Student resource offices adjust to new spaces amid COVID-19

The+Disability+Resource+Center%2C+located+at+the+Campus+Life+Building%2C+Suite+180%2C+is+open+from+8%3A30+a.m.+to+4%3A30+p.m.+Monday+through+Friday.

Patrick Murphy | Northern Star

The Disability Resource Center, located at the Campus Life Building, Suite 180, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Bisola Bello, Reporter

DeKALB – Several student service offices had moved or were in the process of moving prior to the campus shut down due to COVID-19. Despite this, the resource offices on campus remain steadfast and dedicated to assisting students no matter the location, on-campus and off-campus.

The initial reason for certain offices moving was a part of a broader plan to enhance the student experience, Dean of Students Kelly Wessner Michael said in a January 2020 Northern Star article.  The Holmes Student Center project was implemented to centralize student resources.

The initial goals for the project were centralizing resources to move departments in a way that would facilitate collaboration. To account for student access to key services, and to identify welcoming, accessible spaces that prompted meaningful interactions and a sense of community, said Renique Kersh, associate vice provost of student engagement and success in the same article.

Cathy Doederlein, director of Career Services, said the Career Services office is still located in the Campus Life Building, room 220. Career Services consists of two offices; one office is shared with the Academic Advising Center.

The addition of the Advising Center occurred in late Fall 2019 and early Spring 2020 prior to the pandemic. The office is currently closed for in-person visits and all appointments can be scheduled online and meetings will be virtual, according to the Career Services webpage. For the remainder of the semester and the summer, online appointments and virtual events, such as the end of the year Career Fair May 4 will be held online.

Going forward, Career Services will continue to host their larger events such as Huskies Get Hired online in the fall. Doederlein said there will be hybrid online and in-person services. Synchronous and interactive events such as one-on-one workshops, online counseling will be offered, and “asynchronous” self-service resources such as the Learning Lab will be available on Blackboard.

Doederlein said how well students have adjusted to the changes through email correspondence in January and April.

“Students seem to have appreciated how to get more personalized attention while still being able to access things ‘on demand’ at any time of the day or night,” Doederlein said in an email.

She also said she anticipates for the offices to reopen this fall for students.

“Career Services continues to be available to support students’ career-related needs – from helping early on with career decision making and ensuring they’re on the right path to their ultimate goals,” Doederlein said in the email.

Angela Bross, associate director of Testing Services, said the Testing Services Offices have moved from their office in the Adams building to Campus Life Building, Room 120, in January 2020. The move occurred pre-pandemic. Office hours are from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with a non-face-to-face format, according to the webpage. Bross also expects the Testing Services offices to open in Fall 2021.

Testing Services Offices moved to Campus Life Building, Room 120, in January 2020. (Patrick Murphy | Northern Star)

Students are encouraged to email the office at testing@niu.edu or call and leave a message, and a staff member will return the call.

Amanda Newman, acting director for the Disability Resource Center and Testing Center, is also excited to have more students in the office.  The Disability Resource Center, located at the Campus Life Building, Suite 180, has remained open with limited staffing from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The DRC will also offer a hybrid model of virtual and in office appointments for the summer and fall semester, Newman said.

“We are still working to determine additional appointment formats we will be able to provide throughout the summer,” Newman said via email.

Newman said, “versatile formats” are helpful to students. The DRC has focused on an equitable experience for students who are on-campus and off-campus. The DRC was able to develop and process a streamlined model, Newman said in an email.

“Our office serves all students whether they participate in on-campus courses or are a distance learner who complete(s) their education virtually,” Newman said in the email.