WEST WINDSOR, NJ – For decades, on-campus tours and on-site meetings have been the norm for incoming students each spring at Mercer County Community College (MCCC). Enter COVID-19, and the new era of virtual engagement.

“We are utilizing Zoom, the telephone, email — really any means of communication to be able to set up advisement sessions,” said Lisa Bogdziewicz, a recruiter at MCCC’s West Windsor Campus. “We are always there for the students. We will help students get where they need to be regardless of a pandemic.”

While virtual often connotes impersonal, it seems MCCC’s new virtual interaction efforts have actually brought students, families, administrators and faculty closer together. Interactive conferencing and virtual open houses are two of the many new ways to connect. As part of that outreach effort, prospective students and their parents can interact directly with Mercer faculty and staff through a series of virtual open house events on May 19 (Liberal Arts), May 20 (Health Professions), and May 21 (Business and STEM). Students can sign up at www.mccc.edu/openhouse.

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With the college’s move to virtual operations for teaching, coursework, and administrative functions in March, Bogdziewicz said she and her colleagues on MCCC’s Enrollment Services team are now “all remote all of the time,” with their efforts relying heavily on virtual one-on-ones to provide guidance to incoming graduating high school seniors and nearly 100 high school counsellors, as well as community groups in the region. 

“We all work together on the recruitment initiatives and we have strong relationships with our high schools in the Mercer County area,” Bogdziewicz said. “We have been able to keep that relationship intact and maintained, and it is almost getting stronger with the remote operations we have right now.”

Even though the platform is now virtual, students can still consult with college Enrollment Services staff through individual consulting session via Zoom, available through the MCCC COVID-19 Student Resources Page (www.mccc.edu/mccchealth_students.) And each Tuesday and Thursday from 3-4 p.m., students can tune in to the “Virtual Viking Hour,” a Zoom-based talk show with guests discussing the wide variety of student support services available at Mercer, from scholarships to financial aid to student life activities. Hosted by Gina Migliaccio of MCCC’s Strategic Enrollment Services Office, the Virtual Viking Hour can be viewed live at www.mccc.edu/virtualviking.

“We have faculty, staff and coordinators who are so passionate,” said Stephen Waniak, a recruiter at MCCC’s James Kerney Campus in Trenton. “Not only do they see this as a way to increase enrollment in their programs, this is what they do and what they love. There will be some great presentations out there.”

While the pandemic has undoubtedly changed the face of college recruitment in the near term, many of these new practices may be much more far reaching, according to MCCC Strategic Enrollment Services’ Nicole Hover. Many of these new resources may continue well after the campus returns back to normal operations, she said, as the pandemic has been an education for college recruiters as well.

 “I think it will change the way we do business as a whole,” said Hover. “There are better ways to do things, and I think this kind of opened everyone’s eyes to see what more is out there, and what more we can use to better serve our students.”