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Navigating as a Student

Campus Commons

Office of Alumni RelationsOffice of Alumni Relations
October 04, 2017

UNC announces GPS+ as name for new One Stop Plus center

Did you ever just feel lost when you went to college?

Not lost in the way that you need a campus map to find buildings and pathways; not lost in the way that you need a syllabus to keep up on your reading assignments; but lost in the way that you’re not sure what you need to do, what resources are available to help you, or even what to expect.

If you answered yes, then you are not alone.

One third of UNC’s student population identifies as first generation to attend college; a limitation in their exposure to university systems. Even those with college educated families struggle to navigate the business of being a student on a growing campus of nearly 13,000 fellow Bears.

That was until now.

Enter, GPS+ – the name for UNC’s new One Stop Plus, an integrated services center that will be housed in the new Campus Commons.

“The GPS+ represents a significant opportunity for UNC to provide a seamless, integrated experience for our students to get help navigating complex university systems,” says GPS+ director Sarah Chase. “Not only will students, parents, and alumni receive help completing fundamental business transactions, but our GPS+ Navigators will be available to connect students with other important resources across the UNC campus such as career counseling, major exploration, civic engagement opportunities, and study abroad (to name a few).”

According to Chase, other universities have begun adopting integrated services, but GPS+ is different.  

“Our model is unique because our GPS+ Navigators will be trained to assist students using a case management strategy. This means Navigators will help students resolve complex issues from the initial point of contact all the way through to a successful resolution. Additionally, UNC’s center is unique in that we’ll be ready to assist students with connections beyond those fundamental business transactions. This component is a real value-add to UNC students.”

Plotting a Path to Student Success

Two years ago, UNC adopted a ‘Progress Report’ to aid in early identification of students who may be struggling. Students may be identified by academic advisor or program faculty with the intention that identification leads to intervention and connection to support services.

According to UNC Assistant Vice President for Student Success Stephanie Torrez, feedback that students receive as a result from progress reports has led to improved grades, but something more is needed to scale up consistent services for all students. 

Torrez oversees the team that is planning GPS+, ensuring that the new center provides UNC expanded student support infrastructure and progress toward accomplishing student retention and graduation goals.

“Faculty frequently send me names of students they are concerned about, asking for guidance on where they can send these students for additional support,” says Torrez. “Pre-GPS+, we do not have ‘a place’ to send students.”

Torrez says that a student in need of support could land in any number of offices depending on any number of factors or circumstances. These variations and inconsistencies are unnecessary roadblocks to student success and ones that Torrez aims to remove. 

“I’m excited by the prospect of having a GPS+ office where faculty and staff can confidently refer students. The case management function of GPS+ allows for the Navigators to follow up with students referred to them by a faculty or staff member.  Navigators can assess student need and collaborate with other key offices, faculty, and/or staff as appropriate and needed to assist the student.”

All Signs Point Forward

“Over the last several years, ‘GPS’ has become synonymous with the navigation tool we’ve all come to rely on for assistance locating any number of places and resources,” says Chase. “GPS+ captures the idea that our goal is to assist students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff with resources and information.”

“The pinpoint design of our logo ‘points’ to GPS+, and serves as a subtle but consistent reminder that ‘GPS+ is the place to be!’ The body of the logo incorporates a maze, which is consistent with the University experience. It IS like a maze to navigate the complex university environment. And our GPS+ Navigators are there to assist students along their journeys toward success.”

Chase and Torrez are among those planning for the next stage in launching GPS+. They are working closely with the Office of Financial Aid, the Registrar, Bursar and student services offices across campus.

Complete implementation of GPS+ will be phased in over the next few years, beginning with website development and Navigator hiring this year, leading to the opening of the Campus Commons late 2018 early 2019.

“When students are able to resolve complex situations successfully – rather than getting caught up in university systems – it allows them to focus on being successful academically and personally. This translates to happy, successful students and alumni – during their time with us here at UNC and beyond.”

UNC's new GPS+ Director

Sarah Chase is an alumna of UNC’s Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership program where she earned a PhD in 2010. From 2006-2012 Chase served as the Director of UNC’s McNair Scholars Program, and for several years oversaw advising and academic services for Colorado State University’s graduate business programs.