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Saint Vincent College Plans to Increase Chinese Enrollment

Public Relations
Posted: Thursday Oct 4, 2012

October 4, 2012

Saint Vincent College is initiating a multifaceted marketing program designed to increase the enrollment of undergraduate students from mainland China.

The program includes the creation of a new Chinese website, display advertising in the China Daily newspaper and other print and online publications, direct mail and in-person recruitment at college fairs.

Heading the initiative is Elizabeth Bennellick, director of Saint Vincent College’s study abroad program.

“We have been sending students to China and other international locations for some time,” Ms. Bennellick noted. “And Saint Vincent has a long history in providing educational opportunities for Chinese students both in China and at our campus. The Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey have been working in China for many years and, more recently, Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president, Dr. John Smetanka, vice president for academic affairs, Alice Kaylor, dean of studies, and Dr. Gary Quinlivan, dean of the McKenna School, and others have traveled to China to establish partnerships with Chinese colleges and universities and to become better known. This project is a natural progression in our collective interest and institutional history with China.”

“I have worked with international students and had an opportunity to spend a few weeks in China last year and fell in love with the country and its people,” Ms. Bennellick commented. “I am excited to take on this new project.”

During the past several months, Ms. Bennellick has been working to provide the kinds of promotional items and educational materials the Chinese expect to find such as a Chinese website and video interviews. “The college enrollment process in China is different from the United States,” she noted. “As seniors, students take an exit exam late in the spring semester and they are placed in a university. And some Chinese parents take helicopter parents to a new level. Because of the one-child policy, they put a lot of effort and love into their son or daughter and want them to succeed. They are looking at outcomes and want to make sure their student is on a path to success. They are also interested in the safety of the campus and the support the campus provides in and out of the classroom.”

Saint Vincent will be participating in the China Education Expo which sponsors college fairs in major cities throughout China. “It is recognized by the Chinese Ministry of Education,” Ms. Bennellick noted, “and works directly with students in schools rather than through agents. We are attending the college fairs in Beijing and in Shanghai where more than 10,000 students and their parents will attend. The table we have been assigned is right next to Carnegie Mellon.”

In addition to the fairs, Ms. Bennellick will also visit some of Saint Vincent College’s partner institutions including Hebei Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing (three Hebei students are currently enrolled at SVC); Qingdao Agricultural University in Qingdai (two QAU students are currently enrolled at SVC and two SVC professors taught there during the summer of 2012); Shanghai University at Electric Power and Tongji University. Students at these schools are already in college and so they would be coming to Saint Vincent as a study-abroad experience for a semester or a year. There are many different ways in which we can cooperate.”

Ms. Bennellick’s primary goal is to meet directly with prospective students and their parents and to get their contact information so she can follow up with them when she returns to campus. “I don’t speak Chinese but most of the students who are interested in studying in the United States come from urban centers where they have been studying English their entire lives.”

Another initiative being developed is with Pittsburgh’s Holy Family Institute where Chinese students have been coming to attend high school. “We have invited these students to come and visit our campus if they want to stay in the United States for their undergraduate education,” she added. “They tour the campus, participate in homecoming activities and get a feel for our campus. Nothing can replace a visit to our beautiful campus in the fall.”

What does Saint Vincent have to offer Chinese students that they can’t find elsewhere? “We identify ourselves as a Catholic, Benedictine college,” Ms. Bennellick explained. “We are not a Princeton or other big-name school. We have the strengths of our educational programs that make our domestic students successful such as mentoring by faculty, close attention from staff and an atmosphere conducive to learning. The students who would likely come here will be interested in science and business and those are some of the many strengths of Saint Vincent.”

Ms. Bennellick, a native of State College who now resides in Pittsburgh, completed her undergraduate education at Penn State and pursued graduate studies at American University in Washington, D.C. “As an undergrad, I studied abroad for two years,” Ms. Bennellick recalled. “As my students now say, it changed my life. It kind of opened up the world for me. I studied in France, Greece and England. Then I worked for the Smithsonian and spent a year in South Asia. I have been excited about all the challenges I have been given, including this challenging opportunity to recruit in China.”

Working with Ms. Bennellick in planning a recruitment program in China are David Collins, assistant vice president for admission; Suzanne Wilcox English, vice president for marketing and communications; Alice Kaylor, dean of studies; Br. Nicholas Koss, O.S.B., who teaches in China; and Dr. Gary M. Quinlivan, dean of the McKenna School.

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Photo: Elizabeth Bennellick holds a Chinese knot in her office at Saint Vincent. 

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PR2012-484