Dr. Guiyou Huang is getting to know the Quad Cities campus of Western Illinois University Friday, visiting with faculty and local community leaders. He's the university's 12th president, following the resignation of Jack Thomas in 2019 after a decrease of enrollment.
Dr. Huang previously led Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. In his term there, freshman enrollment and retention improved, which is a trend he wants to bring here to increase the current student population of 6,800.
"The plan was to see the university achieve 10,000 students, and I think it's realizable, but we have to do the right things and do them right," Dr. Huang says.
He says the university is already on the right path, which about 100 more students registered for the Spring 2021 semester, compared to Spring 2020. While enrollment is a top priority for university administration, so is keeping students on campus through graduation.
"The persistence rate from the fall to the spring is over 87 percent, about 87.5 percent," Dr. Huang says. "That's 7.5 percent, which is a little higher than last year. That's a good sign."
He says retention is all about making sure students feel comfortable and secure on campus, and he wants to make sure they have everything they need.
"Students are the most important priority, and their success will guide what I do," he says.
Dr. Huang plans to reach new corners of the country and the world to recruit future bulldogs.
"The rest of the world is much larger than one country," he says.
Dr. Huang named other priorities for his term at Western Illinois University, like financial stability, race relations, social justice and university branding. He plans to visit the Quad Cities campus at least once a month.
Spring semester classes start for university students on Tuesday, Jan. 19.