University of Louisiana at Monroe

04/07/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/07/2020 16:42

Connecting virtually - ULM providing student services via technology

Published April 7, 2020

The campus of the University of Louisiana Monroe may look empty, but if you pay close attention you can hear the buzz of administrators and faculty working tirelessly to help students during this unprecedented time.

All classes have moved to online format, and many students have never taken an online course. ULM has ensured that resources available to students on-campus are now available virtually.

Tutoring and academic advising

The Write Place, the English composition tutoring center, is open. Students can request an appointment online, and the director of the Write Place assigns a tutor based on the students' specific needs.

'The tutor and tutee figure out how best to meet given the kind of help the tutee needs, and what their internet access situation is,' said Elizabeth Oldfather, Ph.D., Director of the Write Place and Assistant Professor in English. 'In addition to Zoom, our tutors have used email, various messaging systems, even the phone. This flexibility helps us reach more students who may need our help.'

Many students must take foreign language courses to meet general education requirements. The Language Learning Center also remains open and operational. Similar to the Write Place, students make appointments online with tutors.

The Student Success Center (SSC) is the hub for academic advising, math and science tutoring services, and supplemental instruction.

'The SSC has worked very proactively to ensure that ULM students have the access needed to promote academic success,' said Barbara Michaelides, Director of Retention.

Athletic academic counselors continue to work with their student-athletes, and academic advisors reach out to students reported by instructors as at-risk in their classes to make sure they have the resources needed to succeed.

'Tuesday (March 31) began registration for fall 2020 semester and work continued to go on behind the scenes to make sure students' needs were met,' Michaelides said.

Student services

Student services such as registrar's office, financial aid, University Library and International Student Services are operational. Processes that are traditionally paper-based have shifted to accommodate students digitally.

The Registrar's office, which is responsible for registration, enrollment status, grade processing, and transcript requests, has moved online. The Office of Scholarships is now accepting digital signatures and scanned contracts, along with traditional signed paper contracts.

The Office of Financial Aid is providing counseling services virtually.

'We are currently answering students' inquiries via email with minimal wait time. The counselors are reaching out to the appropriate staff member to accommodate the student's needs in a timely fashion within federal guidelines. We pride ourselves in helping students. This setback will not change our office philosophy,' said Director of Financial Aid Ralph Perri.

The ULM Library is providing research services virtually, according to Megan Lowe, Associate Professor and Director of the Library.

'The ULM Library continues to support the research of its users through off-campus access to its resources through the library's website. Several publishers have made their products free to libraries for a limited time. We have reached out to those vendors to obtain access. Inter-Library Loan is still working to borrow and lend resources that can be shared digitally, and the Reference Department continues to offer research assistance by email ([email protected]), phone (318-342-1071), and via Zoom,' said Lowe.

International students have many regulations and guidelines that must be followed to maintain their student visa status.

'The Office of International Student Services and Programs continues to provide services to prospective students, continuing students and our alumni,' said DeVaria Ponton, Director of International Student Services and Programs.

ULM's Office of International Student Services and Programs is hosting Zoom meetings to advise students on matters such as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT), which are visa programs that allow international students to gain practical work experience. Critical visa documents are being mailed through express delivery, and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program within U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement is allowing visa documents to be emailed to international students and international alumni.

'I am so proud of the way our departments have addressed this challenge,' stated Michael Camille, Ph.D., Vice President for Information Services and Student Success. 'To remain student-centered, they have had to change the way they connect with our students. It is remarkable how creative and adaptable our staff has been.'