SMWC's exceptional personal attention forms a connection from the start

December 12th, 2011 | SMWC

Sierra Shepard is a junior studying professional writing at The Woods.


Tara Lane and Paige Arehart share their love of horses at the stables.

Individual attention from SMWC faculty and staff encourages students to succeed in and out of the classroom.  It gives them the confidence to speak up, a feeling of individuality and makes faculty more relatable.  “You don’t get treated like a number [at The Woods],” sophomore Jessica McManus said.  McManus, as well as many other students, learned first-hand that this one-of-a-kind personal touch is the custom at The Woods.

For example, Paige Arehart, began her journey from Hebron, Ind., to The Woods after a chance encounter with Tara Lane, employer relations coordinator at SMWC. Arehart met Lane at SMWC’s booth during the 2010 Hoosier Horse Fair in Indianapolis where they discussed their mutual love for horses and Lane shared her knowledge of The Woods.  

Arehart said she felt right at home with Lane, who had a positive attitude and warm personality. Lane had a profound influence on her, not only on that day, but several times throughout the year.

After meeting at the fair, Lane sent Arehart a handwritten letter with a business card, in case Arehart wanted more information on The Woods and the equine program. “The letter really made me think about [visiting The Woods] again,” Arehart said.    

“Writing letters develops [relationships],” Lane said. While sending emails is part of the job, handwritten letters foster the feeling of caring for individuals and reaching out to get to know them.  As in Arehart and Lane’s case, the friendship is often genuine.  “When people have something in common there’s just that connection. With Paige and I, it was horses,” Lane said.

Arehart scheduled a campus visit soon after she received Lane’s letter.  But because all the student ambassadors were with other families, Lane met with Arehart and led the tour herself.

This personable and positive experience prospective students receive is just part of the charming personality of The Woods, Lane explained.      

“While I know Paige credits me with her positive experience, from my standpoint, Saint Mother Theodore just lined everything up,” she added. The relationship didn’t end when Arehart was accepted to The Woods. She stops by
Lane’s office every day, even if just to say “hi.”

Arehart and Lane are not the only pair with this kind of connection.  In fact, many students feel their positive connective experience with faculty or staff contributed to their decision to come to The Woods.  While these people are mostly from SMWC, recommendations sometimes come from other institutions.

Jessica McManus, a transfer student, entered The Woods’ education program when two faculty members from Ivy Tech Community College encouraged her
to enroll.

“[They] said The Woods had a strong education program and that it would be good for me to live on my own and meet new people,” McManus said.  The prestige of The Woods’ education program was the biggest factor in her decision, and with encouragement from her Ivy Tech faculty, McManus became even more confident in her decision.

McManus, impressed by the friendliness at The Woods, said her professors help her succeed by explaining assignments clearly and giving her individual attention. Individual attention, however, doesn’t only come from faculty at The Woods.

A first impression lasts a lifetime. The first person prospective students talk to at SMWC is Hila Cheesman, office manager for enrollment management. According to Grace Dubrowski, Cheesman makes a significantly influential impression as soon as you walk in the door.

“She made me feel at home within the first ten seconds,” Dubrowski said. Initially, she was hesitant to visit The Woods, but her parents insisted she give it a chance.  Ultimately, Dubrowski’s decision to attend SMWC was strongly influenced by Cheesman.  “I put my deposit in when I left the office,” she said.  All it took was one visit to go from hesitation to a life changing decision.

Cheesman’s “demeanor and positive attitude” added to Dubrowski’s decision, pointing out that “Hila cares about every person that walks through the door.”   

Dubrowski now works in the Office of Admission and sees Cheesman frequently.  “All the Admission girls call her mom,” she said. In the library lobby, Dubrowski’s voice can be heard from Cheesman’s office, asking “mom” how she is doing.    

Choosing a college can be a difficult decision. At The Woods, going the extra mile is customary. All it takes is one person to make a world of difference to prospective students. Although writing emails, letters and meeting with students is a part of the admission process, it is clear every student, prospective, current and past, matters to the faculty and staff at SMWC.

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