One for All
By Daney Daniel Kepple
Photography by Curt Ullery
Jill Carr ’09 spent a memorable summer at Fudan University in Shanghai between her sophomore and junior years. She studied the economic development of China, explored the city and countryside, hobnobbed with Tibetan monks and formed lasting friendships with her fellow American students and Chinese professor.
Yet there was a nagging worry in the back of her mind the entire time that she might not get credit for her courses.
“Class work at Rhodes is very demanding,” Carr explains. An economics and mathematics major, she worked as a Rhodes Student Associate in Institutional Research. As she was preparing for her time abroad she was vice president-elect of Rhodes Student Government, another large time commitment.
In the face of all that, she plodded from office to office trying to obtain all the approvals necessary to ensure that her work in China would count toward graduation.
“I was never sure I had done it right until I returned to campus and looked at my transcript,” Carr says.
All that running around has ceased with the Center for Student Opportunity, a one-stop shop for student services that opened last month in the former Burrow Library. The building has been completely renovated and organized as “service hubs.” Alumni who spent hours studying in the stacks would not recognize the space today. Here’s where things are now:
To the right of the old circulation desk is Rhodes Express, the center where students can complete the bulk of their administrative transactions. It is staffed by front-line veterans from the Bursar’s Office, Financial Aid and the Registrar’s Office, all of whom have undergone cross-training to answer questions and perform services in all those areas. Admissions and Financial Aid are also housed on the ground floor.
Out-of-Classroom Advising Center
The lower level is inhabited by the professionals who advise students seeking an out-of-classroom experience that helps them apply their academic knowledge. Those interested in study abroad and internships, for example, will find staffers who can explain the options. And those who don’t quite know what they are looking for will most likely have found it before they leave the area.
Academic Service Center
The second floor of Burrow has become the Academic Service Center. The dean of students; the directors of first-year programs; disability services and student conduct; the registrar; and the associate dean of students for student advising (student academic support) are all available to assist students with needs related to the academic program.
Data Services Center
The top floor of the former stacks is occupied by a newly configured Data Services Center that assists all the other offices on campus, centralizing faculty, staff and student needs for data and mailing services.
Student Organizations Area
The second floor of the former stacks is now the student organizations arena. It boasts office equipment such as a copier, conference and meeting rooms and a production area that is ideal for generating posters and fliers. Best of all, students have 24-hour access to the space.
How did it all begin? Three years ago, President Troutt pulled together the leaders of student service groups and asked them to identify ways the college could improve in these areas. After a summer of work, the leaders, now known as the Student Services Re-Engineering Steering Team, pinpointed several issues to be addressed. Among them:
- Duplication of effort in various offices
- Multi-step processes, such as the one Carr outlined above, that are difficult for students to navigate
- A need for student input into processes, such as events management, that affect them
The Steering Team initially recommended establishing three centers to simplify student services—one for transactions such as paying a bill, dropping a class or requesting a transcript; another to assist student organizations; and a third for academic advising.
The team also recommended forming a Design and Implementation Team to work out the operational details of the project.
Its charge from President Troutt was “to contemplate what would constitute the best student services a liberal arts college could provide. I ask you not merely to find out what other, premier liberal arts colleges are doing but to reach farther, dream bigger and act bolder—not in making minor, incremental changes to our current services and structure but in making courageous, radical leaps of imagination.”
Tackling the most critical needs first, the Design and Implementation Team spun off a group to work on a summer orientation program. The result—Open Rhodes—has received rave reviews from incoming students and their parents.
A second spin-off group studied how to streamline reserving spaces for events. Members recommended purchasing events management software that has resulted in a centralized calendar of events and has vastly simplified space reservations for the entire campus.
Finally, when the team imagined how to structure a system to deliver services to fit student needs, the concept of “service hubs” took form.
Bringing this vision to fruition required dismantling traditional reporting lines, combining offices and a considerable amount of cross-training.
“I like to think of it as ‘disrespecting’ the organizational chart,” says Bob Johnson, vice president of student and information services, with a smile.
Jill Carr, who joined the re-engineering effort in 2007, is delighted.
“It will help students so much,” she says. “You can go to one place to turn in a check or even get the ball rolling for something much more complicated. Whatever it is, the people who can help you get it done are right there to help you.”