has contributed to steady growth for William Woods University.