Student and Enrollment Services
Supporting the Staff Supporting Students
Few departments can pinpoint the exact time and reason that they were formed. The Statewide office of Student and Enrollment Services (SES) however, can trace its roots clearly to two cold weeks from the end of January through the beginning of February in 2002, when a team of student services experts from outside universities visited the University of Alaska to review, critique, assist and strengthen student services throughout the system.
The panel’s recommendations, presented to then president Mark Hamilton in a final report, highlighted the need for a senior level, systemwide administrator to coordinate, facilitate and lead the student services effort from the statewide office. This leader would hold a seat “at the table” with the president’s senior staff and ensure that UA’s student services staff receive the support, policies and tools to service University of Alaska students. This position and office would be charged with leading the system’s efforts in expanding and enhancing student services throughout the university. The UA president accepted the recommendations, putting “student” into the university’s top-level administration.
UA had two assets going into the exercise. First, the Office of Program Development had already been doing some student services related tasks, and was poised—and staffed—for the transformation. Second, both Associate Vice President of Student & Enrollment Services Saichi Oba and Director of Enrollment Services Mary Gower had worked in the department prior to the transition. That they continued with the department (and do so today) gave SES one of the most continuously staffed departments at Statewide.
The four members of the department—Saichi Oba, Mary Gower, Arthur Hussey and Leslee Kimbleton—all have prior experience in student services at University of Alaska campuses. This perspective helps when it comes to building relations with all the campuses and working with and for staff throughout the system. Gower said she spends more time speaking with campus staff across the state than with co-workers down the hall. It is truly a statewide effort for students.
Students have always been the top priority for this department. Unlike a top-down business model, SES administrators act in a support role for campus staff who support students. The needs of students drive all SES programs and operations. However, campus staff have the final say in what systems and programs are initiated—the statewide office presents the options, but does not vote.
Banner software is the glue that holds all the university together and is really at the heart of all the work done by student services staff. One of the key Banner support roles that SES is involved in is a constant effort to identify ways to make the software more efficient, easier to use, and find ways to enhance and improve the Banner Student module. Thereafter, Enterprise Application Services, a division of programmers within the Office of Information Technology, modifies the program, tests it with the end users at different campuses, and when ready, makes the improved version available throughout the system.
Banner manages everything from the course catalog, to financial assets and human resources information. Every 18 months campus student services staff, Banner programmers and SES staff meet at Banner Face-to-Face conferences for intense collaboration and training. These events are just one way that SES supports the training and professional development needs of campus student services staff.
Although SES has limited interaction with students, the support they provide to the campus staff that directly serve students has a profound impact on the student experience at UA. Two of the ways a central office improves services to students are by providing Systemwide development opportunities and training, and by creating common software, such as UAOnline, run on similar systems statewide and regulated by the same Regent policies.
Improving advising is one of the top current goals of the university. In April 2013, the National Academic Advising Association Region 8 (Northwest) conference will be held in Anchorage. This opportunity for advising development will receive support from SES, which will pay 50 UA advisors from across the system to attend.
The annual Recruit Camp trains enrollment and recruitment staff for the challenging job of helping high school students plan for and attend college, and in particular to attend a UA campus. Staff from UA campuses organize the event, and SES facilitates and pays the bill. This popular annual retreat is just one example of how well student services staff from across the state work together and with statewide for a common purpose: to help students.
Programs and Outreach
Inspiration for programs, Banner updates and outreach come from many sources within and without the university including professional development conferences or suggestions from campuses. For instance, the popular degree progress tracking software, DegreeWorks, was suggested to SES by staff on several campuses. Statewide coordinated the funding, training and distribution, and worked out the interface with Banner. It continues to be upgraded and modified to better assist students and integrate with course schedules and student records. This is a great benefit to students throughout the system.
Inspired by a college completion presentation at a conference, Mary Gower worked with both UAF and Kodiak campuses to create programs to attract back “almosts”: students that attended in the past ten years that are within a few credits from graduation that stopped out. This has born results: thirty-five graduates who otherwise would not have returned for their degree now have graduated at UA. Four additional UA campuses will be initiating similar programs in the coming academic year. To do this, campus student services staff go above and beyond to meet with the individuals, work to identify and remove any obstacles and get them back into college and graduated.
Statewide outreach and educational programs are all designed to help facilitate college attendance and to help students fulfill their post-secondary aspirations. One example is funding for college. In many cases, Alaskan students have not fully utilized Federal Student Aid programs; some have misunderstood the process while others have misinterpreted eligibility requirements for applying. The annual February FAFSA Frenzy campaign addresses this issue and reminds students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in a timely manner. The campaign also emphasizes that there is a form of student aid available for just about everyone. The campaign has been very successful and each year the number of UA students filing for federal aid has been increasing.
Outreach to K–12 students is also very important in a state with fairly low matriculation rates. SES starts with the premise that college is an expectation that is set early in person’s life and reinforced over time. Unfortunately, such a post-secondary culture has not existed (to a great extent) in Alaska and many children have not been encouraged to go to college. To counter this, SES has partnered with the Alaska Commission on Post-Secondary Education (ACPE), UA College Savings and the MAUs to develop programs which help instill—early in a child’s education—the idea that college is possible. Volunteers visit 2nd grade classrooms and read “I Know I Can”, a children’s book encouraging kids to think about what they want to do when they grow up—including going to college.
Alaskan 5th and 6th graders get to have a real college experience with the “I’m Going to College” program. Classes are bussed to college campuses for a full day of hands-on activities, high impact classes, dining hall and dorm room visits, and a chance to become familiar with a University of Alaska campus. The children are all given “I’m Going to College” bags and clothing and get the opportunity to experience the excitement of college life.
Research indicated that Alaskan students were lagging in the college planning, selection and application processes. Students were often waiting until the summer after high school graduation to begin applying for schools. In many cases they were not saving money for school and somewhere over time had become less convinced that they were going to college at all. To overcome these obstacles, 9th grade outreach focuses on helping students plan and prepare for college. Course suggestions, examples of the types of references and work samples needed for college applications, timelines and money saving tips are sent throughout their freshman and sophomore years.
These early outreach programs are paying off in big ways. This year a record number of first-time, full-time freshman enrolled in the University of Alaska. Actually, freshman enrollment records have been broken year after year, showing a shift in Alaskan attitudes towards college attendance.
Where Alaska still lags behind is in completion, ranking last in the nation in four-year graduation rates. The Stay on Track campaign was initiated last fall to help improve that by providing helpful tips for completing a degree program in less time, and for less money. So far the program has been quite successful. Spring 2012 showed an overall 9.8 percent spike in students at the university enrolling in 15 or more credits—one of the main recommendations of the campaign. The Stay on Track program is being modified to include tips for completion of associate degree programs in two years. A recent student survey on the Stay on Track program gathered 1,350 responses. The input from students will be used to guide further programs, and guide changes or improvements to the university.
Strategic Direction Initiative
Improved student success and completion is one of the goals of the Strategic Direction Initiative (SDI). SES staff anticipates heavy involvement in the process. Although SDI is still in planning stages, major themes such as increased advising, more transparent transfer of credits, improved graduation rates and the removal of bureaucratic hassles have come to the surface and SES is already looking into solutions.
Born from a critical evaluation of the system, SES is a model department for cross-campus cooperation, responsiveness to challenges and opportunities and perspective on what really matters: UA students. It will be a big part of, and great leadership for, “Shaping Alaska’s Future 2017.”
Meet the SES Staff
Saichi T. Oba, a graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, became the Associate Vice President for Student and Enrollment Services in December 2005. Oba has served at all levels of Student and Enrollment services starting at Eastern Oregon University as an Admissions Counselor in 1985. He arrived in Alaska in fall 1990 to work at UAF for Registrar Emeritus Ann Tremarello in the Office of Admissions and Records. Tapped to head the Office of Admissions, Saichi was appointed the Interim Director of Admissions at UAF in 1996.
Oba left Alaska and landed in Klamath Falls, Oregon as the Director of Admissions at the Oregon Institute of Technology in 1998. His return to Alaska saw the beginning of the IT phase of his career as the Program Manager for Banner Student. Promoted to the Director of Enrollment Services in 2002 he returned to his passion: working on strategic enrollment management and helping students find success at UA.
When not working, Oba relishes time with his family. Outdoors enthusiasts, Saichi and his wife Connie continue to introduce their three children, Elizabeth, Kekuewa and Lupua to the joys of hiking, camping, exploring and fishing throughout the west, literally from Alaska to Hawaii.
Mary Gower is the System Director of Enrollment Services. Gower is a UAF alumna, ‘94 BBA, ‘95MBA, and taught for six years as a UAF adjunct faculty member at UAF School of Management and also the UAF Community & Technical College.
Gower worked in the marketing division of United Grocers corporate offices, based in Oregon, after graduation. Although a great opportunity, she missed her family and her future husband back in Alaska, and returned to work at the UAF Community & Technical College to lead the campus marketing and establish the Professional Development program. Gower was recruited in 1998 by the Riverboat Discovery, and managed the retail division there until her return to the university in 2001.
Since 2001, Gower has progressed in her roles and responsibilities to her current position as the director. She enjoys the breadth of work she encounters in Enrollment Services (no two days are the same!), her friendships with colleagues across the UA system, and ultimately that her work and that of her colleagues has the potential to positively change a student’s life.
Arthur Hussey has worked in a management capacity at UAF since late 2008, first at the Geophysical Institute's Proposal Office and more recently in the Center for Research Services' biomedical infrastructure program. In the latter capacity, he has worked with all three MAU's. He has also managed a Fairbanks-based non-profit and has a strong background in program management and service support.
Hussey and his family have been in Fairbanks in various capacities since 1995, but at the same time he has traveled extensively and worked in several African and Asian countries administering humanitarian assistance programs. He has a Bachelor of Science from Michigan State University and a master's degree from the University of Connecticut. When not working, he and family enjoy trips to their Brooks Range cabin, which they reach by flying. Both Arthur and wife Janet are pilots.
Leslee Kimbleton is the Administrative Specialist for Student and Enrollment Services. In addition to serving the SES department, she provides staff support for the research and outreach that further supports SES’s mission.
Kimbleton was born in Columbus, OH. She received a B.A. in English from Ohio State University. Kimbleton moved to Fairbanks in 2007. Before moving to Alaska, Kimbleton was the Office Manager for the Department of History of Art at The Ohio State University. She was the Administrative Assistant for Student Support Services at UAF before coming to Statewide.
She lives with her partner, Zac Carlson, her three children and one dog. She loves reading, both for learning and pleasure and writes fiction in her spare time.