Virginia Wesleyan University Soars to New Heights: A Record-Breaking Trajectory

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John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group


Six years ago, Enrollment Manager featured the awe-inspiring transformation of Virginia Wesleyan from an aspiring local college to an inspiring international university, highlighting it as one of the most remarkable shifts of the decade.  The article encouraged readers to keep an eye on Virginia Wesleyan's trajectory in the years to come. Today, in 2023, the university's journey has indeed been nothing short of amazing.  Led by President Scott Miller, a staunch advocate of The Dysart Group model, and Vice President for Enrollment Heather Campbell, the institution has just concluded a record-breaking year following the challenging pandemic period.

VWU witnessed an impressive surge in its traditional program recruiting cycle ending on August 31.  Inquiries increased by 32 percent, applications by 54 percent, acceptances by 35 percent, and new student enrollments by 28 percent while maintaining a strong 71 percent acceptance rate.  The university's success stands as a testament to effective leadership and enrollment strategies.

With future projections promising even more growth, Virginia Wesleyan's plan encompasses all seven components of the Dysart Model (see companion column by Drs. Miller and Sanders) focusing strongly on its primary budget driver: traditional undergraduate enrollment.

Here are the main drivers of the model’s success at Virginia Wesleyan University.


A Transformative Journey

Virginia Wesleyan's metamorphosis from college to university began six years ago, a move that stirred considerable attention within a contested higher education market.  The transformational shift aimed to elevate the institution's status, expand academic offerings, and strengthen its position in the competitive landscape. The strategic vision, inspired by The Dysart Group model, set the stage for the university's remarkable trajectory, led by the visionaries President Miller and VP Campbell.


Overcoming Pandemic Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic tested the resilience of educational institutions worldwide, and Virginia Wesleyan was no exception.  However, the university's leadership, armed with insights from The Dysart Group model, responded swiftly and effectively.  With adaptable strategies in place, they navigated the uncertain terrain and emerged from the pandemic stronger than ever before.


Record-Breaking Performance

The collective efforts of President Miller, Vice President Campbell, and the entire Virginia Wesleyan community bore fruit as they celebrated a record-breaking year post-pandemic.  With innovative outreach initiatives, enhanced student support services, and a focus on experiential learning opportunities, the university attracted a surge of new and returning students.


Embracing the Dysart Model

The Dysart Model, a comprehensive framework designed by The Dysart Group, encompasses seven vital components crucial for institutional success.  Virginia Wesleyan's resounding achievements can be attributed to its commitment to embracing each element of this model:

  • Visionary Leadership:  President Scott Miller's visionary leadership and adherence to The Dysart Group model have been instrumental in driving Virginia Wesleyan's transformation and growth.
  • Data-Informed Decision-Making:  Utilizing data insights, the university made informed decisions that strategically aligned its academic offerings and student services with market demand.
  • Innovative Marketing and Recruitment:  Heather Campbell's strategic enrollment management approach, rooted in The Dysart Group model, empowered Virginia Wesleyan to revamp its marketing and recruitment strategies, effectively reaching out to potential students and showcasing the institution's unique strengths.
  • Retention Initiatives:  Recognizing the significance of student retention, the university implemented targeted support programs and resources to ensure students' success and persistence.
  • Financial Aid Strategies:  Virginia Wesleyan tactfully employed financial aid strategies, making education accessible and affordable to a diverse range of students.
  •  Capital Investment: With prudent financial planning and investment in campus infrastructure, the university enhanced its learning environment, attracting students seeking a holistic educational experience.

Continuous Assessment and Improvement: The culture of continuous assessment and improvement fostered within the institution allowed for the adaptation of best practices, ensuring the university's sustained growth.


Future Projections and Prospects

Virginia Wesleyan's trajectory appears even more promising.  With the strategic vision set by President Scott Miller and Heather Campbell's enrollment expertise, the university is poised for further expansion. Emphasizing traditional undergraduate enrollment as a primary budget driver, the institution aims to continually strengthen its academic programs, invest in student support initiatives, and expand its reach to new markets.


Student Type 2015 2023
Undergrads 1,441 1,676
Online 0 1,021
Lifelong Learning 31 1,583
VWU Global 0 122
Graduate 0 115
Grand Total 1,472 4.517


(Enrollment Comparison 2015 versus 2023)


Virginia Wesleyan University's journey from an aspiring local college to an inspiring international university and its subsequent remarkable trajectory is a testament to the transformative power of visionary leadership and effective enrollment management strategies.  Guided by The Dysart Group model, President Scott Miller and VP Heather Campbell have paved the way for sustained success, breaking records post-pandemic and positioning the institution for continued growth in the years to come.  As we witness this remarkable story unfold, it serves as an inspiration to other higher education institutions to embrace innovation and adaptability as they navigate the ever-evolving landscape of academia.

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