GREAT FALLS — Staff at Apollos University in Great Falls, located at 600 Central Avenue, like to call the school “the university downtown.” But when COVID-19 hit, they lost a lot of the foot traffic and interactions that typically bring in prospective students.
“It’s tough to really connect people when you’re behind a mask and your doors are closed,” explained president Dr. Scott Eidson. “We don’t know if people are stopping by and have questions and things like that. There was no real outreach when you’re at home in your pajamas with a cup of coffee working on your computer.”
But last week, the university cut the ribbon on their new student center. Now they’re hoping that expanding their space in their Central Avenue location will hit two birds with one stone: giving students a place to spend some time doing work, taking proctored exams, or relaxing, and providing an easier avenue for anyone interested in the university to stop in and learn more.
“It’s going to be a great way to connect with a student and give them something to feel connected to themselves,” Eidson said. “When you study online, it’s tough to make those personal connections, so this is really going to be a gamechanger in that way.”
For the students and staff at a university that was already mostly online, the pandemic didn’t actually force too many changes. But one of the main ways that Eidson and the other handful of faculty and staff that work on location in Great Falls find prospective students is by word of mouth. People walk by, see signs, hear advertisements, etc., and they stop by and ask questions. But spreading the word when no one could just walk in became a challenge.
“We started to move into this space just as it hit, and that stalled us to be able to open this up,” said Eidson. “So, it was kind of painful to have this dormant for so long, and then to have to wait.”
Now with the student center open, complete with a common area for students, accessible computers, and a full computer lab on the way, Eidson hopes the community feel will start to return.
“One of our core values is community,” he explained. “We’ve already been connecting with other businesses coming by and walking in and asking us questions about it, what we can do for not only them, maybe for their children and things like that, so it’s been a great move for us to make those connections.”