The model provides convenience for students and collaboration between service units
Students with the Innovation Greenhouse advisory board speak with Executive Director Nancy Hong (Photo by Gary Payne)
One-stop shopping is nothing new to American consumers – but it's a novel concept for higher education academic services –and UNT is a pioneer on this frontier.
Last year, UNT opened Sage Hall which has just about every academic service undergraduate students need, all in one building.
Celia Williamson (Photo by Jonathan Reynolds)
"There are aspects of this model that happen across the nation, that include things like undeclared advising offices," says Celia Williamson, vice provost for Educational Innovation. "But our setting is unique because we also house our Honors College, TAMS (Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science), Study Abroad and McNair Scholars programs – as well as many others – together. We take the concept of one-stop shopping, and build it out to include more enriching pieces of the experience."
Williamson explains that the goal for Sage Hall isn't entirely about convenience for students. It's mainly about student success.
"Our slogan is success for today, success for tomorrow," she says. "If they get well-grounded – situated in their curriculum and anchored by services – and get off to a good start, then they will be off and running for the rest of their undergrad experiences, for graduate school and for life beyond college."
UNT Office of Disability Accommodations
Not only does the building house undergraduate-related academic services on campus – such as Undergraduate Studies, which includes the Office For Exploring Majors, the Learning Center, the Core Academy and the Office of Disability Accommodations – it also houses Study Abroad, a University Technology Information help desk, classrooms, and perhaps most importantly, two learning commons areas -- and there are plans for a third.
"We want this to be a building where students can come to interact with each other. These are spaces designed for students to collaborate," Williamson says. "Learning is about community. We recognize now that knowledge isn't so much about the acquiring of content, it's about making connections. Connections between the knowledge and what you do with the knowledge, how to take it forward."
While Sage Hall lends itself to student partnerships, it's also designed to facilitate teamwork between the units housed there.
"When faculty and staff are together, they are able to build strong community support," Williamson says. "There is more interaction between the units. They know more intimately what each other are doing and can support one another. They work to make sure their events and projects dovetail with each other. And if a student comes to them with an issue, they can physically walk that student to the right people to help them."
UNT didn't build a multi-million dollar facility to house their undergraduate academic support center. Instead, in true UNT fashion, the university recycled an existing building. In 2011, when the College of Business vacated its original building location in the center of campus and moved to its new home in the Business Leadership Building, it left behind the perfectly-located facility for what has become Sage Hall.
"We now have a trio of buildings in the center of campus that serve students," Williamson says. "The Eagle Student Services Center addresses students' business needs. The University Union addresses their social needs and provides several services, and now Sage Hall provides for their academic needs."