With the beginning of each new school year, Goshen College welcomes new faculty and staff to campus. One department with notable shifts is admissions, which, prior to this year, has had some unfulfilled positions. However, to begin the 2023-24 school year, the department is full with 13 people on staff.

Filling the director of admissions space is Heather Zile. Before GC, Zile was the early childhood director of Lewis Cass Intermediate School District in Cassopolis, Michigan, gained fluency in Spanish as a missionary working in Monterrey, Mexico and, most recently, she held a similar position at Southwestern Michigan College (SMC).

“I had decided that it was time for me to look for something that would allow me to use my skill sets and start a new adventure,” she said.

As Zile has begun at GC, there have been different items at the forefront of her work in addition to overseeing many individuals within the admissions department. “For the first few months,” she said, “I worked on creating strategies and sustainability.”

Along with Zile, several positions were filled in the admissions team of counselors who work with students showing interest in continuing education at GC. Additionally, a couple of admissions team members have moved to larger roles. Steve Wolma began as vice president for enrollment management, and Adriana Ortiz has a larger focus than before, as director of Hispanic student and family engagement.

Ortiz was working with Hispanic students and families prior to this year, but is better able to serve people interested in GC since Zile was able to take over some of Ortiz’s previous responsibilities. 

Wolma now oversees enrollment, and said, “[GC is] in some challenging times. … Numbers will be coming in around what they did last year or a little below that — not where we want to be. [We’re] putting in some plans to turn that around for the upcoming cycles.” 

With that in mind, Wolma and Ortiz offered explanations for the low enrollment: both the number of high school students in the area and the number of high school students pursuing college after high school is dropping — especially in Indiana. 

“Over 60% of our incoming students are from the state of Indiana,” Wolma said. “There’s a shrinking pool. In light of demographic trends, we need to implement different strategies.”

“The admissions team is working hard to rebuild a department that is in need of a lot of work,” said Eliza Aleman, a sophomore student employee for admissions. “I can only hope that this is the start of good outcomes for Goshen College.”

For Ortiz, hope is coming from GC being designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in the spring of 2023. “Becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution is amazing for GC,” she said. “We’re very proud of that accomplishment because it takes years to achieve that, and there are only a handful of schools with that certification in the country,” said Ortiz. “With this certification, we can provide more help for our Latino community, and we can reach a more diverse community.”

For Wolma, hope comes from change. “I feel a lot more optimistic about going into this [enrollment] cycle because we have taken some pretty strategic priorities and we have a really good admissions team in place. It’s not to say admissions was doing a bad job, it’s more that we have enough staff to accomplish what we need, and we have an [admissions] director that has experience.”