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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Sept. 8, 2006

Need answers? Just call, click or stop by

by Erin Rosacker

Sometimes answering a question with more questions is the only way to truly figure out what someone wants to know. Just ask the graduate and undergraduate students who staff the Student Answer Center in the ground-floor lobby of Beardshear Hall.

Student Answer Center

The Student Answer Center, located in the ground-floor lobby of Beardshear, fields questions in person, via phone and by e-mail. Photo by Bob Elbert.

The center is the result of a seed planted in 1996. A series of committees developed the concept into a reality in 1998. The trial period was such a success that renovation plans for Beardshear included a permanent home for the center. After bouncing around different locations during the remodeling process, a grand opening in October 2001 marked the center's reopening in its current location.

Carolyn Nading, a program coordinator in the records and registration department of the registrar's office, oversees the center. She took over the reins from Judy Minnick in 2001, when Nading's department moved to Beardshear.

The answer center counter faces west and sprawls across the lobby between two columns for more than 25 feet. Staff at four computer stations can tackle questions and passersby can pick up materials such as football posters, sports schedules, campus maps and CyRide routes.

Behind the partition is a bank of computers for general use, a popular stop for students and staff to check e-mail or have the staff help with AccessPlus issues.


The students who work in the center may not know the answer right away, but they know where to find it.

Training for the job includes advanced knowledge of AccessPlus, the university Web site, the online directory, financial aid and locations on campus.

Nading generally hires upperclassmen and graduate students to work in the center, with three of each group on staff this year. Most have some type of campus involvement under their belts, giving them a familiarity with Iowa State and how it operates.

The graduate students manage day-to-day duties, such as staff scheduling. They also assist the registrar's office with various projects, sometimes tailored to areas the students are pursuing in their studies. For instance, a future Web master helped enhance the registrar's site.

"This assistantship gives a really nice overview of the university," Nading said. "To complement that, I ask them if there are certain kinds of skills they would like to build."

But these projects take a back seat to the main focus of their time in the center.

"The No. 1 priority is to be available to the students and others who come up," Nading said.

Everyone needs some direction

Students aren't the only ones who need help. Among the lost souls are people searching for the location of an appointment, new faculty or staff looking for benefits or payroll information, and parents needing help with an embarrassed student-to-be in tow.

You can spot someone with a question within moments, each with a different approach. Some turn their heads left and right, unsure of which way to start walking, others make a beeline for the first person to make eye contact with them. Still another style is recognized as familiar faces or T-shirts that have walked by a few times and have finally ditched their pride to ask for directions.

Foot traffic provides the main source of questions, with the majority of people looking for specific offices. Answer center staff also receive queries through a phone line

(4-4469), which is published on the back of ISU Cards, and an e-mail address (


The Student Answer Center is a resource for more than students, fielding questions from faculty, staff and visitors.