Invitation to Community
Recruiters Welcome a Record Number
of Students to North Park
Who shapes the growing, dynamic community at North Park University? The admissions recruiters are on the front lines — finding, welcoming, and encouraging the wide variety of students who make up the North Park community. This fall’s record enrollment of more than 3,200 students includes those from around the city and around the world, and students in a range of schools within the University. In addition to traditional undergraduate students, North Park encompasses the School of Adult Learning, the Theological Seminary, and master’s programs in business, education, nursing, and music. It includes online distance-learning students, part-time students, and those who study at satellite campuses. One challenge for recruiters is to begin to build relationships and create a sense of community within and among these diverse groups.
More Than Ever: Welcoming Traditional Undergraduates
This fall, the traditional undergraduate program reached an enrollment milestone: 1,929 students. Thanks to social media, the burgeoning incoming class started to build community online last spring, participating in a University-hosted Facebook group long before they arrived for orientation. Undergraduate recruiter Brady Martinson described the importance of a community-oriented experience to many incoming students: "I consistently speak with students who want to experience the excitement and opportunities of a big city, but also be a part of a smaller campus community where faith is valued. Students can academically and professionally prepare for their careers alongside fellow students, professors, mentors, and potential employers in a campus community that also cares about their personal, emotional, and spiritual development."
Katherine Hampton, who focuses on recruiting students from the West Coast, got to know student Paul Medina, from Turlock, Calif. Paul said of his home, "To either side of town, if you drove about 10 to 15 minutes, you’d reach almond orchards or cow pastures. Turlock was not like Chicago, to say the least." In addition to helping Medina with the application process, Hampton greeted him when he arrived on campus and made sure he was adjusting to his new life at North Park.
"She would check in with me from time to time to see how my first couple days went, which I greatly appreciated. I owe it to Katherine for helping make my transition to North Park an amazing and easy one." Hampton thinks the experience North Park can offer someone like Medina is quite unique. "We don’t look like a lot of other Christian colleges," she said. "North Park has the combination of a safe environment to discover your values, a community that you can be a key part of, and an opportunity to broaden your worldview through personal interaction with a variety of cultures."
Students who transfer to North Park are welcomed by undergrad recruiter Robert Berki, who personally identifies with their situation. "I was a transfer student to North Park myself, so I make sure they understand the great experience I had as a student and how welcome I’ve felt. I came here as a student in 1999 and haven’t left, so that usually tells students and families something about the North Park experience." Student Jacqueline Cruz appreciated Rob’s efforts. "I am a transfer student from Oakton Community College. Every event day that I attended, Rob was there, greeted me, answered any questions I had, and made me feel welcome to be at North Park." The personal atmosphere at North Park is important to her. She said, "I enjoy the potential for one-on-one with a professor as well as having a variety of different organizations and opportunities for me to grow spiritually. Choosing North Park as my college has been one of my best decisions yet."
Taking Care of Unfinished Business
North Park’s School of Adult Learning (SAL) is for adults who are looking to complete their bachelor’s degrees. Leslie Bertholdt, who is responsible for SAL admissions, describes how incoming students are given support and a sense of community within their program: "SAL students don’t live on campus; 85 percent or more come directly from work or home, and they are very anxious to complete their bachelor’s degrees with ‘no muss or fuss.’ That being said, the School of Adult Learning has many opportunities and events for our students. During orientation, new students get a chance to meet SAL advisors and get lots of information about SAL’s programs and the rich history of North Park University. The new students also meet their fellow ‘newbies,’ which makes the first class a little easier with a few familiar faces. In the beginning of each semester, we host a new-student reception. We encourage all SAL staff, faculty, and current students to attend.”
The SAL team makes a point of building relationships with students, and that begins with Bertholdt. SAL student Carmel Sutton said of her efforts, “Leslie made me feel as if I was a part of the program already. In my younger days I did not fully research the best options for me; this time I took my time and asked a ton of questions. Leslie graciously answered all my questions even if they were silly. She put all of my fears to rest.”
Building a Family at the Seminary
The North Park Theological Seminary community is a place of holistic preparation for future ministry, so director of seminary admissions Kirsten Burdick encourages students to become involved with their peers and to participate in the wider University body. "There are many great ways to get involved in the Seminary community — weekly potlucks, relationships that develop through campus housing, and other Seminary gatherings. Other excellent campus opportunities include connections with undergraduates at the University. Many Seminary students serve through University Ministries as mentors, small group leaders, and athletic chaplains on the campus."
Burdick welcomes students to a community that is shaping theologians and pastors for a complex world. "Students who truly find a home here recognize that the time spent pursuing a Seminary education is about much more than getting a degree," she said. "It’s a time to be formed and equipped on every level for the ministry they are currently doing or will be doing upon graduation."
Seminary student Brandon Wrencher was interested in this opportunity to integrate the academic and the vocational in the setting of a caring community. "North Park’s theological identity is consistent with my own black Baptist and Pentecostal church background that is somewhat of a hybrid of evangelicalism, fundamentalism, liberation theology, and neo-orthodoxy. I was very intrigued by the family atmosphere of the Seminary community, especially the faculty’s accessibility to and concern for students. I spent my undergraduate studies at a very large public university where I was not able to be nurtured academically and vocationally. I am excited to experience such nurture here at North Park."
Welcoming Compassionate Caregivers
Viviana Belisle works diligently to bring graduate and adult students to North Park’s School of Nursing. She has a contagious enthusiasm for the community at North Park. "The nursing instructors offer individualized attention to the needs of adult learners," she said, "but prospective students would never know this unless they feel welcomed from 'day one,' when they make that call or send me that email. By spending time with them on the phone or in person, answering all their questions at an event, or showing them around campus, I hope I give them a little taste of what their experience at North Park will be! I think that transmitting my enthusiasm for our University to others comes naturally for me." Graduate nursing student Joy Ochon said of Belisle: "Anyone she guides through the admission process is very blessed. She made me feel very welcome."
Graduate nursing student Hazel S. Tabao had an additional reason to feel welcomed. "I chose North Park foremost for its cultural diversity. I am from the Philippines, and this would be my first time to study in the U.S. I really wanted to fit in and feel at home. As I read through the fliers and visited the school, North Park gave me the welcoming assurance that I would fit in."
Alumna’s Son Finds a Home
In addition to being a graduate student in North Park’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management, Robert Murray is currently director of planned giving at Alma College in Alma, Mich. He is a distance-learning student, but he shares a personal connection to the North Park family. Murray said, "I decided to apply to the School of Business for a number of reasons. The program fits my career goals perfectly, the program is endorsed by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and it is offered online. On a personal level it is very exciting for me to become a North Park Viking. My mother graduated from North Park in 1961 and I know that this would have made her very proud."
His connection to Chris Nicholson, director of graduate and adult admission, was also important in gaining a sense of community. "How could Chris Nicholson not make you feel like part of the North Park family?" Murray said. "I called Chris with lots of questions, and he had answers. From my first conversation with Chris he felt like an old friend. He was genuinely interested in helping me get into the program and address[ing] any concerns I had. Two thumbs up for Chris Nicholson."