SMC enrollment rebounds after pandemic

Published 2:43 pm Thursday, August 10, 2023

DOWAGIAC — The Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees heard Aug. 9 that enrollment trends which turned a post-pandemic corner in 2022 continue to move in a positive direction ahead of the Sept. 5 start of Fall Semester.

“Three years ago, Fall 2020, COVID-19 wrecked enrollment. We were down 17 percent in head count,” President Dr. Joe Odenwald reported. “That was around the national norm for two-year community colleges. In Fall 2022, the proverbial corner was turned, with SMC up 3 percent in headcount, 5 percent in contact hours and housing was full, fueled by steady adult numbers, investment in technology such as CRM (data-driven customer relationship management software), excellent fall-to-fall retention, the return of intercollegiate athletics, better dual enrollment numbers and the addition of online courses, including a fully online business program.”

“I know we have enough good things going to add up to a solid fall,” Odenwald told trustees. “We’ll know for sure around Labor Day. There is a positive bounce about this place. We have really good people, faculty and staff — you’ll hear about some this morning — whose love for this place, and commitment to what we do, can carry us a long way.”

Trustees presented two 15-year service pins, a 10-year pin and a five-year pin to staff members, as well as a special 10-year pin to Director of Library Services Colleen Welsch for her decade of leadership advising Sigma Psi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). The international honor society administers the Roadrunner Kitchen food pantry.

Trustee Todd Obren presented Director of Academic Advising Kathie Gries of Granger with her 15-year pin. Gries, a Texas Tech mass communications graduate, has held six positions at SMC. She and her husband have three children.

Trustee Beth Cripe awarded a 15-year pin to Lori Collins of Dowagiac. She is currently financial aid coordinator, processing loans, and manages the federal work-study program. She has been married for 35 years. Both her sons attended SMC. Matt is SMC’s technology support manager. Jeremy lives in the Kalamazoo area.

Rachel Breden of Dowagiac accepted her 10-year pin from Trustee Tracy Hertsel. As a home-schooled student from Union, Breden took dual-enrolled SMC classes senior year. She earned an associate degree in communication in 2011, a bachelor’s degree in technical and professional communication through Ferris State University in 2013, then joined the marketing office. She was promoted to fulltime marketing coordinator after finishing her master’s degree at Western Michigan University in 2017. In July 2021, Breden became the CRM administrator and communications process manager.

Malisa Roberts of Niles received her five-year pin from Trustee Skip Dyes. Roberts is the admissions adviser for programs specific to Niles and the online business program. She earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in computer-aided drafting (CAD) from SMC. She has been married to Mike for 30 years. They have four children, two grandchildren and a third on the way.

Trustee Dr. Elaine Foster gave the 10-year PTK pin to Welsch. Roadrunner Kitchen opened in February 2018. In 2022, it served more than 100 students 353 times with 3,600 items, including 342 toiletries.

The board also unanimously approved the new collective bargaining agreement for fulltime faculty.

Trustees accepted $5,300 from 10 donors in gifts to the college and acknowledged $122,772 from 16 donors to the SMC Foundation.