Service and Energy Efficiencies Under One Roof
Spotlight: Community Colleges, from "Business Briefs" department in the October 2011 issue of Business Officer
By Barbara A. Larson and Linda K. Herlocker
In June 2010, Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, opened a state-of-the-art student services building at its Ybor City Campus. The facility combines one-stop-service principles and technology with sustainable design and construction. The Ybor Student Services Building earned LEED gold certification while paying homage to the surrounding historic district by incorporating compatible architectural elements.
The redesigned process flow has resulted in reduced wait times, a more efficient resolution of services, and an overall reduction of anxiety in both staff and students.
Start With No Stops
We began the project with a reengineering of the fundamental principles of student services. Informed by visits to other facilities and a review of the literature regarding the one-stop model, Ybor City Campus's staff, students, and faculty came together to define key elements of the ideal student services model. These included such essentials as service efficiency, student engagement, and interdivisional integration.
Contributing significantly to the process were two factors:
- Guided by the agreed-upon philosophy and principles, the architects designed a building that actually would enhance the process flow, rather than simply contain its activities.
- The inclusion very early on in the process of the construction management team and the furniture vendor made a positive difference.
This combination allowed for the blueprint to develop in a synergistic way, resulting in a better design, fewer modifications, and a more efficient project timeline.
Self- and Custom Services
The one-stop model created for this building incorporates some key features.
- Upon entering the building's lobby, students can immediately step up to a self-help kiosk. This promotes self-sufficiency and reduces the need for students to wait in line for answers to general questions or for basic services, such as admissions and residency assistance, financial aid status inquiries, and class schedules.
- Students requiring additional assistance can sign into an electronic queue on a dedicated PC located on the service counter, then wait comfortably for service. At the front counter, cross-trained staff members triage those students' issues, resolving the majority with ease and swiftness.
- Staff direct students with more complex issues to a secondary waiting area, where a specialist meets them and escorts them into a private office area for additional service. This flow ensures that the specialist can focus on those students who need an advanced level of attention in a comprehensive range of services that includes counseling with regard to financial aid, records, admissions, and registration-without having to wait in another line. Should the student require help in more than one area, the initial specialist does a warm hand-off of that student to the next staff specialist, ensuring that all needs are met.
This service model virtually eliminates waiting lines and makes use of an electronic queuing system.
Behind the Facade
The student center has already established itself as the college's most energy-efficient building. Its LEED gold designation is especially significant, as the building exterior had to conform to the rigorous standards applied to the surrounding historic district. In fact, the initial design drew criticism from local leaders and historic preservationists. Working with the architects, construction manager, and community activists, we revised the plans. The design ultimately resulted in the construction of a building that all agreed was more aesthetically pleasing, honored the historic district, served as a new model in student service delivery, and further established the college's position as a leader in sustainability.
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