UBC gets personal

A new service model for students

Dealing with big organizations can leave you feeling like you’re in a pinball machine—bounced around from one office to another, unheard, uncared for, frustrated and lost. 

UBC wants its students to lose that pinball feeling.

This spring, the university is turning its enrolment model inside out and hiring a team of 19 Enrolment Services Professionals (ESP) to help students navigate the system.

Every new undergraduate to the Vancouver campus will be assigned an ESP to work with from the beginning to the end of their time at UBC.

This go-to specialist will support students in everything from registering for courses and switching programs to applying for scholarships. The ESPs will also work in close partnership with academic advisors and student development professionals to address any problem along the way.

Ly Dich has been a UBC admission coordinator since 2010 and is now part of the new ESP team.  He contrasts past and present models for a student who is experiencing financial problems, hasn’t paid tuition and cannot register for classes.

“First I’d send them over to financial services where someone could help them apply for a bursary or access emergency funding. When they came back to my office, then I would have to reopen registration for them,” he said. “Now I can handle all that myself without having to get the student to shuffle back and forth.”

For Dich, the other advantage will be the continuity of the relationship.

“In the past I might see 100 students each day.  But I didn’t see the same students the next day, so I couldn’t make sure they received the service they required. Now I can follow up and make sure they get what they need. “

Training for the new ESPs began May 14 with a focus on course registration, financial awards and university policies and procedures.  They’ll be ready in time for first-year students to register for classes in June.

“I’ve wanted this job for twenty years,” said Brian Teghtsoonian, who has been at UBC since the 1980s and remembers a registrar who dreamed of the “super clerk” to answer all student enquiries. “We thought it wasn’t possible because UBC is too big and too diffuse. But I always thought that would be a fabulous thing to do.”

Now, Teghtsoonian is joining the ESP team from the Sauder School of Business, where he handled admissions and recruitment.  He will offer students a personal touch, tailoring his advice to each situation.

“We’re going to get the opportunity to be one-on-one with students to talk about their strengths, weaknesses, and direction,” Teghtsoonian said.

By June 2013, the ESP program will be extended to include all undergraduate students at the Vancouver campus. An estimated 60 ESPs will be needed to cover the campus; each will have a caseload of several hundred students.

“UBC’s new service model is a key piece of the foundation that supports students to achieve success in their UBC endeavours,” said Maggie Hartley, director and associate registrar for Enrolment Services. “It is about treating students as individuals and welcoming them into the UBC community.”

The changes to Enrolment Services are part of a broader initiative to enhance student experience. The University admission process now includes consideration of personal profiles to complement students’ grades. UBC is also planning to expand what it calls the learning plan strategy, where students are encouraged to identify academic goals and seize all the opportunities available so they get the most out of their university experience.

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