Jun. 19, 2020
Spring Outreach Calling Initiative Helps CWU Students Connect with Other Students
With so many unexpected changes this spring, Central Washington University students could take comfort in knowing someone was looking out for them.
Through the combined efforts of 139 CWU student and staff volunteers, all 10,000 students enrolled in the university system last quarter received a personal phone call and a follow-up email as part of the Spring 2020 Retention Outreach Initiative.
The program — thought to be the only one of its kind being offered by Washington higher education institutions this spring — connected students with resources about online learning, financial aid, housing, wellness, and more. But most importantly, every member of the Wildcat community received some much-needed support as they tried to adapt to an array of challenges brought on by the ongoing public health emergency.
“I think we made a huge difference in the spring quarter experiences for a lot of students because we reminded them that there’s someone out there who cares,” said Della Gonzales, the assistant director of enrollment management operations and projects at CWU, who helped develop and implement the program along with Taggart Archibald, Nichol Hibbard, and Joy Fuqua. “It gives me a real sense of pride to know that our university cares enough to do this.”
Archibald is the director of admissions for engagement; Hibbard is a project coordinator in Operations; and Fuqua is the executive director for Multimodal Learning. Gonzales also credited the work of Josh Hibbard, vice president of enrollment management; Andreas Bohman, vice president of operations; and Lynn Franken, assistant to the president and the former interim provost. Most of all, she thanked the volunteers.
“We couldn’t have done this without our volunteers,” Gonzales said. “This was an incredible group effort and I was very proud to be a part of it.”
The idea for the Spring 2020 Retention Outreach Initiative was first introduced in early April, and in just one week’s time, Gonzales and the project team prepared scripts, email templates, resource materials, and a training program for callers. Once those essentials were in place, the team developed plans for data collection and data management before the calling started April 15.
Gonzales, who is also a CWU graduate student, made about 50 phone calls herself and received her own call from a volunteer.
“It was really great to have a chance to talk to other students — not just about school, but life in general,” she said. “It’s nice to have a person-to-person connection with someone who is experiencing the same things as you are. Plus, we were able to connect so many students with the resources they needed to be successful.”
Another student who got to experience both sides of the calling campaign was Kezyah Mantanona. The junior mechanical engineering student estimated that she called between 300 and 400 students in just under three weeks. She came away from the experience believing she made a difference for many of her fellow students.
“Most of the people I talked to were very appreciative,” Mantanona said. “It didn’t feel like a big deal when I was calling them, but to know I was helping people, giving them information they needed, felt really good. It was awesome to be part of a team like that.”
Mantanona, who also works in the Registrar’s Office, said she and the other callers were given the freedom to adjust the script to match their individual style. She felt she could be herself while also providing crucial information to others who may not have been aware of the resources available to them.
“People were surprised by how many online resources CWU has to offer,” she said. “It felt like there was always something new that I could share with them. Most of all, it was nice to be able to tell them, ‘I’m a student, too, and I know where you’re coming from.’”
Gonzales said this spring’s outreach initiative was such a resounding success that the committee is already discussing other scenarios where students might benefit from similar outreach efforts. After all, providing a personal touch is what CWU is all about.
“Even if the students told you everything was great, we at least got a chance to share some experiences and frustrations with them,” she said. “Some days can be pretty challenging, and we got to offer ourselves as a sounding board. We let people know that they’re not alone and that they matter.”
Photo: Pictured above is Public Affairs executive assistant Karen Allen, who has been fielding her fair share of calls from home during the past three months.
Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, David.Leder@cwu.edu.