B.U. Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
By David J. Craig
Next semester, navigating BUs administrative offices will be less frustrating, with the help of staff at the new University Service Center.
For example, in the past, if a student changed from full-time to part-time status, financial aid and billing issues also often arose, requiring the student to visit several campus offices sometimes more than once.
The center, opening in September at 881 Commonwealth Ave., will be directed by Denise Mooney, assistant vice president for enrollment, and will be staffed by four full-time associate directors trained in multiple aspects of University administration.
The centers staff will provide individual assistance to students confronting issues that involve more than one administrative office. The goal is to solve as many of those issues as possible at the center, according to Mooney. Representatives from Student Accounting Services, the Office of Financial Assistance, and the Office of the University Registrar will be on-site to assist.
The genesis of the center was a series of student surveys done since the mid-1990s that looked at which aspects of the University undergraduates liked and which they didnt like, says Executive Vice President Joseph Mercurio. One thing that popped out is that students felt BU was too bureaucratic. Of course, many issues are interrelated, and what students have said is that they often ended up getting bounced around from one department to another. There were massive amounts of frustration being expressed.
A student who is unable to register for courses because of an unpaid balance and is finding it difficult to sort out the student account and financial assistance issues involved would find assistance at the center, Mooney says.
Were trying to concentrate on the students who have these multifaceted problems, she says. Were not trying to simply replicate what is done in other offices. After weve assisted the student, we hope he or she will come back to the same staff member if any other problems arise. That way, there is some continuity and personalization to the interaction.
There are administrators who help students with these sorts of complex problems now, Mooney continues, and they do so not only as part of their job, but out of their concern for students. The associate directors, however, will have the advantage of having received training in a variety of operational and administrative areas.
Students can come on their own to the center or be referred by staff in other offices. If consultation with an associate director determines that a students situation requires the assistance of another office, the student will meet with an administrator from the appropriate office. This summer, Mooney says, administrators in relevant University offices will learn more about the new center.
Mooney is currently interviewing applicants for the four associate director positions. Those chosen will undergo extensive training during the summer.
The center will also be responsible for student exit interviews and for reviewing student requests for exceptions to the University policy that provides for full refunds of tuition only when a student withdraws from the University before the first day of the semester.
Many times, when a student withdraws or takes a leave of absence, there may be a perfect justification for considering an exception, says Anne Shea, vice president for enrollment. The associate directors at the University Service Center will be responsible for handling those requests for exceptions and exit interviews, and for following up on the interviews when they seem to indicate a general problem.