Inside Iowa State
August 7, 1998
Student answer center piloted in Beardshear
by Anne Dolan
A multi-purpose "answer" center for ISU students opened on the ground floor of Beardshear Monday (Aug. 3). The walk-up station sits directly under the Beardshear dome and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Staffed by employees from the registrar, student financial aid, treasurer and university receivables offices, the Student Answer Center is a pilot project aimed at helping students find answers to their questions about Iowa State. Funding for the center came from the President's Office.
"We want to create an environment that feels comfortable and welcoming a place where students will want to stop even when they don't have a question," said Tom Hill, vice president for student affairs.
The effectiveness of the pilot project will be assessed as plans are developed for a permanent student help center that will be part of a Beardshear remodeling project. (The university received permission last month from the State Board of Regents to proceed with planning for a $5.7 million remodeling of the building.)
"We find that students often know what they want to ask, but they don't know who to ask -- they don't know what functions get done in what offices," said registrar Kathy Jones, whose office has administrative responsibility for the center.
"At the answer center, we'll give them the answer when we can. When we can't, they'll get an appropriate referral and, we hope, a pre-contact from us to the referral before the student arrives," she said.
Jones said center staff members also will follow up on referrals to find out if students received the information they sought.
The center will be staffed by up to four employees at a time. Center staff will:
- Provide an outlet for many (but not all) student services, such as turning in a graduation application, obtaining a PIN number for AccessPlus, submitting a transcript request, updating address information or getting financial aid help. Jones said the center will provide the kind of services that typically can be completed quickly and that don't create long waiting lines. Students probably won't be able to take care of more time-consuming processes, such as changing their class schedules, at the answer center.
- Help students learn how to find answers on their own through such resources as the AccessPlus kiosk and ISU Web site. Staff from the answer center and university relations are developing an extensive list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that will be available on the Web at www.iastate.edu/~answers/. Jones said that over time, the hope is that students will be able to better help themselves by turning first to the FAQ site.
- Offer referrals to specific areas or individuals for more involved questions. For example, Jones said answer center staff won't replace academic advisers, but rather refer students to advisers in the appropriate colleges when advisers are best equipped to answer a question.
- Assess the information needs of students to develop a better permanent help center in Beardshear. Jones said center staff will develop multiple strategies for soliciting student feedback.
Special back-to-school hours:
Saturday, Aug. 22: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 23: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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