UT works to improve student success with two new spaces

Maria Mendez

Kate Lemley, a 2017 alumna, remembers almost having a meltdown after trying to navigate UT’s administration to get financial aid.

“When I was (at UT), my biggest problem with financial aid was having to run across campus all the time,” said Lemley, a government and Mexican-American and Latino studies graduate. “I would go to one office to speak with somebody in person, and as it turned out I was in the wrong place, or the answers I got in the financial aid office meant I had to go to the registrar’s office. It was really frustrating.”

Attempting to remove bureaucratic barriers for students, UT is developing a One-Stop Student Services Center and University-wide Center for Career Exploration and Development. The centers, both planned to open in the summer of 2019, will centralize and supplement existing student services.

“Both of these initiatives look at the coordination of information that students need,” said Rachelle Hernandez, senior vice provost for enrollment management. “We don’t want students worrying about who’s providing them help. We want them to easily find resources.”

The One-Stop Center will bring together the offices of financial aid, registrar, student accounts receivable and the Graduation Help Desk inside the Main Building. Hernandez said the individual University offices will remain, but students will only have to go to the One-Stop Center to get their questions answered.

“We no longer want to ask students to go to multiple locations to get information related to maintaining their enrollment,” Hernandez said.

Denisse Meza, a communication sciences and disorders junior, said she also faced difficulties navigating financial aid at UT as a first generation student. Having services inside the Main Building, a focal point of campus, would especially benefit freshmen, political communications junior Aisleen Menezes said.

“My freshman year, I actually thought everything was in the Tower,” Meza said. “It would be a lot easier to remember where to go (for help) if it’s all in the Tower.”

The One-Stop Center will also feature a central phone line and website for students who are busy or don’t feel comfortable asking for help in person, Hernandez said. Lemley said she relied heavily on financial aid to afford college, so a central phone line would have been especially useful to quickly get help in-between classes or her internships.

“To get those questions answered really put a lot of stress on me,” Lemley said. “I think I would have been more successful in my academics if I had those questions answered easily.”

Through the University-wide career center, UT also hopes to provide additional resources for students with interdisciplinary careers or who are still finding a career path, Hernandez said.

The Career Center, which will be located in the Flawn Academic Center, will coordinate and supplement information provided by existing career centers in each college on a central website, Hernandez said.

Menezes said she found an internship through Liberal Arts and career services, but accessing other career services and fairs as a Moody College of Communication student can be hard.

“I think a University-wide career center would be great,” Menezes said. “I know I’m not the only student that struggles with ‘Wow, I’m a (communications) student but I’m interested in a career that’s more traditionally liberal arts.’”