SEMO maintains ties with alumni, corporations in St. Louis

Sunday, October 11, 2009
Nolan Brunnworth

Tucked into the corner on the third floor of an office building in suburban St. Louis, Southeast Missouri State University has a two-person operation working with students, alumni and corporations.

Having a bricks-and-mortar presence in St. Louis has kept employers and donors aware of the state university two hours south, said Nolan Brunnworth, who took over as the director of corporate relations last month.

Students from the St. Louis area, which includes the city of St. Louis as well as St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson counties, make up about a fourth of Southeast's undergraduate population this fall.

Brunnworth said he estimates 40 to 50 percent of a Southeast graduating class locates to St. Louis after commencement and about 15,000 Southeast alumni currently live in the metro area.

Two programs operate out of the Chesterfield outreach office to foster job and business relations for students and alumni. The office houses a career specialist and director of corporate relations.

Brunnworth is taking on both responsibilities while the university fills the vacancy left by his promotion. He worked as the St. Louis career specialist since 2005 when the position was created.

He said he works to change students' misconceptions about finding a job directly related to their field of study. He collaborates with students on resumes and cover letters as well as being creative about possibilities for their degree.

He said he also has worked to build relations with employers by touring facilities and matching students with available jobs.

"It all comes down to the employer being aware of that institution," he said.

In the St. Louis job market, he said, Southeast students offer an advantage with their work ethic.

"I have to communicate the message that we have a lot of hardworking first-generation students," he said.

Once the career specialist position is filled, it will cost between $41,00 to $65,000 to fund the program. The university pays $67,000 for the director of corporate relations position, including salary and an operating budget.

The university pays $7,800 per year to rent two offices in a space shared by organizations like the Country Living Association, the National Christmas Tree Association and the American Academy on Communication in Healthcare.

As director of corporate relations, Brunnworth said he will generate resources for the university. Development projects could include building partnerships with corporations to fund research projects or equipment. William Holland previously held the corporate relations position before becoming vice president of university advancement and executive director of the University Foundation in June.

Brunnworth, a St. Louis native, views Southeast's location like many other university officials -- it's close enough to family but far enough away for independence.

Teresa Haney is one of three admissions counselors responsible for covering the St. Louis region. She said she covers 40 high schools in the area, including public schools in St. Louis County and all schools in St. Charles County.

"A lot of them have kind of heard about us, but they don't know much," she said. She said she creates a more personalized relationship to recruit students. Cape Girardeau is also a talking point for students, she said.

"Students are going to be comfortable and find plenty of things to do," she said.

In 1999, 1,848 undergraduates came from the St. Louis region. As enrollment grew, the number of St. Louis students grew to 2,505 in 2008, slightly more than in the current school year.

The university instituted tougher admission standards for students outside its immediate service area in 2008, a move that affected the number of students coming from St. Louis, Haney said. Community college enrollment in the region also increased, affecting the number of students down to Southeast, said Dr. Debbie Below, assistant vice president for enrollment management and director of admissions.

The university exhibited consistent growth among St. Louis students during the past 10 years, but having a presence in St. Louis proved to be less useful for the admissions office, Below said.

Four years ago, an admissions counselor worked out of the office for one year on a trial basis, Below said. The arrangement did not continue because it is more useful, she said, to have a counselor on campus when families come to visit.

"We weren't building the connection we needed with the families," she said.


Pertinent address:

One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

16020 Swingly Ridge Road, Chesterfield, MO

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