John Fraire — having never seen the Palouse, and knowing virtually nothing about the WSU system — accepted a position in July as WSU’s vice president for enrollment management. WSU Today, having given Fraire three months to settle in, checked in recently to see how his decision has panned out and what he has on the front burner.
Prior to Pullman, Fraire served as dean of admissions at WMU, 1997-2005. For three years, 1999-2002, he worked under then-WMU president Elson S. Floyd. Combined with Floyd’s leadership and support, Fraire’s unit helped propel WMU as a state leader in freshman and diversity recruiting. During that time he also developed an “enormous respect” for Floyd’s leadership.
So, when he got a call from him in July, he said he had “no hesitation” coming to work for him. Over the past three months, he says, “I have sensed a very strong attachment to the university among students and alumni, a real commitment.” Combine that with a warm welcome from faculty and staff and he says he’s hooked.
Fraire has a bachelor’s degree in government and a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, as well as a master’s in history from Western Michigan University (WMU).His position is far from simple. His assignment is to oversee and coordinate all aspects of enrollment services — admissions, financial aid, scholarships, registration, outreach and recruiting efforts.
Both WMU and WSU are research universities and have enrollments of about 25,000 students. When asked to compare the institutions, Fraire says both have strong statewide recognition, but WSU is “much more complex.”
“WSU enjoys much more popularity and recognition (among high school students). It also has a lot of popularity among community college transfer students, which I’d like to see developed through communication, recruiting and articulation agreements.
Many (community college students) have intentions of transferring to WSU and need to feel like they are WSU Cougars while attending community college classes.”
Fraire sees both strengths and weaknesses at WSU.“We offer a very good product. WSU is a good university with strong school spirit among students and a commitment among alumni to the university,” he said.
But WSU needs to find ways to respond more quickly to student inquiries. A second weakness is a lack of adequate financial aid and scholarships.“We need to use less tuition waivers and instead use more real money in our scholarship programs. And we need to find areas where people want to make donations.”
One strategy to build donor enthusiasm, he noted, is to arrange for more donors and scholarship recipients to meet, so people can see how their donations are making a difference in specific students’ lives. One recent example of that, he said, was when student Christopher Lee, a recipient of the Lighty Leadership Scholarship, met several members of the Lighty family.
Work the west side
Not surprisingly, Fraire has realized that a major challenge to recruiting students statewide is “location.” “Some students on the west side think Pullman is too far to travel. But that’s just a matter of getting them to visit.”
To that end, he said, WSU needs more representation on the west side, including stronger relationships with the high school counselors.
“We have already set up breakfast meetings with counselors around the state,” he said. “We want to find out what’s of concern to them.” One ongoing WSU priority that Fraire is charged with is increasing student diversity. If you break down WSU’s 25,097 statewide enrollment by ethnicity, it shows the following percentages: Native American 1.3%; African American 2.2%; Hispanic 4.4%; Asian 6.1% and Caucasian 72.2% (international 4.6%).
“We are working to improve our outreach to underserved, low-income areas,” said Fraire, “But it’s not just a case of recruiting those students. We need to make sure we have adequate services to help them make their college selection and to succeed once they get here.”
Fraire sees the faculty playing an important and expanding role in achieving WSU’s recruiting, diversity and international goals. “We want to connect prospective students with faculty members, but we want to do it in a way that is respectful of the faculty members’ job responsibilities and schedules.”
On occasions there have been lists of 10-20 prospective student names sent to faculty members, requesting that they make contact, which Fraire sees as unreasonable.
“Most faculty are busy and don’t have time to do that. Instead, I’d rather contact a student on a faculty member’s behalf. Then, with the faculty member’s permission, encourage the prospective student to contact the faculty member by e-mail or phone or whatever seems appropriate.”
Faculty who want to contact Fraire with ideas on these topics and projects can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 335-5900.
Although he has projects cooking on every burner, he welcomes new ideas and the chance to talk with faculty and staff.