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Student Affairs launches three strategic initiatives

The University of Utah is thriving, with exciting new opportunities underway. President Randall’s College Town Magic vision will enhance housing, amenities and learning opportunities—creating endless possibilities for our university. In support of our campus’s growth and progress, we are committed to fostering the ‘magic’ by guiding our students in discovering their passion, people and purpose.

“Student Affairs plays a pivotal role in supporting and preparing students for successful and fulfilling lives, not just as students and professionals, but also as citizens, friends and family members,” said Lori McDonald, vice president for Student Affairs “We specialize in providing students with resources and support systems, as well as offering opportunities to learn from experiences that go beyond their academic curriculum. These include gaining leadership skills, participating in humanitarian and civic activities and developing interpersonal skills, among others.”

Aligned with the Adapting to Students Needs strategic plan, Student Affairs is focusing on three key initiatives aimed at enriching the student experience, strengthening student skills development, scaling services to support a growing student population and contributing to the realization of creating “College Town Magic.”

Create Proactive and Personalized Pathways

A survey from the Harris Poll showed that personalization is especially meaningful to Generation Z, who were raised on digital and social media.  As a result, they have come to expect high levels of personalization and targeting.

To better serve our students, Student Affairs envisions coordinated systems to track and customize student journeys, proactively connect them to relevant resources and information and better understand resource use. Ultimately, this initiative focuses on improving Student Affairs’ ability to respond to student needs. To achieve this, we are focusing on strengthening partnerships with University Analytics and Institutional Reporting and University Information Technology to streamline and enhance data collection and reporting methodologies; evaluate technology platforms to streamline the student experience and improve internal information sharing and referral practices.

To start, we have begun using card reader technology so students can easily tap their UCard when checking in to offices or events; we are in the process of transitioning our health and wellness offices to a single electronic health records system; and we are piloting a CRM (customer relationship manager) in one of our departments to better understand if it could be a viable option for other departments. After using card readers at the fall 2023 Crimson Nights event, we learned that 5,126 students attended and rated the event at nearly 4 out of 5 for making them feel like they belong at the U.

Revitalize Engagement & Belonging

The research conducted by Terrell L. Strayhorn in Unraveling the Relationship Among Engagement, Involvement and Sense of Belonging suggests that higher education institutions thrive when they recognize their role in supporting student engagement and create environments conducive to student success.

Student Affairs is committed to revitalizing engagement and belonging by enhancing and reimagining resources, events, programs, traditions and services that encourage connection, inclusivity and equity among students. Through this initiative, we will unite across Student Affairs and with campus partners to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the student experience. Additionally, this initiative aims to increase efficiency through improved coordination and resource sharing.

This initiative includes developing “Pillar Events,” which are designed to become a cornerstone of the student experience. Additionally, these events will focus on promoting collaboration across Student Affairs, accessibility and inclusion, social connection and campus traditions.  For example, we focused on transforming the 2023 on-campus move-in process into an engaging experience and assisted nearly 5,000 students as they settled into their residence halls. The process removed long lines and endless trips moving belongings from vehicles into rooms and added music, Swoop, an information fair, recreation activities, dining and more for students and families to enjoy across campus during the move-in period.

Optimize Health & Wellness Access

According to a survey conducted by the National College Health Assessment at the University of Utah in 2023, more than 80% of U students agree that students’ health and well-being are a priority at the U.

Student Affairs aims to improve and streamline access and awareness for health and wellness resources through physical space changes, peer mentorship and adapting technology use, to facilitate basic needs, enhance health literacy, reduce stigma and provide a seamless user experience.  Furthermore, we are committed to actively involving student voices in shaping the development of health and wellness services.

As part of this initiative, we are in the process of co-locating the University Counseling Center, the Center for Campus Wellness and the Center for Disability and Access departments into one space at the Student Services Building. This transition is focused on reducing stigma, fostering synergy among health and wellness departments and enhancing access to physical facilities. Additionally, the location will include private rooms for students to participate in telehealth appointments with the Student Health Center, individual testing rooms with cameras, programming and peer mentoring spaces and shared space for partner offices.

Through these three initiatives, Student Affairs is focused on adapting to student needs—ultimately, making our campus a truly magical place for students to learn and grow.