Wittenberg enrollment on target to grow as it inaugurates president

Wittenberg is on target to grow enrollment this fall and avoid having to make deep financial cuts that caused many university community members concern.

That news came just before Wittenberg inaugurated its 15th president Thursday evening during a ceremony at historic Weaver Chapel on campus.

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The liberal arts college is a major Springfield employer with an estimated $70 million impact on the region’s economy. It opened in 1845.

The first year on the job has been a special one, Frandsen said, and he hopes to continue to serve as president of Wittenberg well into the future.

“It’s been great,” Frandsen told the Springfield News-Sun in an exclusive interview. “Myself and my whole family have been so welcomed into the Springfield and Wittenberg community and I appreciate it. I came to Wittenberg and there was already a lot of positive momentum and we have been able to build on that and feel really feel good about it.”

Frandsen worked for three years as the vice president for finance and administration at Oberlin College and before that was interim president at Albion College in Michigan. He started at Wittenberg in July 2017.

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The university’s board of trustees approved cuts of $6.5 million in 2015 through reductions and restructuring, such as changes to retiree benefits. However, many of those cuts haven’t taken place and Frandsen believes if the school continues to grow enrollment, they can be avoided.

“We need to keep having success within enrollment,” Frandsen said. “And we are nearing the end of an enrollment cycle and right now indications are good.”

The goal was to attract 600 new students for the fall, Wittenberg Executive Director of Admission Karen Hunt said, and right now deposits for fall student is on track to be 25 percent higher than the goal. The final results won’t be in until the fall.

“We feel are feeling very optimistic,” Hunt said.

Spring and summer recruiting will begin shortly, Hunt said, an important time as many students are still deciding what college to attend. But the university believes it has laid a strong foundation to attract those students to Springfield.

“It’s a whole institution-wide effort to reach out to potential students,” Hunt said. “We try to reach them early when they are sophomores and juniors in high school.”

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About 64 percent of Wittenberg students are Ohio natives and the rest come from all around the world, Hunt said. A lot of students come from Florida and the east coast to attend the school, she said.

The inauguration ceremony Thursday night saw a host of speakers thank Frandsen for what they described as a great first year.

Students Rachael Wallace, Mecca Abdul-Aziz and Lucas George said they appreciated that the new president was approachable.

Frandsen is often seen around campus at functions like plays and sporting events, the students noted, and he’s been happy to interact with anyone who wants to speak with him.

Keynote speaker Randy Bass, vice provost for education and Professor of English at Georgetown University, said education is always evolving with new challenges, but Wittenberg was in a good position to overcome them.

“Every president that has taken over leadership at Wittenberg has done so with a unique set of challenges that belong to that historical moment,” Bass said.

Making sure students are engaged on campus and in the classroom is important, Bass said, because study shows the more they are engaged now, the more successful they are in their careers.

READ: What to know about Wittenberg’s president, Dr. Michael Frandsen

Frandsen was gifted a medal with the school’s motto — “Having Light We Pass It On” — during his installation.

What has stuck out to him in his first year is what the university means to many people, he said.

“How deep the passion for this place runs,” Frandsen said. “I have been at other places and at every place they care, but the depths of that among our students, faculty and staff and especially the alums is really awe-inspiring.”

By the numbers:

$70 million: Estimated economic impact Wittenberg University has on Springfield

25 percent: Enrollment up 25 percent so far for fall 2018

15: The number of presidents since Wittenberg was founded in 1845

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