William Woods Attracts New Students with ‘Small Community Feel’

Like so many other students, Morgan Westhues was attracted to William Woods University because of the “small community feel.” Westhues, of Fayette, Mo., is one of 270 new students attending the university in Fulton this fall. She emphasized, “I love the atmosphere; everyone always greets you with open arms. I also love all the opportunities to get involved outside of class and build your resume.” A political/legal studies major with a minor in English, Westhues especially likes the model courtroom because she hopes to attend law school after WWU.

Classes at William Woods University started Aug. 26, and approximately 1,000 students are enrolled on the Fulton campus of this fall.  A strong retention rate contributed to the solid numbers. In her back-to-school address, Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, WWU president, told faculty and staff she was looking forward to welcoming the new students to campus and greeting returning students. “We sometimes take for granted the important roles we play in the lives of these young people, for we, each one of us, the entire faculty and staff, are the constant as these students embark upon the William Woods experience,” she said in her speech. “It is always good to be reminded of the difference we do make in the lives of our students.”

She also cautioned, “Let us never take for granted the responsibility each of us has. While it would be easy to focus our efforts entirely on enrollment initiatives, that simply will not suffice.  Retention will be even more critical than ever this year and beyond.  It is a responsibility that falls to us all – yes, each of us needs to be vested in student centeredness.”

This year William Woods welcomed new students from 23 states and six countries— Australia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, England, Russia and Spain.  Overall, nearly every state is represented in WWU’s enrollment, with Missouri, Illinois, California, Texas and Kansas being the top five. The top five countries represented in the student body are Brazil, England, Canada, Spain and the United States. The incoming class includes two sets of twins and 30 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.

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 the incoming class are biology, business administration, education and equestrian science. American Sign Language-English interpreting continues to be among the top five majors for the overall student body.

Sarah Munns, dean of admissions, 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.