The University of Texas at El Paso, like many U.S. universities, has undergone operational changes since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Providing services such as advising and enrollment assistance in a remote environment has been an undertaking that UTEP faculty and staff have approached with dedication and creativity.
Since transitioning to chiefly remote operations, advisors have been spending significant time on individually scheduled appointments with students, hosting meetings on Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other virtual conferencing platforms. Interactions that were previously face-to-face transitioned to a virtual setting, and the workload has increased exponentially throughout the summer.
“Academic advisors and enrollment support staff at UTEP have shown strong dedication and mission-driven focus during these challenging times,” said Provost John Wiebe, Ph.D. “I’ve been consistently impressed at their work ethic and resourcefulness as they’ve found innovative ways to remain engaged with students”
Academic advisors face many similar struggles to what students have experienced during the pandemic. They understand many UTEP students took on additional responsibilities like work and family care when the pandemic took root. Advisors also understand that some students delayed their decision about enrolling for the fall semester until details were divulged about how courses would be managed.
Once the University released the modified schedule for Fall 2020 classes, advisors worked diligently to connect with students to make sure they understood the course options available so students could continue their education.
“UTEP faculty and staff have adapted in extraordinary ways, seeing this as an opportunity to rise above and help students enroll and explore their career options,” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., vice resident for student affairs.
Heather Smith, associate vice president for academic affairs, said the Student Success Helpdesk has been an important resource for students during this time. Advisors are responding quickly via this platform, supporting students who aren’t sure who to go to when they need assistance with registering for a required course, have questions about class schedule time conflicts, or are seeking additional resources.
When students contact the Student Success Helpdesk, a ticket is created and routed to the appropriate staff member or campus office to handle the request. The system alleviates confusion by connecting students directly to staff members who can provide appropriate assistance and resolution.
“The communication and the collegiality among offices across campus is what has made remote advising and registration possible and successful,” Smith said. “Providing quality advising and enrollment services remotely is a very collaborative process.”
Advisors have increased time spent on email, making sure to “meet students where they are.” If a student’s main concern is food or housing security, advisors work to connect them to resources that can help with those immediate concerns. Academic advisors want to make sure students are safe and feel supported during this difficult time.
“Most academic advisors get into the career because we love helping students on their college journey,” said Joy Olimpo, assistant dean for student affairs in the College of Health Sciences. “It was an adjustment for all of us advisors and students — to figure out how to keep the same level of connectedness while we were working remotely. We hope to continue connecting with students to provide assistance in their academic careers in this challenging time.”
The Student Success Helpdesk continues to deliver services remotely. For the most rapid response, students should submit their inquiries and requests to email@example.com.
Author: Darlene Barajas – UTEP Communications