Journey – Transforming the UT Student Experience

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April Message from Dr. Kaye Patten Wallace, Senior Vice President for the Student Experience

wallace_lgFinally: finals! We can help students tackle them successfully

We’ve finally put winter away — definitely a reason to celebrate. Plus, the end of the semester offers us all some great opportunities to support our UT students as they launch themselves into final exams.

Finals are an important and necessary part of the overall student experience, even though they often create anxiety. Whether we’re parents of UT students or whether we encounter students who would benefit from additional direction, we may be able to offer useful advice.

As Dr. Stan Edwards at the UT Student Counseling Center noted: “The preparation for and taking of final exams can require increased physical and emotional energy. Thus it is important that students and their support team attend to their physical and emotional well-being.”

I’ll second Dr. Edwards on that, and remind you that the Counseling Center is a place where students can find information, services and support from trained and dedicated professionals — before stress becomes a serious hindrance to their positive UT experience.

Likewise, students need to keep as physically healthy as possible. I asked Dr. Sanford Kimmel, the medical director of student health and vice chair of the Department of Family Medicine at UTMC, to share what he tells students this time of year.

He said, “First, it’s important to get enough rest, at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Although some students like to pull ‘all nighters,’ the brain doesn’t function well when it’s sleep deprived. Also, avoid excessive amounts of caffeine, which can make you jittery and irritable. Be sure to eat regular meals, even though you may be tempted to skip them in the middle of an intense study session. If you can’t take time to get a meal, at least eat a nutritious snack like fruit and peanut butter or cheese-crackers. Finally, take time out to exercise during a study break — go for a walk, swim at the Rec Center or do some other relaxing activity. Your body and your mind will thank you for it!”

Remember also that students have excellent resources in the UT Writing Center, and in the UT Learning Enhancement Center that offers free tutoring across the various academic disciplines. Encourage students to tap into this academic support system.

So keep up your efforts to make each student’s experience at our University a stellar one. I’m constantly made proud by all that we do in that arena every day!

 


Front Lines Profiles: UT People Shaping the Student Experience

Lisa Hasselschwert, Director of Rocket Solution Central

Hasselschwert

Hasselschwert

A spring thunderstorm is pelting the parking lot outside Rocket Hall, but the level of activity inside Rocket Solution Central (RSC) doesn’t seem to be slacking off. Rain isn’t a deterrent, says Lisa Hasselschwert, RSC director. Aside from semester breaks, quiet days are rare.

A line of students at the front counter lengthens and diminishes as RSC staffers hustle back and forth between computer screens and adjacent offices. Phones ring constantly; the intensity of the work is obvious. Yet when asked to identify the department’s challenges, Hasselschwert actually asks for more work.

“One of our biggest challenges is educating the entire University about what we do,” she says. “When Rocket Solution Central was created six years ago on a model of centralized service, we had the advantage that the three areas we represent — the offices of the registrar, the bursar and financial aid — are all located in Rocket Hall.

“The aim has always been to cut down on the number of different offices that students have to visit to do what they need to get done.”

But if faculty and staff who refer students to RSC aren’t accurate in their recommendations, she adds, that can negate the advantage: “We have to help the students to yet another location, and then they’re irritated with us.”

So in pursuit of the most complete and accurate information, here’s what students can tap into by visiting Rocket Solution Central:

• RSC’s primary responsibilities are in the areas of registration, billing and payment, and financial aid. Hasselschwert explains some parameters: “Students may have questions about a charge on their bills, and it might be related to housing, or to a parking fine. We can identify what the charge is.

“If they have a dispute, they’ll still have to talk with Res Life, or if they’re having a problem with a Rocket Card that’s not working, they’ll still have to visit Auxiliary Services. There’s overlap, but there are distinctions; if you’re having a problem with some charge, we can tell you what that charge is and where you’ll need to go.”

Registration includes issuing transcripts, handling late registration, add/drop and withdrawals. “If a student has a hold on his account, we can identify what the hold is and how to rectify it. Maybe they have a hold because they still owe some money, but if they want to withdraw from a class, we can do that and lift the hold.”

Billing. “Students ask us, ‘How do I get on the Installment Payment Plan, what’s my first payment, my second? Why did I get a late fee?’ We can answer those questions for them.”

Financial aid includes everything from the application process to disbursements, which are tied to registration, since the number of credit hours will determine the level of financial aid.

“If a student asks why his financial aid is not showing up, for instance, he might want to check his grades from the previous semester semester.”

In the integrated model that RSC follows, Hasselschwert says, they act as the eyes and ears of all three areas. “It’s helped take some of the pressure from the home offices. People are sometimes unsure of whether we have a registrars office or a financial aid office. We do, and a treasurer’s office, too. They do the bulk of processing; we’re here to talk to students and answer their questions.

“We do take in a lot of documents, do some processing as in adding, dropping or in transcript requests. Ultimately, though, the home offices keep things running so that the myUT Portal is used as it’s meant to be, so students can take care of things in their own time frame.”

Advocating for more use of the myUT Portal and its menu of online services, she says. “It allows a lot of things to be streamlined, like registering and paying bills online. Faculty and staff can do so much to help students by getting them to the right place for what they need to do.”

The rain’s letting up, but not the level of activity at Rocket Solution Central. Hasselschwert observes the bustle says, “We have a wonderful group of people here at RSC and in the home offices, and we’re really fortunate to have a good partnership with the three areas we represent.

“The more the UT community knows about what we can do, the better we can deliver on that!”