Town hall focuses on redesigning student support services

RiSE initiative hopes to transform AU's student service infrastructure

Town hall focuses on redesigning student support services

Reinventing the Student Experience (RiSE) co-chair Dr. Fanta Aw speaks to faculty and students about her vision for the campus. 

Faculty and students gathered for a town hall in Battelle Atrium on April 6 to discuss the progress of the Reinventing the Student Experience (RiSE) Initiative.

RiSE is a multi-year project intended to transform AU’s student service infrastructure and to “create a new national model for student success,” according to the project’s website. The members of RiSE want to take the numerous student support services and have them redesigned and repositioned to create what their website calls “more intuitive channels of community guidance.”

Dr. Fanta Aw, interim vice president of campus life and one of three co-chairs of RiSE, spoke to the audience about how RiSE may move forward.  

“We’ve all come to the conclusion that the success of RiSE is dependent on two things -- a change in culture and deeper relationships,” she said. 

As part of RiSE, faculty and staff attended a retreat during the 2016 fall semester. The retreat was created to promote collaboration between the people who have large impacts on the AU community and usually aren’t very connected to one another, Aw said.

“The first thing, which I think was major, was having our first-ever faculty and staff retreat,” Aw said. “It was very important to bring faculty and staff together in the same room and I think that was very valuable.” 

Aw also mentioned the Breaking Bread Initiative, a project that brings faculty and students together to talk over a meal. She said the initiative would foster connections between students and the administration. 

“If there’s one thing that can bring people together, it’s food,” Aw said. “When a part of this, students can know one more person, and can begin to forge relationships with them.”

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Enrollment Sharon Alston spoke at the town hall about the Parent Outreach Program, which is meant to help students and their guardians understand the financial factors of their enrollment. 

“Students are expected by faculty to manage their own finances when in reality, that is often something their parents do,” she said.

Alston said that slightly over half of current AU students say they understand the financial aid process, yet almost all of the students have completed the process and accepted their student loans correctly.

Jessica Waters, vice provost for undergraduate education and the associate dean of the School of Public Affairs, spoke about curriculum reform under RiSE. One of the biggest changes to the curriculum will be the expansion of the general education requirement timeline from two to four years, Waters said. In February, the Faculty Senate unanimously approved a new core curriculum program.

“We’ve completely transformed the way that we are approaching general education,” Waters said. 

Waters’ goal has been to streamline the academic assistance services, which she said are set to triple by the coming semester. One specific change that she mentioned was that more living and learning communities will begin to be relocated to Anderson from other residence halls. This would bring more faculty and students into contact with the main offices of Housing and Dining Programs, the Residence Hall Association and the University College Program, Waters said..

This is another effort to increase the connectivity of the community, Waters said. With more AU employees working close to where communities of students will be living, more communication will hopefully grow from this, she said. 

Uniting the working parts of AU was a strong focus of the town hall, and Chris Moody, the assistant vice president of Housing and Dining Programs, expressed that his department will also work towards this goal.

“The Dining program is three parts: dining employees, the housing and dining programs and the auxiliary services which handle oversight,” Moody said. “We will merge all of these staff members into one department, and that will be in MGC, in the flow of where things are happening.”

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