RSU Structural Unit of the Year 2019 – Student Services
This year RSU Student Services received the award Structural Unit of the Year 2019 during the annual Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) Academic Ball. ‘We are very excited and feel honoured and appreciated as we had been working hard the whole year,’ says Indra Treija, Director of Student Services. ‘We would like to thank all our colleagues, as our work is unimaginable without the cooperation of other structural units – both faculties and academic departments, the IT Department, our colleagues from the Marketing Department, the Study Department, the Records Management Department and the Legal Department.’
Student Services has ten employees who are friends as well as colleagues. They attend the theatre, go on a sports trip or enjoy pizza together.
‘Student Services provides various types of assistance to students. We often ask colleagues from other departments for help in solving various matters. All students are equal to us – regardless of their nationality. We are there to help everyone,’ tells Treija.
Student Services was established in 2011. What was the reason for establishing this structural unit?
Up to 2011 services to students were provided by various structural units – the Admissions Commission, study information specialists, as well as an agency within the Study Department that issued references and certificates to students. There were several staff members in charge of these matters which caused inconveniences for the students and was very time-consuming. Student Services was established with the aim to provide students with the opportunity to get the maximum amount of services in one place, as we are now in charge of all the aforementioned functions.
My previous experience is very useful to me in my current position as the head of Student Services. I started working at RSU in 2003 as a student information specialist, I then continued at the Public Relations Department where I performed a wider variety of duties – among them organising the exhibition Skola (School) and other events as well as drafting RSU brochures. Later I worked for both the Marketing Unit and the Admissions Commission.
What changes and improvements have there been to Student Services recently?
Last year we faced a unique challenge when a new admissions system was introduced, but we managed to handle this successfully. The system is easy and convenient to use for prospective students – the fields are unambiguous and easy to read. Moreover prospective students can now pay their application fee by bank transfer which eliminates having to visit a bank. This year they will have the opportunity to take a photograph of themselves as they apply thus avoiding the queue while signing their study agreements.
In order for the admissions process to be fully electronic we are planning to add our system to the database of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, which is the centralised national examination database and the register of educational documents, as well as to launch a digital agreement signing service within the next three to five years.
This year, in cooperation with our colleagues from the Marketing Unit, we will continue hosting Admissions Night, and for the first time we will organise mobile admission events in Liepāja and Daugavpils.
We have put considerable efforts into optimising the flow of the student application process. We have started using DMS (document management system), but are taking this a step further – our colleagues from the IT Department are working on a system that will provide students with the opportunity to fill out their applications in the Student Portal. This will make their lives easier as there will be no need to come in person, as well as on our side as we will be able to track their applications through the system.
To save time students now have the opportunity to use the electronic queuing app In Out.
Next semester we will be able to welcome students to renovated premises that are much better suited to our functions. Students will, for example, be able to write applications comfortably without being disturbed, or have the ability to tell us about their problems in private.
What is the greatest challenge for employees of the Student Services in their own opinion?
Our work is very exciting – no matter how we plan our day, we never know what problems or questions the students might have. That's a positive thing, because it prevents getting into a mundane routine.
Students come to us with different questions and problems – we see both their joy and sorrow. Here is the place where they can file complaints, appeals, and we help them to do it correctly. One has to be good at diplomacy and psychology in order to help students solve their problems constructively.
It is also a challenge to answer a question that you hear 23 times a day as if it were the first time. It's particularly crucial at the start of the semester when talking to the freshmen.
Our work routine is specific as it's not equally intense throughout the year – the most stressful times are at the beginning and the end of the semester, as well as during the admission period. We have a lot of work from May to October and from January to March, and we can only take time off during the other months.
What has been the most satisfactory about working at Student Services?
The greatest joy is when the students are satisfied and appreciate our work. Nothing is better than a satisfied and happy student! We survey the students every semester for feedback, which helps us to understand what needs to be improved.
It's nice when the students appreciate the speed and quality of our work. German students, for example, are excited about the speed at which we work, like when they receive a notification from us in two minutes instead of having to wait a couple of weeks.
Students on the Student Services
I rarely use Student Services, but during the last couple of years the quality of service has been superb whenever I have visited them! This was mostly because of the employees' attitude, which was very positive and even motivating. The only problem that I've experienced is having to wait in line, but otherwise Student Services is doing its job well.
I'd like to express gratitude to the Student Service on behalf of K-100. All the employees are always very kind and helpful. It's one of the best, if not THE best, structural unit at RSU.