A College for All

A College for All

The needs of the modern student have never moved quicker, and Wilson is ready to adapt.

Student recruitment and retention requires investment.

Wilson College is not just a collection of pretty buildings and facilities in Chambersburg, Pa. She is a living entity that evolves with the times while maintaining her original mission, principles, and morals. She is the ideal of an egalitarian liberal arts education embodied through her people — the students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

While the entire community represents the College, the students are the heart of Wilson. It is their energy and enthusiasm that propel the institution forward and keep the College alive. Recruiting and retaining students is therefore central to the health and longevity of Wilson and the perpetuation of her mission to provide a unique, broad, rigorous, and personal education.

The growth initiatives pillar of the We Rise campaign aims to provide the financial resources needed to recruit and retain a healthy student body. Meeting students’ needs is complex. It includes everything from the degrees relevant to today’s workplace, to the athletic teams and recreational opportunities students desire, to the learning modalities and technologies that prepare students for the future

Higher education was evolving long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, the pandemic sped up many of the changes that were already in the pipeline. Post pandemic, students have different expectations of what an education will give them and how lessons are delivered. While many still seek the traditional four-year on-campus experience, others, especially adult learners, no longer want or can avail themselves of a in-person education. And both residential and non-residential students are interested in taking courses taught asynchronously to allow them to fit classes and assignments into their schedules.

Non-Residential Degree Options Since 1982

Unlike many similar institutions, we have been accommodating non-residential students and working adults for decades. Wilson’s Adult Degree Program (ADP) was founded “to help lifelong learners, both male and female, get a college degree,” said Beverly Evans, former adult degree admissions recruiter, currently administrative coordinator for the Nursing and Health Sciences program. “The program has been in place since 1982 and has always been coed.”

Originally called the College for Continuing Education, adult education was part of Wilson’s “renaissance” in the 1980s and was seen as an appropriate extension of Wilson’s core mission. Adult learners have sought degrees for many reasons—to advance a career, begin a career, enhance their knowledge or expand their worldview, acquire new skills or complete a personal goal.

Wilson College Online

If the ADP program has been a key element in our mission to provide a Wilson education to as many students as possible, the launch of Wilson College Online for the spring of 2023 is a continuation and expansion of that program. Now we have expanded our footprint into the online higher education space, we can offer a Wilson education to anyone in the country.

“Launching Wilson College Online is a momentous occasion in the 153-year history of the college,” said College President Wes Fugate. “Wilson has always been proud to provide access to post-secondary education, and these new online offerings will help ensure that an affordable, transformative education is available to those, such as adult learners, who need the convenience of learning online.” Wilson College Online will be a life and career changer for students whose busy work and family schedules make attending a traditional in-person college difficult.

New Degrees and Curricula

Once upon a time, people undertook professional training to learn specialized skills and become tradespeople. When technology made those skills redundant, those trained in them didn’t have the skill sets to find new positions without extensive retraining. The beauty of a liberal arts education is that it is time and technology resistant because it teaches you how to learn — an invaluable skill in a world where businesses are crying out for employees who can continue to learn and adapt to rapid changes on the job.

That doesn’t mean we can sit back and thank our lucky stars that we have provided our students with the power skills — communication, creativity, flexibility, teamwork, and research – that make our graduates agile employees. We must continue the work of bringing new degrees and curricula to the Wilson learning experience.

Students and their parents expect colleges to offer specific degree programs that lead directly to successful professions in addition to the power skills a broad education provides. We have listened to what they want and have expanded our successful and in-demand business, healthcare, and veterinary nursing offerings. And we have identified several degrees in the healthcare field that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected employment growth of 20% through 2026. The College is currently pursuing approval to develop and launch a doctorate degree in occupational therapy as well as physical therapy, and a master’s degree in speech language pathology. Our  goal is to offer these new degree programs by 2028. By looking to the future and the needs of employers, we will ensure that a Wilson degree remains relevant and desired in a rapidly changing world.

Happy Students = a Happy College

While we expand into the digital realm and look to future career opportunities, it is just as important to serve and grow the traditional undergraduate population. In addition to new academic offerings that excite and inspire today’s students, we have expanded their recreational and sports offerings. We now have an esports team (competitive video gaming) that competes with colleges and universities across the country and is very popular with students. Kicking off in the fall of 2023, we will have a show choir that will perform regionally as well as for the Wilson community. Similarly, our students have more opportunities to pursue their creative interests with expanded opportunities in the visual arts, dance, music, and creative writing.

The redesigned student areas of Lenfest Commons are comfortable spaces for students to hang out and relax. The new Café @ Sarah’s Coffeehouse is a more casual alternative to the dining hall. And we have responded to the increased interest in our equestrian programs. In every way we can, we are improving the learning environment for our students.

 “I like giving to Wilson because I know that my money is definitely going to go towards a program or something that needs to be done.”

Margaret Hamilton Duprey, a current Trustee of the College, has given a great deal of her “time and treasure” to Wilson. She joined the Board at the suggestion of vice-chair James A. Orsini, VDM, who thought her love of all things equestrian would be a good fit for the College. He has been proven right, and Duprey has contributed to improving our equestrian offerings and facilities. However, her generosity is not limited to things equestrian.

Duprey, who graduated from a small liberal arts college herself, said, “I like small colleges because they look at the student as a person, not as a number. So that if you have issues, either learning or emotional, they can help you with whatever is going on.” She is a co-chair of the We Rise campaign and has singled out the Growth Initiatives pillar as something close to her heart because it affects students directly.

“I think it’s important giving to the students because a lot are first-generation college students,” she said. “The cost of higher education is so expensive these days … Giving has a very direct impact.”

Duprey feels donors can get more for their buck by giving to Wilson rather than larger institutions. “I like giving to Wilson because I know that my money is definitely going to go towards a program or something that needs to be done,” she said.

Online and Totally Wilson

We sat down with the College’s registrar Jean Hoover and the newly hired online registration specialist Tara Redding to find out more about Wilson College Online. There are some basic differences between the online courses and the traditional in-person courses, but both have been developed by Wilson faculty to ensure academic rigor and consistency across degrees.

Hoover explained that it would be easy for an online institution to let students sign up for as many classes as they liked.

But that is not the Wilson way. “Ultimately, they’re the decision maker. But we try to support them to be successful here,” she said. This is why every student that registers is walked through every step and option during their initial one-on-one registration/advising session. Typically, their contact person is Redding, and the first conversation with a potential student, “because we want to get to know the student,” can take up to 45 minutes.

“I help them with everything from orientation to registration to the curriculum,” Redding said. Not only does she find out what programs they want to enter and the details of any credits they may be able to transfer from other institutions, but she tries to get to know them as individuals with lives and commitments that will affect their journey at Wilson. For example, knowing how many hours someone works in a week or what sorts of family obligations they may have helps Redding come up with a course schedule and degree timeline that works with their lifestyles.

“I tell the students, I want everyone that starts at Wilson to complete the program,” Hoover said. That means we are not afraid to advise students to wait or take fewer courses than they want. “We assess every student individually and tailor their plans accordingly.” That could mean advising someone whose work or housing situation is not stable to wait until their situation is resolved before starting at Wilson. Hoover added that the students have commented that our onboarding is outstanding, and they appreciate the time and care we give them.

Tara Redding is our online registration specialist. Originally from Cham-bersburg, Pa., Redding’s first memories of Wilson College were of doing gymnastics in what is now the gym and workout room. “The large trampoline in the back room was my favorite!” she recalled.

“We want people to stay and graduate,” Redding said. That means that she will adapt a student’s plan depending on how each term goes. One person may struggle, and it would be best for them to take fewer classes at a time, while another may find they have the capacity to take on more classes. The key is to work with each student individually.

“It’s all about relationships. We want to build the same sorts of relationships we have with [traditional] in-person students,” Hoover said. Both believe it is this “high touch” and caring commitment to students that differentiates Wilson College Online from other online colleges and will ensure students’ success going forward.

Kaesey Greene ’23
Nursing major, resident assistant, softball player, class officer
Donor-Funded Scholarship:
Margaret & Martha Jamison Scholarship

Kaesey Greene grew up in Taneytown, Md., loving softball and dreaming of becoming a nurse. Greene is a planner and knew she could do both if she found the right college. She researched many nursing programs before choosing Wilson. It was our combination of being a small school where the professors know the students by name, the reputation of the nursing program, and the flexibility of a program that would work with her schedule to allow her to play softball that sold her on the College.

While at Wilson, Greene has played sports, been a peer mentor, and a class officer, to name but a few of her activities. One of her favorite roles was as an RA at Rosenkrans Hall, where a lot of baseball and softball players lived. One day after the baseball team lost a game, the players were very down. So Greene said, “Come to my room, and we can talk this over.” The next minute, a few of the boys came to her room with air mattresses. “This isn’t a sleepover,” she told them. Undaunted, they set up their mattresses on her floor. When a couple more arrived, joined by some of the softball team, Greene threw her hands in the air and gave up. They watched movies, talked about sports and school, and by the next morning, had recovered from the loss and were ready to go again. Greene believes it is memories like these that last a lifetime.

Greene’s scholarship went toward tuition and helped cover extra classes she took over the summer. She also received an Eliza King scholarship through her church and Robert Moton Scholarship for students of color. Between all the funding, she has only had to take out small student loans and has graduated relatively debt free.

“I always wanted to work with kids when I was growing up. So I tried pediatrics, but found I wanted something more intense and hands-on,” Greene said. She explained that she is a bit of an adrenaline junky, and one of the things she enjoyed most about sports was the intensity of competition. When she discovered trauma medicine, working in an every-second-counts environment with patients with acute injuries, she knew she had found her calling. “I just accepted a job at York Hospital in their trauma unit,” she said. One day, she hopes to be part of a medical emergency helicopter crew flying out to take car crash and other trauma victims to the hospital.

Greene’s ambition doesn’t end with flying to the rescue. In a few years, she intends to return to Wilson to do a master’s in nursing and eventually become a nurse practitioner. With her track record of success, no one would bet against her achieving everything she has set out to achieve.

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