Dusty Newton
director of the Office of Admissions, 308.865.8702

Chamber members are dialing up recruiting success for the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Local business people are calling admitted freshmen to UNK to encourage them to attend the university and to share information about the community.

A first for UNK and for Kearney, the event further illustrates the value of a close town and gown relationship. “We feel that when we’re recruiting we must emphasize more than the campus. The community of Kearney is a significant part of a student’s total university experience, so we try to communicate the appeal of the total package,” John Kundel, UNK director of Admissions said.

Confirming the impact of students and university operations on the economy, area businesses wanted to get more involved with UNK recruitment. The phon-a-thon grew out of discussions within the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce’s University Relations Committee which has sponsored previous joint initiatives. Jon Abegglen, past Chamber chair, feels that a successful university reflects well on the community and provides valuable support to area businesses. “A driving force behind the phon-a-thon is that the business community understands the role that the university plays in the economy and its value in terms of their own success. We think that we need to help the recruitment process so that the university succeeds,” Abegglen said. Abegglen is senior vice president of the Platte Valley State Bank.

Among the volunteer callers have been bankers, a bookstore manager, a Wal-Mart customer service representative, accountants, city employees, a retired university administrator and the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce president. The Chamber is also sending community information packets to the admitted UNK freshmen. Included in the packets is a letter from Mayor Pete Kotsiopulos and a community viewbook entitled, “Kearney, Nebraska–Crossroads of the Future.” Ron Tillery, president of The Development Council, a regional economic development organization, feels that the link between the university and the community is strong. “People want to make sure that both the university and the community succeed. They have a deep affection and connection to UNK, it’s part of our extended family,” Tillery said.

Integral to this recruiting process is making a personal connection with prospective students and their parents, and in addition to current students calling prospective students, business professionals representing Kearney and UNK are calling. The length of the campaign has been extended to ensure that all 1,500 admitted freshmen are contacted. Phone conversations sometimes last 15 to 30 minutes, so the process is much more time-consuming than other previous contacts.

Charlie Pickens, a retired math professor from UNK, has enjoyed being part of the Kearney phon-a-thon. “I have a golf date this summer with a prospective student’s father from Kansas. I’ve never met the gentleman, but we had a very nice talk and we decided to continue the conversation over a round of golf this summer.”

Mayor Kotsiopulos is proud of the relationship between UNK and Kearney. “Kearney and this region would be a totally different area without the university. UNK offers the community a lot of intangibles that are invaluable. It is a huge asset,” Kotsiopulos said. “It certainly adds balance to the community, the county, and the state.

The community and UNK have enjoyed many significant successes together during recent years. In December of 2000, President William Jefferson Clinton visited UNK to deliver a major foreign policy address.

“The community is a big beneficiary of UNK’s dynamic educational and cultural offerings. Conversely, the university wouldn’t be the same without Kearney’s people and its progressive, diverse business environment. They compliment each other,” Tillery added.

The Tri-City Arena, a 4,000-seat hockey arena and exhibition hall, opened in 2000 and is currently the home of a USHL hockey team, The Storm, and a NIFL indoor football team, The Diesel. The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, an interactive museum, entertainment hybrid focusing on the pioneer trails and America’s development, spans I-80 and was dedicated in June of 2000. Kearney is also home to over 500,000 migrating Sandhill cranes that visit the area twice yearly as they have for centuries. National retailers such as The Gap, Old Navy, and Waldenbooks have opened stores to capitalize on the population and vast number of college students. Kearney is also home to The Buckle national headquarters.

The UNK campus is changing with the times, as well. The Nebraskan Student Union is adding 25,000 sq. ft. to offer students a new food court, post office, 24-hour computer lab, convenience store, copy center, stand-up e-mail kiosk and a fireplace lounge. On the west end of campus, the new state-of-the-art College of Education building is nearing completion and scheduled to be dedicated in May of 2002.

The state of Nebraska is well represented at UNK. A source of pride and testament to its reputation as a premiere residential university for undergraduate education offering select graduate programs. Students representing all 93 Nebraska counties attend as well as students from 37 states and 47 countries. In addition to its fine academic offerings, UNK features an attractive, accessible campus, a safe environment, small class sizes, and a progressive, caring community, which is why Abegglen says, “That makes UNK an easy sell.”

The results of the community phon-a-thon will be evident on the first day of classes this coming August, but if the early indicators are born out, the phon-a-thon program has been a ringing success.