It is tempting to leave recruiting to instructors, but this limits your potential pool of students. Recruiting at the GT site relies on three elements: online team listings, information sessions, and email campaigns.
Online Team Listings
The VIP Program at Georgia Tech is designed to serve all students, and online listings are a key component in student accessibility. At most institutions, students usually get involved in undergraduate research by approaching faculty or by being approached by faculty, which substantially limits access and further marginalizes some students (students are intimidated or don’t think the programs are meant for them). By listing all VIP projects online, proactively recruiting students, and having a low-stress application, we greatly increase student access to the program.
Georgia Tech has a Drupal webpage, and we are happy to share the site (free of charge) with interested programs. We host our site on a GT-provided server, and we pay an external designer/vendor to manage security patches. (Patches sometimes affect the site, so the vendor fixes these problems as they arise.)
The VIP team at Stony Brook University also developed a system they are willing to share with other sites. In their system, prospective faculty fill out the team information sheet online. Once the VIP Director approves the sheet, the system generates a webpage for the team. (At Georgia Tech, we use a Word file for the team information sheet and then manually setup the webpage.)
Information sessions can take a variety of shapes – pizza lunch, poster session, booth in the student center, etc. Formats vary by site and program size. Small programs often hold pizza information sessions. The small size allows each team to give a short presentation. As your program grows, these sessions will get too long! At this stage you can transition to poster information sessions. This allows students to talk to the teams in which they are interested, and to come and go as they please. We suggest providing teams with a poster template, which is essentially the team information sheet in poster format. In our early days, we had student employees create these team-info-sheet-posters. Now that we’re larger, it is harder to handle, so we just provide new instructors and existing teams with the template.
Information sessions should coincide with student registration periods. We try to hold our session the week before registration begins, when students are thinking about what classes they want to take next semester. Additionally, we found our minority student enrollment increased when we started timing our information sessions in this way.
Information sessions give you a focal point for your email campaign. Even if the session isn’t well attended, the email campaign will bring students to your webpage. We found departments had email lists, but the keepers of these lists were often unwilling to send emails on our behalf (at least semester after semester). In other cases, they would include our announcement in an email newsletter that students didn’t actually read. To work around this, we build our own email lists every semester.
Send Emails by Major: We found that a generic email, “Dear Georgia Tech Students,” yielded lower attendance and fewer applications than emails to specific majors, “Dear Computer Science Students.” While it takes a bit of time, we always do our email campaigns in this way. If you want sophomores and up, remember to filter out 1st semester freshmen.
Explain what VIP is: Even if you’ve operated for multiple semesters, do not assume that students know what VIP is, or that they read your email last semester. When we did not explain what the program was, we saw our minority student enrollment drop.
Include a Call to Action: Be clear in what you’re asking students to do (attend the information session, visit the webpage, etc.).
Below is an email template that has worked well for our site. The blue text is modified for each email blast by major. The red text is updated with dates and times. The hanging indents and bold text make the calls to action stand out.
VIP Program looking for CS, CM students – Tuesday info session – work with faculty, team-based research & design, 1-2 credits/semester
Greetings CS and CM Students,
The Vertically Integrated Projects Program would like to invite you to a poster information session on Tuesday, March 10. Through VIP, students work with faculty on large-scale projects. Students earn 1-2 credits per semester and can participate for multiple semesters (and years). Previous experience is not required, but a willingness to learn and work with others is a must.
VIP teams are specifically looking for students from your major, and students can apply to any team.
VIP teams looking for CS majors (although welcome to apply to any team)
VIP teams looking for CM majors (although welcome to apply to any team)
Team Listings – All Teams
Learn more in person – VIP Info Session Tuesday
Poster session format, no formal presentations, drop in any time during session
The session will feature teams that are actively recruiting students, but the online listing
Learn more online:
How VIP Credits Count toward Degrees + Options for Junior Design, Senior Design & Studio
Apply – Undergrads
Apply – Grads
Returning VIP Students: Request a Permit
Again, the poster session will feature teams that are actively recruiting students, and the full listing is available online.
Please reply if you have any questions, and we look forward to working with our new and returning students and teams this semester!
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