First candidate for VP for enrollment and student experience presents initiatives started at current university

Photo from Marian University website.

Natasha Breu

WKU is currently searching for a new vice president for enrollment and student experience. The search committee, co-chaired by Acting Provost Cheryl Stevens and Amanda Trabue,  vice president for philanthropy & alumni engagement, has narrowed down the search to four candidates. The title is currently held by Brian Kuster, who is also the executive director for the Student Life Foundation. 

The job requirements for VP for enrollment and student experience include providing “leadership for enrollment and student life across the university,” articulating a strategy for the student experience, serving as a partner to the provost and “recruit, attract, select, enroll, retain, educate, develop, and graduate a highly qualified and increasingly diverse group of students,” according to the job posting on WKU’s website.

The first candidate, P.J. Woolston, presented at an open forum in the DSU auditorium Monday afternoon. Woolston is currently the vice president of enrollment management at Marian University in Indianapolis and has focused on initiatives to help students be prepared for school each semester in order to increase retention. He started an initiative called “Knight Quest,” named for the school mascot, that prepares students for the first day of class.


“We do something for all students before each semester begins, so that we’ve got a checklist that they can check off… the boxes to make sure that we’ve got their enrollment deposit… they’re registered for classes… they’ve got their housing situation paid, fill in their FAFSA and their bill is paid,” Woolston said. “If we can get them to check off all of these boxes before class starts, then by the time class starts there’s going to be a lot less outstanding balances.”


Woolston’s plan for recruitment and retention also included an acronym called “TOTAL” that stands for “Theme, Outreach, Teaching, Aid and Location.” Different offices are intended to work with these categories in order to make sure students are helped in areas like financial aid packages. Woolston said the “theme” category describes the amount of collaboration it requires from different offices to analyze data and come up with strategies for retention. 

“One of the worst situations is they [students] come to college and they leave… so you’ve got some college and some debt and no degree,” Woolston said. “We can avoid that.”

Woolston was asked by Michelle Jones, associate professor of mathematics, what his initiatives will be concerning diversity, equity and inclusion and Woolston said it includes more than race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

“It’s so much bigger than that,” Woolston said. “We want diversity of body. We want people to think differently than us and the people that are around us.”

News Editor Natasha Breu can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @nnbreu.