Written by Stephen Schellhorn, COM 250 Reporter
Edited by Hannah Carroll, COM 303 Editor
MOUNT BERRY, Ga.- The Governor’s Honors Program (GHP) provides an opportunity to mass showcase Berry College’s campus to prospective students.
The GHP is a state program that sends high school students to a host college for a four-week college experience in the summer.
The students who visited Berry’s campus on February 23 were top high school students selected by the state governor’s office. They are interviewed on one designated day where, out of between 1600 and 3000 students, only 400 are selected to participate in Berry’s summer residential program, where they will receive specialized attention in their fields of study. These fields of study, known as “majors,” include political science, engineering, and foreign languages, among others, according to Vice President for Enrollment Management Andrew Bressette.
The interviews, which took place on February 23, are a great source of exposure and potential revenue for Berry College as thousands of students and their families come for the GHP, according to Chief of Staff of the President’s Cabinet Debbie Heida. The number of students who apply to Berry because of GHP increases every year, Heida said. A focus group showed that 14 students, double the number from last year, came to Berry because of the Governor’s Honors Program, according to Heida.
“[The GHP is] a perfect match for us in academic enrichment for high school students and what we do every day as a college,” Heida said. “So, the experience itself is positive at Berry, and then we hope some of the outcomes are that they look at us as a potential college site.”
Heida said that with close to 7,000 people in attendance, including parents, the interview day spreads word-of-mouth about Berry. Even if students are not admitted into the summer program, they may remember their experience at Berry and consider it for college. The first year Berry hosted the program, there were 3,000 people in attendance, according to Heida.
This is the third time Berry has been the host institution for the program, and the second year in a row that it has done interview days and the summer camp, according to Bressette. Bressette said Berry has rubbed off on the program.
“It’s been kind of fun to say that the Berry culture is ‘we are friendly to each other,’” Bressette said. “We’re a community, and we want the GHP folks to feel as much a part of that community as we feel they are.”
He is not alone in that view. Director of Hospitality and Event Services Casee Gilbert said Berry improves its working relationship with the GHP each year.
“I think our campus is just inherently unique,” Gilbert said, “especially in terms of the possibilities that they can incorporate into their program that they may not get anywhere else.”
Every student that visits is a prospective student, according to Gilbert.
The number of students from the program who applied to Berry this year is double from last year, according to Bressette. Bressette said he hopes the number of students from GHP who apply to Berry hits 10 percent.
Berry staff were unsure how formal to be with GHP students at first, according to Gilbert. At first, the program kept students isolated from association with Berry staff and residents, Bressette said.
In hopes of gaining exposure from the program, Berry worked hard to bid for the position of the program’s new host site when the GHP sought a new location, according to Bressette. Heida said she made sure Berry was on a watch list in case proposal requests were opened. Berry made the bid alongside other colleges for two years before it was selected, according to Heida.
Berry is learning how to build on its partnership and the resources of the GHP, according to Gilbert. Heida said that although Berry charges admission for the program, it also provides logistical support to the program such as residence life work and providing both leadership speakers and evening programs.
Bressette said GHP students add vibrancy in the summer and make the campus feel fuller. In Gilbert’s eyes, they add a different flavor to Berry.