It seems a small thing, but help from the new Center for Student Success at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center resonated with Bahar Zarei, a new PhD student in pharmaceutical sciences.
“The first day I came here, I forgot my (phone) charger and they lent me one,” said Zarei, who is originally from Tehran, Iran. “There was always someone here who answered my questions.”
That’s exactly the purpose of the Center for Student Success, which hosted its grand opening for UTHSC students, faculty, and staff Thursday from 11 a.m-3 p.m. with food and giveaways. The center had a soft opening earlier this summer as all the elements were being put into place.
Located at 910 Madison, Suite 105, the center brings together in one office representatives from many of the services that students might need to help them succeed.
Charles Snyder, PhD, associate vice chancellor for Student Success, and Lyndsay Pittman, MEd, assistant vice chancellor for Enrollment Management, have led the development of the center.
Their collaboration has resulted in this major logistical change on the Memphis campus that is positioned to help make the academic journey easier for students at UTHSC.
“This space really represents the traditional academic definition of a center, meaning it’s a space where we’ve brought several interdisciplinary experts together to a common purpose,” Dr. Snyder said. “We’ve worked together to develop it into what we believe will best serve our students.”
Formerly the One Stop Shop, which housed Admissions, Financial Aid, and the Registrar’s Office, the Center for Student Success offers access to those services and many more. The center includes representative from Student Academic Support Services and Inclusion (SASSI), the Office of Student Life, Accessibility and Accommodations Services, Health Career Programs, and Civic Engagement.
“Our students are graduate and professional students, so they don’t need the same things that your traditional undergraduate students need,” Pittman said. “They need access to specialists to talk about their tutoring needs, their academic needs, their time management, their academic planning, things like that. They need access to their student organizations. But they also need access to the Enrollment Management offices.”
While the center has representatives from the various student services, the full Office of Enrollment Management, including Admissions, Financial Aid, and the Registrar, is located on the 5th floor of the 910 Madison Building. The bulk of the Office of Student Life remains in the Student-Alumni Center at 800 Madison.
Renovations to offices on the 5th floor of the Madison Building created more space for Enrollment Management, formerly in the One Stop Shop, and opened the space for what is now the Center for Student Success. “We started looking at how can we make this space a better space that will serve more students,” Pittman said. “It’s a premier space on this campus. It’s near the Food Court, it’s near the Hub, and there are quite a few colleges in the Madison Buildings here. So, we’ve reimagined how we can collaborate to best serve our students’ needs.”
For example, a student may come in to discuss a financial aid issue, but may also have other needs, such as housing issues, or personal problems that also require help. With representatives from various services on hand, the center is set up to meet all those needs.
“It’s a place where they can be instantly served and helped with their success,” she said.
“It’s rethinking the student center and co-locating services,” Dr. Snyder said. “The focus is on academic, professional, and social success of students.”
Dr. Snyder said the center addresses feedback received from students in the past about not knowing who to talk with or where to find the right person for their needs “We have all the experts in the room where there’s no wrong door,” he said.
“It’s nice to have a place to feel like you can go when you’re stressed and can talk about academics, but also personal things,” second-year medical student Maddy Malik said during the opening event.
“It’s really convenient that it’s all in one place,” said her friend Nisa Syed, also a second-year medical student. “There are so many colleges, and a common meeting ground for everyone makes it really convenient.”
Zarei attended the open house with her friends Homa Rezaei, also a new PhD student in pharmaceutical sciences, and Farnaz Salehi, a new PhD student in Genetics, Genomics, and Informatics. “It’s a safe spot,” Zarei said.
“It makes you feel like you belong here,” Rezaei said.