Two prospective students hold Buffalo State t-shirts and smile

A Look at Innovative Ways Buffalo State Is Engaging New Students


Prospective students have much to consider when choosing where to pursue their higher education. Academic opportunities, facilities, student supports, clubs and organizations, and an overall sense of belonging all play a role in this significant decision, which is why Buffalo State University provides myriad ways for high school students to get a taste of life as a Bengal before committing. 

“It’s important to continually reimagine recruitment efforts to meet students where they are in their search process,” said Randyll Bowen, vice president for enrollment management. “Not all students have the ability to make multiple trips to visit campus, so anything we can do to showcase our programs—regardless of where—is critical.”

Here’s a look at some of the innovative ways Buffalo State is engaging new and prospective students.

Open House/Admitted Student Bus
Each semester, every aspect of campus—academic departments, tutoring, the Honors Program, the Educational Opportunity Program, academic advisement, Financial Aid, clubs, organizations, and more—is represented at Open House.

Open House gives prospective students the best glimpse of what Buffalo State could look like for them,” said Shannon Miller, admissions advisor in Buffalo State’s Admissions Office. “They interact with a lot of people and see campus from different angles, get a view of their department, and learn about available supports. It’s a good quality preview.”

In addition to visiting tables and presentations, this year’s 332 prospective students were invited to take tours of campus and the Burchfield Penney Art Center and were offered free admission to same-day athletic events and a dress rehearsal for Runway, Buffalo State’s annual student-produced fashion show.

Open house tables

A unique aspect of Buffalo State’s Open House is the concurrent Admitted Student Bus program. SUNY and Buffalo State provide funding for the Admissions Office to transport a bus of up to 100 students from New York City to participate in Open House—but with the addition of an overnight stay in staffed residence halls, meals in the dining hall, and extra programming and activities. 

“Buffalo State is a natural choice for New York City students,” Miller said. “Many of them know students here, they want to get away from home, but want to be in a city.”

For many, the bus trip for Open House is their only visit to the school before committing. “The trip really seals the deal for a lot of them,” Miller said. “It provides access they wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise. They experience Open House, but also try out the dorms and food, and connect with fellow students from NYC and Long Island.”

Major for a Day
Major for a Day allows high school juniors and seniors—divided into small groups based on preferred majors—to meet faculty members, learn about job prospects, and participate in subject-related activities.

“In such an intimate setting, high school students are able to build connections and become acquainted with Buffalo State’s campus in a way that is not possible through a campus tour,” said Cecilia Pershyn, programming coordinator for the Continuing Professional Studies (CPS) Office.

The event began with 10 to 12 prospective Bengals as an initiative to further engage students from Buffalo State’s College Access Program (CAP). Thanks to a three-year grant from the Stenclik Family Charitable Fund, which covers transportation for high school students, Major for a Day has grown to include 50 area students. (The grant also supports program fees for free or reduced lunch CAP students and need-based scholarships for BOCES New Visions Education Pathway Academy.)

Za’carre Gigi, a senior at Cheektowaga High School, explored the psychology program during this year’s April 12 event. Gigi had previously been on campus to play in a high school basketball game, but this was the first time he was able to explore, get lab tours and demonstrations, and meet faculty members and current students.

“It was a cool experience,” he said. “The facilities on campus are really nice. I am impressed by the internship opportunities available to undergrads at Buffalo State.”

Pershyn said CPS plans to host the event each semester, expand the number of participating departments, encourage interest in departments with lower enrollment, and strengthen relationships with the local community. 

Two prospective students pose with a sign that says Be a Bengal, Be a Teacher

Be a Bengal, Be a Teacher
This education-centered event resulted from a recruitment initiative developed by the Teacher Education Council Recruitment and Retention Committee. The program brings high school students considering a career in teaching to Buffalo State’s campus to learn about available academic programs, take a tour, and eat lunch in the dining hall.

The inaugural Be a Bengal, Be a Teacher event in 2023 saw about 100 students; this year, Buffalo State hosted 149 students from 11 Western New York high schools.

“The event allows teacher education faculty to showcase their departments and provides an opportunity for the high school students to learn more about the work that we do,” said Kathy Wood, associate professor and director of the Urban Teacher Academy and teacher diversity. “We also invite various offices and programs—Civic and Community Engagement, the International Professional Development Schools, New Visions—to table at the event, so students can learn not only about education programs but also other experiences they can have if they choose Buffalo State.”

Bengal Roar 2 Success
Buffalo State doesn’t just provide for prospective students; it also supports new students once they arrive on campus.

Roar 2 Success, an admissions-based first-year-student support program, was funded through a 2018 Title III grant. When funding concluded in spring 2023, Buffalo State institutionalized the program to preserve its noticeable impact, said Shawnte Wilson, director of student success and retention.

“Some students eligible for acceptance into Buffalo State may need more help with the transition,” said Wilson, who also noted COVID-19 greatly affected education for current incoming students. “It may be a little more critical for them. We want to make sure they feel supported.”

Pamphlets and flyers at Roar 2 Success mixer

Upon acceptance to Buffalo State, students who fall into target population groups—typically based on high school grade point average—are automatically sent an invitation to opt in. The program—which has a capacity of 300—provides every enrolled student with a success navigator, a guide-advocate who helps them navigate academics, financial aid, and more. Academic support services are available weekly, and the office remains open until 9:00 p.m. to accommodate various schedules.

Roar 2 Success also highlights engagement opportunities through collaborations with the Civic and Community Engagement Office, the Alumni Engagement Office, and more. “We let students know that engagement in college does not look the same for everybody,” Wilson said, “but they can find what works for them.”

Roar 2 Success even provides support before the start of the fall semester through the Bengal Bound Summer Bridge Program (formerly known as the Countdown to College Program), a two-week in-person program that allows students to move in early and acclimate. This year, from August 14 to 20, the program will welcome a first-year cohort to move into permanent fall housing, talk about college transition topics, engage with peers, and more.

“These summer cohort program students become mini-experts before the semester starts,” Wilson said. “It creates an inclusive community and good energy. It helps first-year students realize they can help their peers and be leaders as soon as they get to campus.”

Buffalo State’s engagement efforts empower prospective and new students to feel confident in the choice to become a Bengal. 

“College is a transition no matter how you performed in high school,” Wilson said. “For some, the transition is academic, others social, others financial—it could be a combination of all those things. Knowing you have support is important.”

Photos by Jesse Steffan-Colucci, Buffalo State photographer.