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News

GCU Staffing Up 16 Percent to Keep Pace With Growth

August 13, 2012

By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau

 

Step foot on campus and you can't help but notice.

There's concrete and masonry and landscaping everywhere as GCU completes another phase of the largest construction project in its history.

More importantly, you'll also notice something else: people. Lots and lots of people.

People such as Ed and Betsy Hedinger, a husband-and-wife team joining GCU as full-time counselors for Health Services.

Or Allen Dowe, Sodexo's resident dining manager at the renovated Student Union building.

Or Victoria Leith, a residence director at brand-new Sedona Hall.

Psychology instructor Laura Terry is joining the ground campus after previously serving as an online instructor. Or Laura Terry, who traded in her full-time online instructor's duties to become a full-time ground instructor teaching psychology classes in the Arts and Sciences building.

All are filling new positions that were created from the demand that comes with adding 3,300 new students on campus, bringing the ground enrollment to nearly 6,500.

Since this time last year, staffing at GCU has increased 16 percent - from 2,202 in August 2011 to the current staffing level of 2,553. That will grow even more as other new hires come on board in the coming month.

"It's this traditional ground campus that is causing people to want to be affiliated with the University," CEO Brian Mueller said during a company-wide employee meeting on Aug. 6.

Much of the staffing increase comes from the faculty needed to teach all these new students. Adjunct faculty staffing has increased 40 percent in the past year, and full-time faculty members have almost doubled (from 103 to 203).

Class sizes for some courses, particularly introductory courses for freshmen, also will increase to handle the extra demand. To help offset that, GCU is introducing new iRespond technology in those classrooms.

That technology allows students to respond with a clicker to questions or on-the-spot quizzes. The instructor gets immediate feedback on how many students got the question correct or which incorrect response was chosen more often.

"It is critical to us that GCU doesn't lose that small-classroom feel," said Kelly Sanderson, vice president of academic operations. "We still want our classroom to be full of discussion and have active learners, not passive. With the iRespond clickers, professors can immediately make adjustments and address any topic that needs more instruction."

In addition to the faculty hirings, examples are everywhere of increased staffing on campus:

  • Public Safety has added three new dorm officers, two parking enforcement officers, two field officers and four dispatchers.
  • Sodexo Food Services, whose employees are contractors and not actual GCU employees, has grown from 40 employees in 2011 to 130 this year.
  • Health Services has added an office person and a part-time nurse practitioner in addition to the two counselors.
  • At the Antelope Reception Center, the number of part-time Antelope ambassador student workers who host prospective students at semimonthly Discover events will increase from 150 to 200.
  • And Student Life has added a new judicial officer, four new resident directors and 15 resident assistants. 
John-Paul Reiger, director of Student Life, said GCU's growth has not only created jobs, but also given motivated students the chance to lead their peers and build their resumes at the same time. When he joined GCU in 2009, there were around 60 student leaders. This fall, as many as 220 will work on campus.

"There's been some serious investment in the people who are going to manage students on this campus," said Reiger, who added that Student Life is looking at professional-development plans to keep employees growing and engaged at GCU for years.

Perhaps even more significant than the actual number of new hires is the University's employee attrition rate, which dropped from 20 percent in 2011 to 12 percent in 2012. At organizations with a large number of call-center employees, that number is typically higher than 40 percent.

"We are overly pleased with that number," said Scott Raleigh, GCU's senior vice president for human resources. "For an organization our size, that's unheard of.

"That increases tenure, it increases experience, and that will only improve the service we provide students."
Jordan Beverly hauls a TV into his dorm room at Camelback Hall during early move-in last week. Enrollment is growing by 3,300 students this fall to a record 6,500 on the ground campus.

The retention improvement from 20 percent to 12 percent equates to 200 employees annually who don't have to be replaced, Raleigh said.

"That shows that we're making great hiring decisions, providing great training, our critical management has been tremendous in creating a positive and supportive work environment, our systems (technological improvements) have improved dramatically, our (enrollment) processes have improved, and it shows our organizational restructuring has been effective."

There are sure to be growing pains and hiccups along the way, but those are inevitable with such rapid growth.

 "The biggest challenge, I think, is the unknown. You don't know what you don't know," Raleigh said. "We might have a few infrastructure challenges as we deal with the influx of new students, but we'll get through that. One thing I've learned with this senior management team: When there's a challenge, we will tackle it."

Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or bob.romantic@gcu.edu.