Delivering student services as important as tutoring, disability assistance, and advising is especially vital at LDS Business College, an open-enrollment school whose student body often faces hardships.
Yet the offices and departments that delivered those services were located all across campus, making it difficult to ensure that students made it to where they needed to go when they had multiple issues to be addressed.
And among those various departments, “there were several reporting lines to upper administration,” says Adrian Juchau, director of student support. “Frankly, it was an unwieldy mess.”
Realizing that many of the risk factors students sought help for were similar regardless of where they were seeking the help, Juchau and his colleagues came to realize that a more centralized approach was called for.
“Students are holistic individuals,” he says. “They’re not one part academic or one part social or one part whatever. They’re a whole student. Why aren’t we treating them holistically instead of in their little siloed parts?”
The school merged eight departments into a single entity—the Student Development Center—to create a functional, versatile, nimble office meant to foster efficiency and collaboration. A single, unified team now works under one reporting line, with a consolidated budget, sharing best practices and leveraging technology.
At the same time the school was creating the common physical space, Juchau was cross-training his team so that service didn’t suffer if someone wasn’t in the office. This greatly improved morale among employees who often worked back-breaking hours because no one else could pick up the slack.
“There’s a great deal of joy and relief to be found knowing there’s others among us who can do these things,” he says.
A year after opening, the Student Development Center has paid dividends. Combining service departments has allowed LDSBC to deliver services far more efficiently. While the individual departments typically saw 10 percent budget increases each year, the school bumped up the combined unit’s budget by just 1.8 percent last year.
Wait times have plummeted. Before the center opened, students sometimes waited days to meet with a staff member. Now, more than 95 percent of students have their issues addressed immediately. Student confusion has decreased while satisfaction has increased.
A shared commitment to student success exists, regardless of what support service is being provided. says Kathy Skene, director of the Learning Assistance Lab.
“We all care about the students in the same way,” she says. “No matter what the issue is, we want to be able to help the student. If we all have the same purpose, then we’re on board together. If we here together physically, it’s easier to pass them off to whoever needs to take care of them.”