SOS Program Fills in When FAQs Aren't Enough
A program that began as a way to help students get answers to their questions via email has grown into a full-fledged, multiplatform information resource that made more than 1,500 connections last semester.
Support. Opportunity. Success. – or SOS – was launched in fall 2015, inviting students to submit questions via email. The program was expanded this past fall, enabling students and others to make inquiries via text, phone, social media and online chat as well.
In December, a number of employees returned from a Student Success and Retention Summit with another idea for SOS: a central location where people could get help from a live person.
That led to the most recent expansion. On weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., students, faculty, staff and visitors can get in-person help by heading to the Gallagher Theater window in the Student Union Memorial Center.
"Students often still don't know where they need to go and who they should talk to when they have questions," said Jenny Nirh, assistant director for student transitions and retention for the UA Office of Academic Success and Achievement.
"Sometimes they are embarrassed to ask because they don't know, or they think they should know the answer," Nirh said. "Having a place where they can ask questions, and ask them anonymously, helps them to feel less afraid."
Nirh said SOS had more than 1,500 interactions with students, faculty, staff and visitors during the fall semester. Most questions were related to topics such as parking, financial aid, grades, campus employment and health and wellness issues.
Many questions are related to University policy, and the SOS team sees a higher volume of questions during orientation, priority registration and the start of the academic year. When the program receives a large number of questions related to a specific area, Nirh and her team contact the relevant UA units to help with improved outreach and education.
The next expansion of the program involves reaching out to faculty and staff – including advisers – to let them know that SOS exists and is available for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as employees who need help finding information for their students.
"All of the interactions we have had with faculty and staff have been great – very positive – and we hope they will help spread the word about the program," Nirh said. "We are not taking away from advising interactions and faculty interactions; we want to be able to support them in the interactions they are having."
For more information about the Support. Opportunity. Success. program, contact Jenny Nirh at 520-621-2327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.