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The first PCC Answer Center begins at Southeast Center
Photos and Story by James Hill
Starting winter term, Portland Community College students at the Southeast Center (2305 S.E. 82nd and Division) can get all of their questions answered in one place.
The college’s first Answer Center – a one-stop kiosk where any student can access and navigate college resources with help from staff volunteers – opened inside the brand new Student Commons Building on Monday, Jan. 6. Students won’t have to shuttle from department to department trying to access key services. Instead, they simply stop by the Answer Center where they can get assistance on issues related to the Enrollment Services, Financial Aid and Student Accounts departments. At the center’s kiosks, students can login into the college portal called MyPCC and complete any phase of their enrollment. And, at any time they can receive over-the-shoulder help if they are unsure of what to do.
“The Answer Center model places students at the center of the registration process, empowering them through self-service and providing proximate resources and cross-trained staff for maximum efficiency,” said Jessica Howard, Southeast Center/Extended Learning Campus president. “To be able to offer this model to the PCC community first at Southeast Center is exciting and a privilege. Its location in the new Student Commons Building is fitting; together they herald a new era of service and opportunity for our students and community.”
Eventually, PCC will have Answer Centers at all four campuses within the next two years thanks to the build out from the college’s Bond Program. At Southeast, $34 million worth of bond construction is turning it into a comprehensive, full-service campus with two new buildings and an expanded footprint to house more services, classrooms and labs. Construction at other campuses will also give the college a chance to set up similar Answer Centers by 2016.
“The new Answer Center at the Southeast Center is another great example of systematic change done right,” said Patrick Stupfel, student leader for the Southeast Center. “It’s a place where you can just walk right in and have all your questions answered with a simple conversation instead of hassling with long lines and appointments. This is definitely a welcome change for students that tremendously adds a sense of community to the campus.”
The Answer Center will be easy to use. At the kiosks, students can pay bills, register for classes, order parking permits, fill out applications and order transcripts. If they need additional help they can ask a volunteer or stroll over to any of the windows of nearby departments. Each session is limited to 45 minutes per student. In addition, the new orientation center will be nearby to make it easy for new students to go through their orientation requirements.
“There’s no limit on how many times students can use the Answer Center,” said Darilis Garcia-McMillian, manager of enrollment services. “We want students to walk away learning something new, therefore, if they need to come back to the Answer Center to get over-the-shoulder help 20 times, we’ll be there those 20 times. We want students to be sure that they will get the help they need. The great thing about Southeast is that it will have a welcome desk that will serve not only our offices, but also advising so the students will be able to get directed to the majority of the needed student services. The testing office won’t be too far from us so it will truly be integrated for all those services for students.”
Condensing primary student services into one location as a one-stop has been a trend for universities and community colleges across the country, Garcia-McMillian added.
In 2011, PCC’s student government saw an opportunity with the bond construction to implement the Answer Center model around the district. Last March, an Answer Center committee was formed with key representatives from PCC’s student accounts, registrar, financial aid, orientation and enrollment services offices. The new Southeast Answer Center will serve as a pioneer to help refine the model for the rollout of subsequent centers. Tentatively, Sylvania Campus is slated to have an Answer Center open in the summer of 2014 followed by Cascade Campus in 2015 and Rock Creek Campus in 2016.
“Our aim is to ensure that students feel valued and supported from their first interaction with the college all the way through graduation and beyond,” said Miriam Friedman, dean of Student Development at the Southeast Center.