For more than a dozen years, the Fine Arts department at Dodge City Community College has held Sampler Day every autumn.
The day is basically just what it sounds like… a chance for dozens of high school students to sample the many offerings the department has to offer and meet the instructors actually teaching classes they are interested in taking.
More than 50 students from Dodge City, Kinsley, Spearville and Jetmore high schools visited instructors in their own environment, getting a feel of the actual classroom where they might compose creative fiction, or the see the myriad supplies and equipment available in the art workshop for a project they’ve already dreamt of, or stand on the stage inside the theater where they could perform.
According Devlin Goldworm, DCCC art professor, Sampler Day is as resounding success in convincing students to enroll at DCCC.
"Our results have been pretty amazing," he said. "The last few years we’ve averaged about 80 percent enrollment out of the students who attend. We’ve been as high as 89 percent. We were down to about 50 percent several years ago and we were disappointed… even though that’s still a pretty good number."
Representatives from the college going out and visiting high schools provide effective recruiting –especially when actual DCCC instructors are able to attend – but nothing beats putting those prospective students directly into college classrooms and showing them just a few things they can accomplish at DCCC.
"We can send out as many pictures of our facilities as we want, or even go visit them and tell them all about our school," DCCC art professor Jennifer Nolan said. "There’s nothing like physically being in the classroom and learning a technique from a professor. They get to feel what it would be like to actually be here."
Sampler Day is the Fine Arts department’s primary recruiting tool every year. The department is also very excited to have completed its 2+2 transfer agreement with Fort Hays State University, ensuring a seamless transition for students who earn an associate of arts degree through Dodge City Community College.
The department is also spreading the word that students are no longer required to be a declared art major to qualify for an art scholarship. Students are only required to take one studio art course per semester to be eligible.
For prospective students, Sampler Day is way more than the standard-issue campus visit. T-shirts made from block prints carved by the students and copper-stamped trinkets they hammered out themselves are souvenirs of their visit, and tangible reminders of the people and facilities they saw on Sampler Day.
One student already added a pendant she made to her keychain, stamped with her graduation year 2020, underlined by three advancing arrows. Another made a copper heart stamped with a late sibling’s initials.
Goldworm showed the students how to carve a unique material used in place of wood for block cuttings. The material is much more user friendly than wood but mimics the effects in many instances – like the block-print T-shirts students conceived, drew, and then carved before Goldworm and student assistants slathered the blocks with ink and pressed them onto T-shirts, creating a wearable, one-of-a-kind memento of their visit.
Sampler Day lets students interact with instructors and staff in engaging ways that give them a real familiarity with an instructor’s personality and style directly in the classroom.
"It can be difficult for instructors to get away, so if we can get students here it’s a win-win, Goldworm said. "They get to see exactly what we can offer them and we can present our programs from right here on campus."
The students were shown all over the DCCC campus and participated in a couple seminars dealing strictly with explaining some of the intricacies of college, led by current DCCC students able to convey the experience in a relatable way.