New Center a Smooth Move

With the opening of UVM’s new consolidated student services center, an inviting wood-paneled oasis outside Memorial Lounge in the Waterman Building, administrators are hoping they’ve seen the last of the “Waterman shuffle,” a not-so-popular student dance step. “The concept for the new center really sprang out of student frustration and our determination to get to the other side of it,” said Keith Williams, university registrar. Before the opening of the new center, Williams said, students had to visit different offices in Waterman to conduct a sequence of ordinary business transactions like clearing a registration check, processing a scholarship check, or clarifying how financial aid applied to their bill. Even the most everyday chain of events could often become complicated enough to require backtracking. “It could get rather trying for students – and for administrators anxious to help them,” said Don Honeman, director of admissions and financial aid. That was then. The new center, which features both a front counter for quick information and enclosed office space for more complex queries, should simplify many student transactions. The location also boasts a 40-inch LCD panel displaying a mix of promotions for campus activities and reminders of deadlines useful to students. The center’s staff, which includes many students, has been trained to answer the questions they are most likely to encounter, and have the information and resources at hand to resolve problems on the spot. Three different offices – the registrar, financial aid and student accounts, all with different reporting structures – worked together to create and staff the center. “Each of us saw the problem and decided that the best way to attack it was as a team,” said Cecelia Dry, assistant university controller. That kind of teamwork is a model for the kind of customer-focused, cross-departmental style President Daniel Mark Fogel is promoting. “Bureaucracy is no friend of creativity,” Fogel said. “It should be minimal and for the most part, be transparent to the students and faculty.” Before the group went on the offensive, however, they tapped into the nuances of student dissatisfaction with the old system by convening a student advisory group when the center was first conceived in the summer of 2003. “What we eventually developed came directly out of that student input,” Williams said.