Get to know the new Student Service Centre

15 July 2021

Through the University of Alberta for Tomorrow (UAT) initiative, the student services stream brings together the people, processes, and technologies required to implement the new operating model for student services across the university. The new model creates a student-centred, consistent, professional, and continuously-improving student services ecosystem that spans all student supports at the university. At the heart of this model is the Student Service Centre, a navigation hub for students—and for staff who support students—and a one-stop-shop for enquiries.

Get to know the new Student Service Centre

The purpose of the Student Service Centre is to improve the student experience by increasing awareness and accessibility to services that can support students throughout their university journey. One of the ways we'll achieve this is through the work and expertise of the student services staff we have across the institution. Staff in the Student Service Centre will work directly with students to resolve their enquiry, help them navigate the system, or connect them with experts across the university. The Student Service Centre will include:

  • An expanded rollout of Vera, our chatbot, to include web pages within the Dean of Students Office.
  • A physical space with in-person services and self-serve kiosks.
  • A team of 21 advisors who will provide information and navigational support.
  • A team of eight specialists who will grow and maintain the extensive knowledge base articles that will eventually support all student support staff in their roles. The specialists will build connections between the new Student Service Centre and the faculties, colleges, and other service units.

The new Student Service Centre is built on the success of Student Connect. It will continue to offer all of the same services and will expand Student Connect's current capacity and functionality. This includes helping students navigate through all of the supports available to them in the Registrar's Office, the Office of the Dean of Students, and other support units such as University of Alberta International and the Faculty of Graduate Studies & Research.

The long-term goal of the Student Service Centre is to develop a stronger and more cohesive student service ecosystem across the university. With the help of a new and growing IT infrastructure of service management systems and the Centre's new Service Improvement Team, we will be able to ensure students receive even better service.

Staff remain key to our success

The Student Service Centre will work to ensure a closer connection between college/faculty/program-level services and university-wide services, while improving the holistic student experience. The SET program is still working on the overall structure of student services (including what additional services will be provided by the Centre and what will be provided by individual faculties/units), but we know that some student services will continue to be delivered at the faculty level when it makes most sense. As a university, our focus is our students. We want to ensure we can support their needs in all capacities, which is at the forefront of our decision-making process.

Staff will remain a key component of our success. One of our goals for the Student Service Centre is to provide a more personalized and interactive service for students. We will build on the service commitment to students that is already well-established within the Registrar's Office and the Office of the Dean of Students.

Meet the leadership team

After months of searching for the best candidates across the university to support our new Student Service Centre, hiring is now largely complete. We thank everyone for their interest in these roles and are excited to make our final offers in the coming weeks to complete the team. A significant step in forming the new Student Service Centre was establishing the leadership team, which brings together student service expertise from across the institution.

Raymond Matthias, Director - As the inaugural Director, Raymond comes from the Faculty of Engineering where he served as Strategic Advisor to the Assistant Dean (Outreach). Having held various positions within University of Alberta International and the Registrar's Office, Raymond brings a wealth of expertise and has a long-standing commitment to improving the university's student experience.

Amber Nicholson, Manager - With 20 years of experience, Amber's university career spans several different units, where she was most recently with the Faculty of Arts' Undergraduate Student Services Office. As their Career Development Officer, she helped establish and grow the Arts Work Experience Co-op and Internships Programs.

Amy Chae, Team Lead - Coming from Residence Services, Amy has 12 years of experience working in post-secondary student services, eight of which have been with the U of A. For the last five years she has overseen the Residence Services offices, leading a team of front-facing staff.

Alison Demchuk, Team Lead - With more than 20 years of experience working at the U of A, Alison has a wealth of university knowledge and a rich background in registrarial student service experience. In addition to her faculty experience, she spent five years as a Senior Team Student Advisor with the Registrar's Office.

Orsi Kertesz, Team Lead - Orsi joins the team having most recently served on the Student Connect leadership team as a Specialist for the past three years. Originally from Romania, Orsi has been working at the U of A for almost a decade.

Launch plan and transition

To ensure staff are prepared in their new roles and can deliver high-quality services, the Student Service Centre had a soft launch on July 1 and is continuing to add additional operational capabilities as well as onboard staff for the broader kick off on August 16. With the leadership team in place, July 1 marked the beginning of the transition phase. At present, the Student Service Centre has:

  • Expanded upon the services currently offered through Student Connect, supporting a wider scope of student activity.
  • Implemented Vera, the chatbot, in the Registrar's Office and the Office of the Dean of Students.
  • Maintained the ability to direct students to any service within the Registrar's Office.

August 16 will mark the completion of hiring and onboarding, as well as the opening of the physical space within the Administration Building on North Campus. Navigation functionality to services within the Office of the Dean of Students will be added, and initial expansion of OTRS, the service management system, will begin. The Student Service Centre is intended to be flexible and will grow to include more services; over time, staff in the Centre will be able to substantively resolve an increasing number of inquiries themselves.

A new home for student services

As transitions continue to unfold and the U of A prepares for a return to campus, the Student Service Centre will continue to operate online while preparing to launch in person on August 16. Once in-person activities resume on campus, the Student Service Centre will initially use the existing Student Connect space and infrastructure in the Administration Building, which will be updated to reflect the new name and expanded functions. From there, the Student Service Centre will take up final residence in the new Dentistry/Pharmacy centre once refurbishment is complete, planned for 2023. With full occupancy slated for 2024, this iconic campus landmark will serve as an important hub for our community, with the Student Service Centre playing a key role.


Frequently asked questions

Will the Registrar's Office and the Office of the Dean of Students be amalgamating?

No, the Registrar's Office and the Office of the Dean of Students will remain two separate organizational units. The Student Service Centre has a dual reporting structure into both of these offices as a means of connecting the centralized service units and providing access to the various services offered.

Do we need to ask students we are already serving to report to or register with the Student Service Centre in order to continue receiving our services?

No, if a student appears directly in your office requiring service(s), there is no need to redirect them to the Student Service Centre.

Which tasks are moving from faculties and departments to the Student Service Centre? How is the Student Service Centre going to impact what I do for students in my role as a student service provider?

During the first phase of operations, the Student Service Centre will not be a 'doer' for processes that currently exist in the faculties, departments, or other units. The substantive delivery will remain with faculties and the Centres of Expertise.

Will the Student Service Centre maintain case records and files on students who are referred to various support centres? If so, how will privacy be maintained?

The Student Service Centre uses a system called OTRS to manage case records on all student interactions. This is a system that has been used previously in the Registrar's Office for many years and has gone through the required privacy assessments. The university has also issued a search (led by IST) for an enterprise-wide service management solution that is expected to replace the OTRS system within the next year.

Are more changes planned for the Student Service Centre going forward?

After the SET student service vision is created (Fall 2021), the Student Service Centre will begin to take on a more active role in collaboration with central and faculty student service providers. This phase will focus on developing the Student Service Centre's position as the central provider in the student services ecosystem from the perspective of other service providers.

Are more positions planned to be hired in the Student Service Centre?

Interviews are underway for the recently posted advisor and specialist positions. At this time, there are no other major plans for hiring.

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