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New Services Center Organizes Scattered Offices

Agnes Borszeki -- The Tech
The recently opened Student Services Center, which displaced the Fishbowl cluster from its Infinite Corridoe location, allows students to centrally accomplish tasks normally distributed across campus.

By Shang-Lin Chuang

MIT's new Student Services Center opened last week to great fanfare in the Infinite Corridor space formerly occupied by the Athena Fishbowl cluster. The new office is designed to allow students to conduct common transactions without traipsing across campus to many distributed offices.

The center serves as an extension of the Bursar's Office, Registrar's Office, Student Financial Aid Office, Student Employment Office, and Multi Plan Office.

The full center follows the experimental center set up last year as part of a pilot project. It was built on the recommendation of the student services re-engineering team as part of their final plan. The center offered quick access to common services such as accepting payments on student accounts, offering common financial and academic forms, and issuing official transcripts.

After positive student responses on the pilot, the pilot center was closed at the end of last semester and construction began on the new, bigger, permanent center which also offers more services.

"We want to provide the best services for students, and by expanding the center, we are able to do so," said Caryn Youngholm, coach of the Student Services Center team.

In addition to the services offered by the pilot center, students can now talk to an account representative about their bursar's account, sign their loan promissory notes, replace their MIT ID Card, get information about student employment, get cross-registration information and materials, talk to a financial aid officer, receive loan entrance counseling, receive a student account refund, and get a short term cash advance in addition to the services provided by the pilot project.

There are five workers at the service desks, and six workers, including the account representative, at the transitional service area, for those students who need more in-depth assistance.

Students find center convenient

Judging by the turnout, students seem to be finding the new center useful. About 1,500 students have made payments, requested unofficial transcripts, and completed new graduate student pre-registration in the center.

The center's working mission is to provide financial and academic services for all students, faculty, and staff in a friendly, accurate, and timely manner, and in a way that ideally will allow more time for pursuit of their educational and personal interests.

"I came in here to pay my bill," said Jane Y. Park '00. "It is much more convenient to come here than to have to go to the Bursar's Office."

"I came here to pre-register," said Pimpa Limthongkul G. "The staff here is nice and was able to answer my questions."

"We offer all the services in one location," Youngholm said. "The staff here are trained so that they will be able to answer a variety of questions or be able to refer the students accurately to someone else."

"I needed to get forms about health insurance," said Fritz A. Thelusma '98. "I have been here only about three to four minutes," he said, "the staff was able to give me directions on what to do. I was able to do what I wanted to do in a short amount of time," he said.

"I came here to authorize parent billing and to take care of my scholarship check," said Christopher K. Cha '01. "It is nice to go to one place that will take care of everything."

"Students have so much to do that they shouldn't be spending their time waiting in line and traveling to different offices to conduct simple transactions," said Youngholm. "We are open to feedback and will be conducting customer satisfaction surveys."

Center brings services together

"Most of the walk-in services performed by the offices can now be done in the center," Youngholm said. "A student would very rarely need to go to the other offices now."

The offices will now be focusing on more the background work instead of dealing directly with customers, Youngholm said.

In addition, the center will also be the first step in a plan to increase cooperation between the departments. "Our current plan is to have the Registrar's, the Bursar's, and the Student Financial Aid Offices move to Building 11 next year as part of our co-location process," said Stanley G. Hudson, leader of the financial and academic services transition team."This will help to centralize all the various processes. The Student Services Center is just the first step."

"We are working on a reorganization plan that is more than just combining the three offices," Hudson said. "We want to change the way people work so that we can be more efficient and responsive to our customers."

"We are working toward being the only place that the students will have to go to for any questions or concerns," she said.

"We are also working on putting a lot of these transactions on the web Student Information System so that students will be able to get their financial status or complete simple transactions without even leaving their chairs," Hudson said.

The center is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.