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As VP of New Division, Neufeldt to Bring More Focus on Student Recruitment, Retention

Ellen Neufeldt has been on the job for a full semester now, but Old Dominion's new vice president for student engagement and enrollment services says it seems as if she arrived only yesterday. "It feels like I've been here five seconds, really," she said.

While it may seem that the time flew by, much was accomplished last fall, including a comprehensive planning process for the division. Neufeldt is looking forward to a new semester of providing services for ODU's 24,000-plus students that, ultimately, will help pave the way to success as they move forward on their educational path and eventually take those first steps out in the real world.

Neufeldt's own journey through academia started, literally, on day one.

"I grew up on college campuses," she says. "My parents were Canadians who were in the United States on a student visa. When I was born, my dad was getting his Ph.D. at Michigan State, so I started life in married student housing there."

Neufeldt grew up in Cookeville, Tenn., the home of Tennessee Technological University, where her father taught history and philosophy in the education school and her mother ended up working as an administrative assistant in the engineering school. She earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Tennessee Tech and went on to manage a Peebles department store.

She thought she would go on to get an M.B.A., but instead decided to change course and pursue a master's in educational psychology and counselor education. "I had a graduate assistantship in student activities and campus life that excited me about working with student services in higher education," she said.

She went on to earn a doctorate in education at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Neufeldt, who came to ODU from Salisbury University in Maryland, where she served as vice president for student affairs, has worked for the past 17 years in higher education.

The opportunity to lead a new division, Student Engagement and Enrollment Services (SEES), was one Neufeldt said she couldn't pass up after applying for and being offered the position. It fits nicely with her desire to be creative and she was attracted to this vibrant, transformational campus.

"I love the academy and I love the college population, but I think the one thing that we get to do here that I love the most is really create - creating a new division that fits into the goals of the university. I will be working together with others to develop terrific programs, services and synergy."

The new division was established following the report of a committee appointed by President John Broderick, whose findings included a recommendation that such a vice presidential area be created. As Broderick announced in his 2010 State of the University address, the new division furthers "our commitment to student success and student learning" and reflects the university's strategic plan goal of providing students the tools they need to succeed.

Neufeldt is responsible for the development, implementation, communication and maintenance of an institutional focus on success. Along with Provost Carol Simpson, she co-chairs the Student Success Committee and the Strategic Enrollment Steering Group. The committee is charged with ensuring that, through ODU's programs and services, the university is doing everything it can so that students have every opportunity to succeed, Neufeldt said. That includes having a campus-wide, cohesive enrollment plan in place.

"The partnership with the provost is vitally important to achieving university goals," she said. "Ensuring integrated programs that support services is crucial for overall student success at the university."

Neufeldt said her division will announce later this month the goals and initiatives that come out of the planning process. "Right now the division is forming a strategic plan that will tie in to the university plan. It will connect with important areas of success, recruitment, engagement and learning. We want to begin to retain students from the first point of contact. It is also important that we recruit students who are part of the strategic initiatives in the ODU strategic plan," Neufeldt said.

Talking about the big picture of student success, she noted: "The focus of student success really has to do with the academy and its purpose, which has changed over time. And that's not not to say that the purpose of the academy isn't ageless and timeless as well, but it used to be that only fewer people went to college, and you would hear that speech, 'Look to your left, look to your right -one of you may not be here next year,' so step up, make it or get out.

"And now we realize that for our future economy, for our future civilization, for our future world, having people who are educated, with college degrees, is critically important. Once upon a time, we had an economy where we were making things, and that economy was not dependent on a college education. Today, it's a very different economy. When you look at the knowledge-based economy that is already here, and will be even more critical in the future, we have to have successful graduates."

Neufeldt said there are many factors that contribute to student success, and she believes the new Student Success Center and Learning Commons will play important roles in supporting the university's overall goal of producing graduates who are able to achieve and make contributions in the real world.

"Another thing about student success is that those students who connect to the campus are more likely to be retained, so it's not all about classroom performance that predicts success. It is important for students to make meaningful connections with students, faculty and staff," she said.

Neufeldt certainly likes what she's seen so far when it comes to the ODU student population.

"One of the things that's so great about ODU is the diversity of the student body - from adult students, to traditional-age students, to transfer students, to military students. That really adds to the learning environment," she said.

Neufeldt said she has felt welcome on campus since day one.

"I'm so excited to be a part of a campus that's in this type of transformational place," she said. "People have been so kind and so welcoming, and showing a positive team spirit.

"The students here are outstanding. I have enjoyed working with the Student Government Association. The leadership is just so talented and really good at thinking beyond themselves - like putting out the Monarch Citizen program and thinking about where to take the campus next."

Neufeldt and a few other members of her core staff will be moving into new offices in Koch Hall this month, but with her busy schedule, she says she's in different parts of the campus every day. As the VP of a new division, she's in demand at committee meetings, activities and events throughout the week, and she requires a lot of herself as she strives to become even more ingrained in the life of a new institution.

"It goes from early morning right into the evening," she said, opening the latest page from her electronic notebook calendar. "One of the challenges is getting everywhere and getting to everyone fast enough, and making sure that everybody knows that they're important.

"There are so many great things that can happen, and I'm trying my best to make sure I can physically get to all of it. The world doesn't stop because we're putting together a new division. Lots of new and exciting things are happening, and we can't stop serving students, so I'm trying to prioritize and to make sure I have the time and energy for all of it as we move forward."

SEES Staff at Koch Hall

The following members of the Office of Student Engagement and Enrollment Services will join Neufeldt in the move to Koch Hall (Room 129):

• Scott Harrison, assistant vice president for administration

• Jane Dane, associate vice president for enrollment

• Traci Daniels, SEES adviser and assistant to the vice president

• Carrie Duran, budget manager

• Valerie Elliott, assistant fiscal tech

• Lucia Ball, assistant to the vice president and executive administrative assistant to the associate vice president for enrollment

• Graduate assistants and student workers.

Daniels, who previously was legal services adviser in the Office of University Counsel, moved over to SEES effective Dec. 25 via a lateral transfer. Organizationally, this position is better aligned in SEES as it primarily provides advising services to this division.

This article was posted on: January 25, 2012

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Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.