When Barbara Strickler came to The University of Tampa, she found a beautiful building but a lack of students walking its halls, and administrators were at the brink of closing down the school.
Fourteen years later, the vice president of enrollment is leaving at a time when UT has more students and programs than ever.
‘There has been a real renaissance,’ Strickler said. ‘I’ve seen it grow radically just about on every front.’
Dr. Ronald Vaughn became president of UT at the same time Strickler took her position. Both have been credited for bringing the university back to life and making it what it is today.
‘Barbara has played a critical role in helping to turn the University of Tampa into a prestigious academic institution with an excellent national and international reputation,’ Vaughn wrote in an e-mail statement. ‘Her skill and hard work has increased not only our enrollment figures, but also the quality and diversity of our student body.’
Strickler nearly quadrupled the full-time undergraduate enrollment from 1,412 students in 1994 to 4,712 in 2008. She increased the university’s profile by switching from an open-door admission policy to the current 49 percent admittance rate. Strickler even raised the standard of SAT scores of incoming students by approximately 100 points.
Her successes didn’t come easy. In the beginning, no one believed that she could increase enrollment. Even the former director of public information bet Strickler a bottle of Don Perignon that she could not increase enrollment.
‘I won the bet,’ she said, with a smile, sitting in her new corner office in the Riverside Building.
When she first came to the university, Strickler’s office in Plant Hall didn’t even have a computer. Now, her corner office gives her great views of the Hillsborough River and Plant Park.
One of the biggest challenges has been managing the enrollment increase and university expectations, she said. The current economy has become another obstacle for enrollment at UT and around the country. ‘We have added 30 or 40 new initiatives,’ she said.
Trying to get applicants to start their application process early is one of the initiatives put in place. Strickler also mentioned that another initiative program flew in guidance counselors from New England boarding schools in an effort to target students who have the willingness and ability to pay the tuition.
At this point, she is not sure what the outcome will be, but so far the enrollment numbers for the fall are higher than in 2008. ‘We seem to be weathering the storm well,’ Strickler said.
Director of Admissions Brent Benner, who works closely with Strickler, expressed that his time with her has been very beneficial.
‘I have thoroughly enjoyed the four years that I have worked for Barbara Strickler and have learned immensely from her experience and expertise,’ Benner said.
Strickler has been working hard behind the scenes increasing enrollment every year since she started and has decided to retire but not leave completely. ‘I’ve been trying to retire from the position for a while,’ she said. ‘I can’t imagine myself retiring and doing nothing.’
After she ends her career as vice president of enrollment, she will work with President Vaughn on some special marketing projects a few times a week. ‘I’m also pleased to have Barbara working part-time on some special projects that will benefit UT,’ Dr. Vaughn wrote. Strickler said that her time at UT has been successful and the pace fast, but now is the time for her to slow down and catch up.
‘A lot of people are wondering why I want to retire,’ Strickler said. ‘I feel like I’m letting my life slip by me, and I need to catch back up with my life and do things I like to do.’