Southwestern has created a new program this year that is designed to enhance the experience of prospective students. This program is called the Finch Society, and it is an offshoot of SHARP, or Students Helping the Admission Recruitment Process.
The SHARP program began in the early 1980s, and has changed its function many times over the years. Recently, the students in SHARP were responsible for helping with prospective student visitation and held hosting responsibilities.
“There was an issue with accountability within the organization,” said staff advisor Gail Roberson, referring to SHARP. “We wanted students to have more of a say in the program and in helping with the potential students.” Thus, the Finch Society was born.
The Finch Society was created this year in order to achieve the goal of more student responsibility. The society has four student coordinators, Lisa Leininger, Avery Sheppard, Lili McEntire, and Sean Stumpf.
“The coordinators are really the ones who own and operate this program,” said Roberson.
The Society provides the hosts for the visiting students, and each host is in charge of introducing the prospective student to campus life at SU – from Cove events to Commons dining to hanging out on the mall and using the library’s resources for studying.
But who are these host students?
“The Finch Society is made up of students from across the board when it comes to academic interests, extracurriculars, hometown, etc. This way, we can match the interests of visiting students with those of the student hosts. Southwestern has been using student hosts for years and years, but now we’re trying to better the process and make sure students are matched up properly,” said Sheppard.
At present, there are about 30 to 35 volunteer students in the society who act as hosts. These students receive benefits from being part of the program, including gift cards, free t-shirts, and free food at the meetings. The students in Finch also earn “ghost” credit hours that go toward housing assignments. According to Roberson, “There are definite perks to being in Finch.”
Of course, the real focus is on the prospective student.
“The objective of the Finch Society isn’t necessarily to talk prospective students into coming to Southwestern. The objective is to give these prospective students an idea of what SU is really like and, more specifically, what it is like for a student such as themselves,” commented Sheppard.
The Finch Society is aiming to provide a better experience for prospective students than other small liberal arts colleges in Texas, such as Trinity, Austin College and St. Edward’s.
Freshman Riley Webb compared his visits to Austin College and to Southwestern. “Austin College seemed like it was a really good school, but it seemed really boring. It didn’t seem like there was a lot of extracurricular activities going on. I got this vibe that it was a boring place. I just didn’t get that warm, sunny feeling that you get when you walk around Southwestern. But it wasn’t until I came here for an overnight stay and met a bunch of interesting people that I fell in love with SU,” Webb said.
“When I visited Trinity, I wasn’t able to spend the night. I just did a four hour tour and welcome where I met different professors and department heads. It was really educational, but I think I would have had more fun if I had spent the night, like I did here at Southwestern,” said Briana Garcia, sophomore.
Since the Finch Society has only begun operating this semester, those involved are hesitant to say whether or not it has so far been successful. “There has only been one visit program this semester, and it was not an overnight. But we have seen enthusiasm with the students who have come to visit individually,” said Roberson.
According to Sheppard, “Everything has gone great so far but the real test will come next semester when we start getting a lot of overnight visits from seniors in high school trying to make their final decisions.”