Durham College’s halls were filled with prospective students and their parents on April 9, excited for what the upcoming school year has to offer. It was the first in-person Open House since fall 2019.
“I think we were all just ready to go back to in-person and by far I think it was the best decision we could have made,” said Traci Ellis, director of marketing and student recruitment at Durham College.
One prospective student told the Chronicle she plans to take the Advanced Law Enforcement and Investigations program and she’s excited about the upcoming school year.
“Meeting people, especially because of COVID the past two years I’ve been meeting people virtually, and people don’t really turn their cameras on,” she said. “So meeting people, making new friends and learning more in my field.”
Thom MacDonald, an associate dean with the School of IT and Management, said he’s excited for the upcoming school year.
“Just this past week we’ve had, in my area, two big live student events,” he said, “and now this face-to-face open house. It’s been such a joy coming back and interacting with people face-to-face again. It’s really exciting and it feels like we’re transitioning to a new phase.”
Another prospective student in the Law Clerk program said it was her first big event in a while.
“There are a lot of people so I’m a little nervous but it’s been pretty good so far,” she said.
According to Ellis, more than 3,000 prospective students and their families attended both campus’ open houses.
“Our attendance was on par or a little higher even than our last in-person event,” said Ellis, adding that previous virtual events would range from 800 to 1,000 in attendance.
“Our team had been running in-person events up until 2020 so it wasn’t new to us. Although we had to dust off our skills a little,” she said.
Ellis said to prepare for the return to in-person, the college worked to make it as engaging for the attendees as possible.
“That meant demonstrating how Durham College is leading the way in so many of its programs, lab spaces and facilities, and the equipment students are using to learn,” she said.
Ellis’s team marketed the event to all of southern Ontario, starting with a campaign launched six weeks ago. They used social media, billboards, radio, transit and television ads.
“We did a lot of direct marketing to the applicant pool, so anyone who already applied but hadn’t decided where they were going to go,” she said.
According to Ellis, choosing to host an in-person event was a tough decision.
“The amount of work, time and people power it takes to put on an in-person Open House is by far much more time-consuming and taxing than a virtual one would be,” she said.
In addition, Ellis said the constant changes with COVID added to the difficulty of the decision, but in the end it made sense.
“OK, let’s do in-person, I think it’s important for people to come and see,” Ellis said.
Ellis compared attending an open house to buying a vehicle.
“Most of you, if you were buying a vehicle would go test drive that vehicle,” she said, “It’s an important decision and a big expense. Education should be looked at in the exact same way. Come and give us a test drive and see what you think.”