SSAIS Launches Campaign to Increase Enrollment

The Salameno School of American and International Studies recently launched a new campaign to recruit new students and advocate the value of a liberal arts education.

The campaign’s main goal is to show students “what’s exciting about being a member,” said Stephen Rice, dean of SSAIS.

The school is reaching out to students through posters, publicity materials, web presence and classroom presentations. Each major has a student ambassador, who works with the Office of Admissions. Another goal is to get alumni more involved by having them share their career experiences.

Shannon Jirkovsky, international studies convening student liaison, said that the school has also been reaching out to incoming freshman to inform them about the majors that SSAIS has to offer.

“We try and reach out to incoming freshmen to talk to them and see if they’re interested. We hold information sessions and socials that people who are interested in finding out what we’re about can come and talk to us,” said Jirkovsky.

Part of the reason for the new campaign is the decreasing number of students enrolled in SSAIS.

“We’ve seen it decline in the number of majors,” said Rice.

In 2011, SSAIS awarded 222 bachelor degrees to Ramapo students. The number decreased to 202 in 2012 and 172 in 2013.

Most courses, however, still have a significant enrollment, since students take them to satisfy general education requirements.

The declining number of students enrolling in humanities majors is part of a national trend. According to a study by Harvard University, “Between 1966 and 2010, Bachelor’s Degree Completions in the Humanities halved nationwide, falling from 14 to 7% of all degrees taken.”

“We are optimistic. I believe we’ll see these numbers turn back up again,” said Rice, adding that the enrollment numbers “tend to move in cycles.”

Despite the decreasing number of students, the Ramapo administration is not shutting down any majors or other programs.

“Nothing like that is being discussed,” said Rice.

Rice believes that college students tend to stay away from majors in the humanities because they don’t see the immediate career benefits. The idea of the campaign is to help the students “understand the value of liberal arts education.”  

According to Rice, the liberal arts develop critical thinking skills and “a sense of civic engagement and citizenship,” which is valued by employers.

“It’s not about the technical knowledge,” said Rice.

The current students in SSAIS are also very confident in the skills they are learning.

“While obtaining a liberal arts education doesn’t necessarily always train you towards a specific job, like a vocational or technical school, having a liberal arts education allows you to be a well-rounded individual with an invaluable set of skills, allowing you to think for yourself, question effectively and be able to continue your education through the rest of your life,” said Monika Lasocha, a senior literature major.

Jirkovsky also agreed that students studying the humanities get a well-rounded education.

“It is interdisciplinary. You get to learn about history, political science, economics and anthropology. It’s more than just studying one thing. You get a broad range of knowledge so you can be an informed member of the global community,” said Jirkovsky.

“Our nation’s economic and competitiveness depends on today’s college students achieving a much more complex set of skills and capacities than was required in earlier years,” according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “A liberal education introduces students to multiple perspectives and develops their own critical judgment.”