(Posted August 26, 2013)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- For the freshman class of 2017 there is one important person on campus who can understand the all-new experiences the new students are going through, because Jim Troha, president of Juniata since June 1 is going through his first academic year at the college as well.

"It's a very similar feeling really," says Troha. "I've been an administrator at colleges and universities my entire career, but starting a new job in a new place is always exciting and challenging. Plus, I was a college freshman once, too, so I think I'll know exactly what the new freshmen are going through."

In addition to overseeing the launch of fall semester, Troha and Juniata administrators will be rebuilding the college's executive team in the wake of three retirements at the end of spring semester 2013: Tom Kepple, president emeritus, Jim Lakso, provost emeritus, and John Hille, former executive vice president for enrollment and retention.

The first priority for Troha and the college is to complete a national search, currently under way, for a vice president for enrollment. The Juniata search committee charged with hiring the new executive will begin interviews in late fall. While Juniata has consistently met its enrollment goals over the past five years, the national trend shows that the number of graduating high school seniors in the United States is declining over time, making the competition for enrolling talented and eager students a bit harder for all higher education institutions.

"Private liberal arts colleges must have a strategic plan for maintaining enrollment or the colleges run the risk of budget shortfalls," says Gabriel Welsch, vice president for advancement and marketing. "Juniata wants to ensure it has continued success in attracting the best students in the country so hiring a person to lead our enrollment efforts is our first priority."

One way Juniata has been able to improve its enrollment goals is The Gold Card Program, which asks College alumni to recommend a student they know, send in their information on a Gold Card to the enrollment office, and volunteer to follow up and encourage the student through the application process. This year, the college had 91 students enroll as a result of the program.

This year's freshman class of 418 students will attend the first day of classes Thursday, Aug. 22, including 32 international students, including 16 from China, as well as students from Australia, Bonaire, Burkina Faso, Curacao, Ethiopia, Japan, Myanmar, Nigeria, China, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Vietnam and Zimbabwe -- 14 countries in all.

Once freshmen are on campus, student schedules must make room for new activities. One of the first major events the new freshmen will attend is the inaugural activities for Troha, scheduled from Oct. 17 through Oct 26, dates that coincide with Homecoming and the annual fall meeting for the college's board of trustees.

Troha will go through the investiture ceremony at 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18.

In addition to the inaugural events, the college has scheduled a slate of participatory events designed to celebrate the Juniata and Huntingdon communities, including a 5K "Amiable Amble" from Juniata to Portstown Park and back, performances of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" at 7:30 p.m. in the von Liebig Theatre. In addition, research posters from Juniata's Liberal Arts Symposium will be on display at various student spaces across campus. Majora Carter, an ecology-minded community organizer and community consultant who sparked community revitalization in New York City's South Bronx neighborhood, will speak Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Troha also has asked that the college will participate in a Day of Service for the Huntingdon community. "We're asking that all Juniata employees and any students who are interested to donate an hour of service to a local organization," explains Lorrie Shideler, associate director of conferences and events. The inaugural weekend culminates in the Homecoming football game against Muhlenberg University.

The start of the year also marks the beginning of Juniata's serch for a new executive team. According to Troha and Welsch, a national search to replace Jim Lakso as provost will not start until the end of the academic year in May 2014. In the meantime, Kathy Westcott, associate professor of psychology and assistant provost in 2012-2013, will serve as interim provost for the entire 2013-2014 academic year. Jerry Kruse, professor of math and computer science, will serve as assistant provost.

The new administrative team all will be taking on new and sometimes unfamiliar duties until the hiring searches are completed, making pretty much most of the people in Juniata's executive administration freshmen of a sort.

The actual freshman class, however, will be too busy with their own responsibilities to help out the new leadership team. Indeed, about 2,600 students applied to Juniata to be included in a freshman class featuring and average grade point average of 3.72 and an average SAT score of 1167 (those scores reflect only the test's critical reading and math results).

The Class of 2017 has students from 25 states enrolled, including students from Montana, Alaska, Texas, Maine, California, New Mexico and North Carolina. About 24 percent of the class, 102 student, are from Huntingdon County and the 12-county region around Juniata.

The freshman class also attracted students from states outside of Pennsylvania, as out-of-state applications (61 percent) exceeded Pennsylvania applications (39 percent). Juniata also received 356 international applications. Of the incoming students from the United States about 13 percent are students of color. If international students are included in the college's diversity statistics, then almost 21 percent of the class is comprised of students of color.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.