COLUMBUS, Miss.-- Dr. Martin Hatton believes in unity in purpose.

For the last year, Hatton has been developing a way to bring the common elements in the Mississippi University for Women’s education programs together. His goal has been to create a recruitment and retention plan that utilizes technology to help The W attract students and give them all the resources they need to earn their degrees.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, Hatton’s plan will be realized in a virtual recruiting event for all of undergraduate education programs, which includes the secondary education programs in the College of Arts & Sciences and Early Childhood Development and Elementary Education in the School of Education. Hatton believes this may be the first time The W has hosted a recruitment event that uses an interactive avatar-based platform (Gather) and mixes that experience with live Zoom-like engagement. To register, visit https://rfwccl.wufoo.com/forms/rbayh0c01anwb1/.

“We will learn a lot from this event that we can incorporate in the spring,” Hatton said. “We hope those who participate will have positive experiences and will help generate interest by word of mouth for future recruitment events.”

Hatton said he learned about Gather from the Office of Outreach and Innovation’s use of it this past summer at the Mississippi Governor’s School. He said Ashley Hammack, The W’s Outreach and Professional Learning coordinator, played an integral role in engaging students from across the state in a virtual experience that was well received.

Hammack said Gather is an interactive virtual platform that allows participants to create an avatar that moves freely within the space. She said once one participant gets within range of another participant, their camera and microphone come up and the conversation can flow from there.

“Another useful feature of Gather is the ability to embed digital forms, which, to me, makes this type of recruitment fair flow a little more smoothly,” Hammack said. “Instead of talking to a potential student, asking for their email, then remembering to send them more information later, Gather will allow our event to be a one-stop shop. Within the platform, we have embedded arcade games/laptops/whiteboards with our information request form. Participants can speak with a professor or admissions counselor, ‘walk’ over to the digital form, fill it out, then move to the next room, all without ever having to leave Gather.”

Hammack said she is excited to incorporate the unique components of the Gather platform into the virtual recruiting event. She said the event isn’t for stuffy elevator pitches and will allow participants to ask questions and to gain insight into what is possible within The W’s Education program.

Hatton agrees and said Gather opens up a range of opportunities for meeting potential students where they are, particularly for programs that have something in common and that would like to recruit together. He said it is a natural solution for all of The W’s education-specific programs to recruit together.

“We believe this should be an engaging and informative event where prospective students have the chance to ask questions and make contacts in an environment where they control who they want to talk with, and when,” Hatton said. “They control their engagement, moving their avatars from station to station, and once they enter a new ‘room,’ they get to see and talk to W faculty and staff in a Zoom-like experience. This really is a great blending of video-game like and Zoom-like technologies, both of which students have become very accustomed. We hope to be able to schedule follow-up in-person meetings with those who wish to do so.”

Dr. Brian Anderson, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, said the event will be a great way for The W to connect with high school and community college students interested in becoming K-12 teachers. He said the event will be an exciting way for students to learn about all of the education options at The W.

“We hope this will be a convenient way for students to be introduced to our programs and to The W overall,” Anderson said. “The Gather format will designate ‘rooms’ for different programs or related clusters of programs so visiting students can have in-depth conversations with our professors, which is something that often is not possible in the din of an in-person college fair.”


Oct. 20, 2021
Contact: Adam Minichino
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(662) 329-1976

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