Anyone on Goshen’s campus can tell you that the the student body is relatively few in number, even to other schools in our sports divisions or nearby in northern Indiana. Scott Barge, vice president of enrollment and marketing, knows the entire process of enrollment, the years of data behind the current trend and optimistic outlook on future class sizes. He also knows what it’s like to take classes at Goshen, graduate and come back to work at his alma mater.
As a 1999 graduate with a degree in elementary education, Barge went on to get his masters and doctorate at Harvard University. Coming back to Goshen was an easy choice, he said.
“I really enjoy working to help the college use data to make good decisions and continuously improve,” said Barge. “Institutional research and assessment are all about that, so a job doing that type of work at my alma mater was very appealing.”
Barge began working in 2011 as the director of institutional research, assessment, and effectiveness to collect data from student experiences and institutional assessments to try and make Goshen College a more appealing place and an overall better experience for students.
“In the institutional research and assessment office we work with all sorts of data—everything from surveys to course evaluations to admissions to financial aid to budget to e-portfolios—to track how various areas of the college are doing in achieving the objectives they are setting out to accomplish,” Barge said.
This data collection allows the college to track needed improvements or to notice places of excellence. Without the base of statistical knowledge, the college would not have support for its accreditation or continuing status. So a natural position for Barge to fill has been in working with accreditation, especially with last year’s important evaluation.
“Accreditation is an essential element in running a college,” Barge said. “It serves as the main stamp of excellence that the broader academic community looks to as verification of GC’s quality; it’s also the means by which we are authorized to administer federal financial aid. A team came in March of 2015 to conduct a 10-year evaluation of the college. That evaluation came back with great commendation for the high quality education we are offering students.”
In attempt to offer that high quality education to more students, Barge transitioned to VP of Enrollment and marketing last year. Barge works closely with the directors of admissions, marketing, financial aid, information technology and communications in order to better serve more students.
“Each of the five directors and the people in their divisions are deeply committed to our success in this area,” Barge said. “And their commitment shows. Together we’ve been able to bring about some real results in terms of enrollment increases. We increased enrollment about 21 percent from fall 2014 to fall 2015. And as of now, the number of students admitted to GC for fall of 2016 is up about 30 percent over where it was last year. We are optimistic about the possibilities for this fall.”
While Barge’s success he attributes to a great team, there are aspects of the job that make the work difficult and demanding.
“[There is a] struggle to prioritize how I spend my time and how my team spends its time,” Barge explained. “There are always way too many things demanding our attention, and it is difficult to make careful and strategic decisions about what things we work on and what things have to take a back seat so that we can find success in the areas that are most important.”
Despite having to prioritize where to spend resources, the increase in enrollment and promising numbers for this coming school year attest to the team working to meet their goals. However, Barge will not be a part of that team next year.
Barge has recently accepted a role at Eastern Mennonite University as the director of institutional research and effectiveness, a role very similar to that which he has held here.
“When I learned about the job opening, I was interested because my wife and I had talked about moving east to be closer to family at some point in the future,” said Barge. “We weren’t looking to move yet, but when this job opened we decided to explore the potential. In the end, we felt that now was the best time to make the move.”
While Goshen will miss his expertise, Barge says that he, too, will miss working at his alma mater.
“GC is such a great academic community and more than anything I will miss the fantastic people here,” Barge said. “It has been such a privilege to work alongside faculty, staff and students who are so talented and committed to the college and all that it stands for. I’m excited about the new opportunities that my transition will bring, but leaving is truly truly bittersweet.”