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December 15, 2009
By Kathie Taylor
University of Nevada, Reno President Milton Glick is big on timely graduation. So big, in fact, that two years ago, he initiated a “course concierge” program, with a guarantee that students will have access to the courses they need to graduate in time or to make significant progress toward their degree, taking some of the aggravation out of the registration process, and contributing to the “culture of completion” Glick has made a priority on campus.
Since its inception, the program has helped between 50 and 60 students per semester either enroll in necessary courses that were full or find alternative courses that fit their needs. Budget cuts came on the heels of the program’s inauguration, making the service even more valuable to time- and cash-strapped students.
“Because of the focus on retention, graduation rates and time-to-degree, we’re more deliberate in how we help students with these challenges,” Paul Neill, director of the University’s core curriculum and course concierge, said. “When a system is at the limits of its effectiveness and efficiency, it just takes a little more work to get the students into the courses they need. I think that’s the central theme of the concierge philosophy.”
Neill said the course concierge program was set in motion to address two distinct groups of students: those who need a particular class to graduate or those who experience scheduling difficulties with courses taken in sequence. Both Neill and Glick are quick to emphasize that the concept is to help students get into the class they need, which may differ from the class they want.
“Some of the science and engineering majors’ curriculum is very step-wise, so if you get out of step, it can impact your time-to-degree,” he said. “The primary part of the service is helping students identify who they should be in contact with so that their challenges are dealt with appropriately and effectively.”
Robyn Davis, coordinator of advising, retention and recruitment for the College of Business, said the school has developed an online add-slip with the help of the course concierge.
“Students don’t have to track down the instructor to try to get into a full class, it’s all done electronically,” she said. “The course concierge facilitates contact between the student and the school. It’s always nice for students to have another resource in addition to their advisors.”
The first step students should take toward resolving course issues is to work with their advisors. Neill said the dynamic nature of the enrollment process means that a course that is full initially doesn’t always stay full, so the second piece of advice is to keep a constant eye on the University’s online registration system, e-PAWS.
“Students understandably can get a little frustrated, but persistence pays off in the end,” Neill said. “Although you may not get into the course immediately, by the beginning of the semester it is likely gaps will open up.”
If those steps don’t pan out, Neill encourages students to contact the course concierge.
“We gather information when the students contact us so we can identify the challenges students are facing, and then we can work with the departments to find resolution,” he said. “There’ve been a couple of cases where we’ve identified scheduling challenges in the catalog where students were advised to take courses in a particular sequence and it wasn’t working for them so that was reworked in the catalog.”
Whether resolution means adding a section next semester or rescheduling classes that students traditionally take together, the course concierge is actively advocating for students.
“This is one office where students know they can come and get assistance with these types of problems so they’re not running around all over the place,” Neill said. “They know if they come here we’ll help them as best we can.”
To contact the course concierge, email him at email@example.com.