by Lily del C. Berrios, AIA and LEED BD&C Principal, Sizemore Group

Enrollment, retention and completion are key priorities for colleges. 

Through our work in higher education, we encourage clients to re-think the student INTAKE process. Let’s consider what organizational, staffing, and use of space changes are needed to engage and retain each student. 

Sizemore Group worked with Northwest Florida State College to improve its student services process. We began by identifying student service trends and looked at specific ways they could inspire change in the organization, staff, work flow space, furniture and technology. 

The traditional concept of student services is in stark contrast with trends that we see in student behavior. The traditional model compartmentalizes functions, depends on physical presence and designated times to provide service. 

Today’s students expect a service model that is coordinated, personalized, convenient (anytime, anywhere) and effective. Ala Apple store, uber or lyft . 

Northwest Florida State College’s leadership wanted to re-think their delivery model. Their intent was to address these trends in student behavior and find solutions that would ultimately lead to a positive student experience throughout their tenure in college. 

One of the first steps was to assess the service model they had in place–physically and organizationally. They discovered that staff operated in silos and wanted to improve transparency across the department. As a result the following strategies were implemented: 

  • Cross training some staff 
  • Encouraging multi-tasking 
  • Organizing / co-locating those functions in various departments that have a ‘public’ face
  • Deploying public service tasks in the open area, with tablets, to meet the students and act as ‘navigators’ 
  • Keeping the ‘private’ functions in other areas 
  • Addition of self serve technology devices (kiosks, etc.) on site 
  • Locating nearby key functions such as testing, advising and career placement 

Other improvements were physical, such as: 

  • Providing for ease of view, wayfinding 
  • Standing and seating arrangements of various types and configurations 
  • Taking down the walls and windows to promote openness and transparency throughout 
  • Open flow and seamless functions 
  • Allow for ‘infotainment’ – waiting periods are opportunities to offer information about college 

As a result, the college proceeded to do significant re-organization of their student services division and a complete renovation to their existing student center.