By L.A. Warren
Jackson State University President William B. Bynum Jr., accompanied by dozens from the campus, has begun crisscrossing the state to share with high school students the value of a JSU education, with his first stops at Yazoo City High School and Ocean Springs High School last week.
Keiona Miller, interim director of Undergraduate Recruitment, said the Presidential Tour is a way to introduce Bynum and deliver a widespread message about the urban institution’s stellar academic programs, organizations, research and community engagement. She said Dr. Steve Smith, interim vice president for JSU’s Enrollment Management, was key to starting the tour that is expected to expand.
Miller said the two schools they visited recently are demographically different. Although Yazoo is predominantly African-American and Ocean Springs mostly white, both were energized by JSU’s presence.
Furthermore, Miller said JSU will venture to recruit in other places such as Ocean Springs, which was supported by the district’s superintendent and JSU alum Dr. Bonita Coleman-Potter. As well, JSU will continue visiting “old faithful” that include Memphis and Mobile, Alabama.
“The trips were a total success,” Miller said. “Yazoo was excited and engaged. Many at Ocean Springs weren’t really aware of JSU, but it was interesting to see them get excited about us being there. Once they got more familiar with us, their energy levels really exploded.”
Miller credited JSU’s hype squad that consisted of a wide contingent of university representatives. She especially pointed to the enthusiasm generated by the Sonic Boom and the Prancing J-Settes.
“JSU really got the crowd up and moving. Ocean Springs has a strong band program, so there was a huge buzz among their members when they heard the Sonic Boom would be performing,” she said. During the visit, JSU’s interim director of bands Dowell Taylor conducted auditions at OSHS.
Commenting on JSU’s recruiting pizzazz, the principal of Ocean Springs said, “JSU did in five minutes what it would take other universities to do in an hour or so,” Miller recounted.
JSU’s major academic colleges, departments and organizations were well represented. These areas included Recruitment, Admissions, Financial Aid, Veterans Affairs, Bridge to the Future program, Disability Services, the Sonic Boom, J-Settes, drum majors and cheerleaders.
In addition, Miller said JSU’s Blue Ambassadors, a group of student liaisons, added a youthful flair to recruitment efforts.
Future trips are now being planned, she said, because “there are places in Mississippi that may not know much about JSU. We can’t have that. After all, I’m a graduate of JSU, and my daughter is an alum, too. We bleed blue in my house.”