Who says work can’t be fun? Pictured above is a group photo of the Enrollment Services team, who — as the assortment of Mickey ears suggests — know how to make work fun.
By Dani Moritz-Long
Has my financial aid been processed? When is the Downtown Campus opening? At what point am I considered a Florida resident, and how do I prove my residency? Why isn’t XYZ course available over the summer? How do I access my transcripts online? Why hasn’t my financial aid been processed?
This is just a small (and by small, I mean microscopic) sampling of the questions that Valencia’s Enrollment Services team fields on a day-to-day basis. As Valencia’s virtual mouthpiece of the College, the team of approximately 30 individuals works together to answer inquiries from Valencia’s primary phone, email and chat line every day — which generally adds up to more than 10,000 phone calls, 1,700 emails and 1,200 chat sessions each month.
Naturally, questions come in about everything under the sun and they come in from all different kinds of people, from current students to prospective students, parents to community members.
This means that Enrollment Services team members need to know (at least) a little about everything and always be prepared for the unexpected.
Nick Arango (top); Brenda Ilojiole (bottom left); and Viviana Rivera (bottom right)
“We’re the wheel that connects all the departments,” Nick Arango, an enrollment services advisor and current Valencia student, said. “We’re like an octopus at Valencia,” he added, using the maritime metaphor to explain how his team is a central hub that has to stay connected with multiple legs (departments) at the College.
But keeping afloat (or, in Nick’s metaphor, safely submerged), with so many questions coming in from so many people on so many different topics, can be quite the challenge. Fortunately, the Enrollment Services team is a group of passionate, empathetic, creative and knowledgeable individuals who have developed tools and methods to efficiently and effectively manage their workload.
Brenda Ilojiole, who was an enrollment services advisor and is now a financial aid specialist, for example, explained that patience and ingenuity is often key. Brenda said one way she developed a creative work around is by using Google Translate when students submitted an inquiry via chat in a language other than English. This way, Brenda was able to support all Valencia students and promote an inclusive environment.
One way Viviana Rivera, also an enrollment services advisor, has been able to creatively support students is by suggesting LYNX when students confide in her about transportation issues — particularly when a class isn’t available at a student’s preferred campus.
As a rule of thumb, Nick says his team evokes the golden rule in their work — even (and especially) when times get tough.
“I speak to them the way I want to be spoken to,” he explained.
Also helpful to the advisors’ work is a Friday morning team meeting that Director of Enrollment Services (and lead Mouseketeer) Brian Barilone uses to keep the team up-to-date on all the need-to-know information about the College. Sometimes Brian brings in other college leaders to talk about hot topics like financial aid. Other times, he uses the meeting as an opportunity for his staff to emerge as leaders.
For example, the photo above illustrates a meeting in which three enrollment services advisors, Daisy Jaimes, Grace Martinez, and Nick Arango, led the team through a Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) world cafe-style activity. Through the activity, the team broke into small groups to discuss the PJI principles and how they apply to the work of Enrollment Services. The meeting was inspired by the advisors attendance at a recent PJI training.
The activity served as an opportunity to reflect on their work and formulate ideas about how they can promote an even more hospitable environment, while giving the advisors a break from their usual, day-to-day activities.
“We usually have a mindset of next call, next call,” reflected one advisor, “but sometimes you have to stop and breathe.”