Morgan Buehlmann said she could barely see over the desks in the old Student Development Center at Metropolitan Community College-Blue River. She also found it cramped.
But the Blue River student says the newly renovated area – now known as the Blue River Enrollment Center to align with what the centers are called on other MCC campuses – is much more spacious and user friendly.
MCC-Blue River debuted the new center in June and it's already drawing rave reviews from students. The space was more than doubled and more computers and self-help desks were added. The "triage" area – where students can get help from staff and advisers – was pushed back to fill unused space and a secure office area was added to take student payments. A new software system also was installed.
"One of the main reasons we wanted to redesign our Enrollment Center was to basically make it even more student friendly than it already was," said Rowdy Pyle, MCC-Blue River enrollment manager. "One of the things we noticed here is there used to be lots of congestion with where students could get in, so what we wanted to do is allow more self-serve stations for our students by opening up the area even more, pushing our triage area back and putting in more computer access for our students up front. That was the main reason for it, to make the student experience even better here at Blue River."
Buehlmann, who also serves as a Blue River student ambassador, said the changes are noticeable.
"It's really helpful with it being open now. I'm a student ambassador, so I give tours, and now I can walk through and not bump into 50 million people and have students see it really chaotic in here," she said. "When I'm touring now, the students aren't overwhelmed with how many people there are. And it's less stressful because you walk in and it looks so great in here with all the plants and the light. ... When you go to sign up for classes at some place, it's already stressful, and then you come in and it's all cramped, it makes it even worse. When I first enrolled last spring, it was kind of overwhelming."
Rene Bennett, interim associate dean of student development, said relieving that chaos was the plan.
"We want our students to be comfortable and feel welcome in this new space,” she said.
Pyle said that's not just the extra space that has made it more welcoming, it's that it will work much more efficiently for students as well.
New students, when they first enter the building, will go to the Welcome Center, which houses the information desk and admissions office. Students will be walked through the process there to earn admission, including an Accuplacer assessment test to see what educational needs they have.
Once they are admitted, the Enrollment Center will help students with financial aid needs, academic advising, transcript requests or class enrollment.
"For example, say Morgan is a new student or just re-enrolling for classes for another semester, she can come into the enrollment center, walk into the spacious center and sign in on one of the computers," Pyle said. "The computer is basically going to ask her what her needs are. She signs in securely using her student ID number. At that point it's going to ask her what type of services that she needs – is it financial aid, is it enrollment, is it a transcript request?
"Our system actually tracks what the student has been requesting and shows what they need, and then our employees here can triage the student as far as what those needs are, and they can usually take care of about 75 percent of the student's questions that they have. If the student does request or want to see or make an appointment with an adviser they do have that option. ... They can either work with their academic adviser, or they can do self-service where they can enroll on the computers if they know how to navigate that system. We have advisers and staff available to help those students if they do get stuck or just need some assistance."
Debbie Beard, one of the employees in the triage area, has noticed a difference.
"It's been good as far as the physical setup. It's more space for the students and more computers for the students," she said. "We're still all learning the new software ... but we have more information available in the system than we did in the other, so we can see more at a glance."
Pyle said the new Enrollment Center will be open during regular hours through the first day of the 2017-18 school year on Aug. 23. But he encourages new students to come through as soon as possible because it will be more crowded closer to Aug. 23.
"We encourage our students to get enrolled early and make sure they have a good experience here," Pyle said. "I always want to encourage students that if they have questions to make sure they ask. We want to make sure that they have the best experience here at MCC and Blue River. If there is any opportunity where they can ask questions, please make sure they ask. We always want to make sure we can help our students and make their experience good."