Since the MIT Student Services Center (SSC) opened its doors on August 18, thousands of students have used the new facility just off the Infinite Corridor in Building 11.
The SSC was created in response to students' frequently expressed complaints about shuttling back and forth between different offices. In the past, students who were unsure about the service they needed sometimes had to visit several offices. The student services reengineering team that created the SSC felt that carrying out routine transactions shouldn't be so difficult.
"Students are here to study," said Hillary DeBaun, team leader. "We want to make the bureaucratic necessities as easy as possible."
The SSC brings together officials from the Registrar's Office, the Bursar's Office and the Financial Aid Office, with technical support from Student Information Systems. Five permanent employees staff the front desk on the left side of the center. Several other staff members drawn from the three home offices are on hand in the nearby cubicles on the right-hand side to handle more complex or specialized inquiries. In addition, the center houses a satellite MITCard/Multiplan office where students can replace lost MITCards or make changes in their Multiplans.
Many of the front desk services formerly provided by the home offices are now available only at the SSC. These include transcript printing, enrollment certification, core financial aid transactions, and front-desk bursary and registration transactions. The Bursar's Office will continue to accept bursary payments, and loan counseling will be available at both offices.
Students can also use the center to pick up and drop off the forms they need for registration and petitioning. The center also contains the job boards previously posted outside the Student Financial Aid Office.
As a result of student services reengineering, many of the services that the three home offices used to offer are now available online at WebSIS, the Web-based student information system. Indeed, one of the SSC's major functions now is to give students information about WebSIS services. Ideally, by the end of the year, most students will be accustomed to using WebSIS for many of their registration-related transactions.
To give students convenient access to WebSIS, immediately adjacent to the SSC is a small, multiterminal Athena quickstation cluster. The cluster is open around the clock, serving students who want to access WebSIS after the center's regular hours.
Although most students will probably visit the SSC in person, many others will access it by telephone at x8-8600, e-mail <email@example.com> and the Web at <http://web.mit.edu/ssc/>. The center's staff is prepared to handle questions from parents, alumni/ae and applicants on matters handled by the office, as well as on general MIT information. "We want to provide as much service as we can, and to have as much information on hand as possible," said Ms. DeBaun.
The idea for the Student Services Center dates back to recommendations made by sudent services reengineering, and was one of the projects undertaken by the reengineering Financial and Academic Services Transition (FAST). The FAST SSC team designed and ran last year's SSC pilot and directed the cross-training of the full-service SSC staff.
"This was a very teaming way of doing things," Ms. DeBaun said. "You would not ordinarily expect the staff from individual offices to be expert in each other's functions. But with teams, staff can deal with student questions more broadly. While developing the cross-functional training, we also worked on team skills and conflict management skills."
As the SSC changes and adapts to student needs, so will the home offices. Some of the team concepts developed at the SSC are now being applied at the home offices, according to Ms. DeBaun. In the meantime, the new Student Services Center has already begun providing integrated "one-stop shopping" for most general service needs.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 10, 1997.