New program to improve college services, student experience

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New program to improve college services, student experience

One-Stop Director Barbara Ebert-Balzano, Registrar Keri Walters and Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Services Cynthia Grunden have worked together to create a new program Columbia will introduce in the Fall 2019 Semester that combines several areas of the college to help improve students’ educational experience at the college. 

One-Stop Director Barbara Ebert-Balzano, Registrar Keri Walters and Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Services Cynthia Grunden have worked together to create a new program Columbia will introduce in the Fall 2019 Semester that combines several areas of the college to help improve students’ educational experience at the college. 

Halie Parkinson

One-Stop Director Barbara Ebert-Balzano, Registrar Keri Walters and Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Services Cynthia Grunden have worked together to create a new program Columbia will introduce in the Fall 2019 Semester that combines several areas of the college to help improve students’ educational experience at the college. 

Halie Parkinson

Halie Parkinson

One-Stop Director Barbara Ebert-Balzano, Registrar Keri Walters and Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Services Cynthia Grunden have worked together to create a new program Columbia will introduce in the Fall 2019 Semester that combines several areas of the college to help improve students’ educational experience at the college. 

By Ariana Portalatin

Student entering the Fall 2019 semester can expect improved services in multiple areas of the college as the result of an incoming restructuring designed to benefit students and staff.

According to Cynthia Grunden, assistant vice president of Student Financial Services, Columbia is in the process of revising enrollment-related student services, currently being thought of as a “one-stop” service.

“There are a lot of examples where we see students whom maybe we’re not serving as well as we want to,” Grunden said. “Many of us have been talking about this and brainstorming ways to better serve students. One idea that came up is what a lot of colleges have been doing, which is to put enrollment-related services in one location and cross-training staff to provide students a more integrated service experience.”

The change will merge parts of SFS and the Office of the Registrar and include collaboration from additional areas of the college. The goal of the new program is to streamline services, increase student satisfaction and retention and promote intensive student advising, Grunden said.

When launched in the fall, the combined services will include: student record management, registration assistance, financial aid services, bursar services, veteran services, U-Pass services, cashier services and campus card services.

“There are a lot of examples where we see students whom maybe we’re not serving as well as we want to,” Grunden said. “Many of us have been talking about this and brainstorming ways to better serve students. One idea that came up is what a lot of colleges have been doing, which is to put enrollment-related services in one location and cross-training staff to provide students a more integrated service experience.”

The change will merge parts of SFS and the Office of the Registrar and include collaboration from additional areas of the college. The goal of the new program is to streamline services, increase student satisfaction and retention and promote intensive student advising, Grunden said.

Grunden said discussions about starting the program—which does not yet have an official name—began in March 2018. After doing research and speaking to other colleges, the idea was approved by the college in November 2018.

Registrar Keri Walters said while the program will have its own space in the SFS Office when it officially launches, they are planning on moving it to its own area. Students in the Interactive Arts and Media Department will begin working on  a new portal for this program that will take the place of Oasis, she added.

“Imagine you’re a student who has a financial services hold, an immunization hold and maybe you’re returning after an absence;  you could now go to one counter with this new model, or one website, and take care of all those concerns in one place,” Walters said. “Everything related to enrollment, you can get done with one person—one stop at one site—whereas now, you have to go between two or three different offices to get that done.”

Barbara Ebert-Balzano, formerly the college’s director of Outreach and Education and Financial Planning, was named the director of the new program. In addition to her position, the program will consist of “one-stop counselors,” positions that will consist of internal and external hires.

According to a job description posted on Columbia’s website, counselors will provide customer service to students and families, monitor financial and academic progress to help students maintain the lowest possible amounts of debt and help eliminate barriers to degree completion. 

They will also collaborate with departments to assist students with their educational experience at the college and participate in student recruitment events, such as Admitted Student Day, Open House and New Student Orientation.

Eight counselors have already been hired by the college, but Grunden said they are looking to hire two more. According to the college directory, the eight counselors hired so far are: Amro Aly, Flor Carabez, Michelle Ferguson, Sean Nevils, Matthew Rillie, Cynthia Rivera, Tene’ Robinson and David Sparacio.

Ebert-Balzano said all counselors will go through a “rigorous” training process beginning Feb. 11, which will focus on customer service and student advocacy.

“The emphasis is really on empowering the counselors and leadership to serve as student advocates,” Ebert-Balzano said. “It’s more than just solving some transactional problem for the student and moving them on; it’s really going to be their role to say, ‘How do we set you up for success?’”

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