UMD dismantles Students in Transition office

 The office for Students in Transition, currently located in the Solon Campus Center. Photo by Zack Benz

The office for Students in Transition, currently located in the Solon Campus Center.
Photo by Zack Benz

The Office of Students in Transition (SIT), who offer services for incoming freshman and transfer students as well as hosting community space for current students, was notified Feb. 5 that their services would be dismantled.

Orientation and transfer programs will move over to OneStop which UMD is planning on expanding to include other services designed to assist students. UMD Seminar will be moved to the Tutoring Center and Bulldog Welcome Week, which helps incoming students connect with their campus community, will be moved to student life.

According to Gerald Pepper, vice chancellor for undergraduate education, the decision to close SIT was predicated on two primary drivers: maximizing efficient delivery of services and budget realizations. 

“Changes like this are never easy, nor are they undertaken without considerable thought and discussion,” Pepper said. 

Pepper said there is a plan in place to change the role of UMD's OneStop services, bringing that office into a more broad flow of student services.

According to Pepper OneStop will now include Advisement and Registration which should result in a more seamless coordination between Admissions and Financial Aid. 

Pepper said UMD Seminar will be shifting to the Academic Writing and Learning Center, which is already doing Teachers Assistant training for the program. 

“While complicated and difficult, such changes should result in increased student services and innovative program development,” Pepper said.

Pepper said this move will facilitate a greater likelihood of productive conversations around changes in the UMD Seminar curriculum and the Supportive Services Program. 

According to Pepper, all CNED courses such as major and career exploration and strategic career planning, which are credit-bearing career and major choice courses, are being eliminated.

“We determined there is not an actual need for such credit-bearing courses,” Pepper said.

Some of the courses have lower enrollment in addition to the content being provided by the Office of Career and Internship Services and the Collegiate Advising offices. 

Pepper said the Rockstar program will still exist and Rock Stars are currently being recruited for 2018.

 2017 Rock Stars Photo Curtesy of Madison Wurster

2017 Rock Stars
Photo Curtesy of Madison Wurster

The Link Program with Lake Superior College (LSC), which is being eliminated, has not been shown to increase UMD numbers of transfer students from SIT, which was the primary goal, Pepper said. 

Orientation Coordinator Emily Bora said the person in the LSC Link position has also been eliminated.

UMD senior Madison Wurster, who has been a rockstar for the past two years, is one of many students upset with this change.

“I am mad,” Wurster said. “I am upset. I am frustrated, because they didn’t talk to any of us about how this office makes an impact.”

Wurster believes that the sense of community that SIT gives students has had a great impact on her. 

Director of SIT Lisa Rigoni said this community is intentional and designed. 

“[SIT] wants all of our students to be in support of each other,” Rigoni said. “We want them to feel like they could come here and express their anxieties.”

Rigoni said that if a student came into SIT crying, everybody is up comforting them before office faculty even realize it. 

“We’ve had really deep conversations about sexual assault, sexism, politics and religion,” Rigoni said. “We’ve also had conversations on how to be a better human being and how to stand by what your values are.”

“They don't understand how big of an impact [SIT] has,” Wurster said. “We’re such a tight knit community. There's no place like this on campus.”

 2017 Rock Stars. Back row, from left to right: Hannah Majkrzak, Lindsey Frailer, Lauren Moe. Front row, from left to right: Madison Wurster, Cat Thielen, Caitlyn Walker. Photo curtesy of Madison Wurster.

2017 Rock Stars. Back row, from left to right: Hannah Majkrzak, Lindsey Frailer, Lauren Moe.
Front row, from left to right: Madison Wurster, Cat Thielen, Caitlyn Walker.
Photo curtesy of Madison Wurster.

Wurster said that if it was not for SIT she would have transferred a long time ago.

“They’re concerned about keeping students here and retention but the only reason why I’m still here is because of this place,” Wurster said.

Wurster said she wants all students to have that experience of community that she enjoyed.

“I want everyone to have a place on campus where they feel comfortable to be themselves,” Wurster said.

Bora said SIT has already sent out communication information for 2018 orientation. 

“They have our names, our phone numbers and our emails so that if they have questions they’re directed into this space and to us as people,” Bora said. “If we’re to move mid program that would complicate stuff.”

Taylor Oswald, team leader for Bulldog Welcome Week, understands changes need to be made. 

“Not all changes are bad,” Oswald said. “I trust in the administration that they will listen to students to make this a good change.”

Oswald said SIT was a place for student leaders to gather, and that in this new change, UMD needs to create a space for student leaders to continue to gather to inspire, support and laugh.

UMD sophomore Paul Cerar, rockstar for the 2017 welcome week and intern for SIT, said he understands that UMD is trying to consolidate to the different programs, but he is also a little concerned. 

“They might not know how important Students in Transition is, not only for the programs that they run, but also the space that they create here,” Cerar said.

Cerar said he was planning on transferring his freshman year. 

“I didn't like it here,” Cerar said. “It didn't feel like a home to me. Then I participated in welcome week as a rockstar and I started hanging out in SIT. Suddenly, I had those connections that I’d been missing.”

Cerar said the university has not heard stories like this from other students and the impact SIT has had on them. 

“I’m curious if their decision making would’ve been different if they had heard about that,” Cerar said.

Rigoni said that the saddest part of all of this is the complete lack of understanding of what SIT provided to campus.

“That is a confusing thing for me that I am still trying to process,” Rigoni said. “I will probably get there at some point but right now, since I haven’t been given enough details and I haven’t been brought into the conversation at all, I don’t understand what we’re doing here then if community is not what we’re supposed to be building.”

 

NewsZack Benz