The Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC) and the M Center hosted an open forum for the Mills community to learn about recent changes and ask questions regarding the two groups’ roles on campus.
During the forum on Nov. 3, an M Center representative explained to students the changes that have been initiated and that are still in the works. Some of the different changes that have occurred at the M Center include different staff positions, customer service trainings led by HR to help staff talk to students, changes to the withdrawal process, and evaluations on the software, Ellucian, that is used throughout campus.
Erin Clark, president of ASMC, facilitated the forum with a presentation that explained who and what ASMC’s role is when it comes to working with the M Center. She believes that “empowering student voices is our vision; it’s [ASMC’s] mission.”
Although there was not a huge turn out of students, it was clear that the M Center wanted to make changes that offer more support. They believe students want to make sure that these changes reach their full potential. It was brought to attention that these changes will not fix the stress and problems students have already endured.
Another concern brought up by students was for the staff to help students find different ways of financing themselves. They believe that the college should advertise the binder full of scholarships in the M Center more.
Currently, the M Center is working on ways to help students manage their finances for their life after Mills. Students in attendance were concerned that the focus should not be on helping students save money for the future, rather it should be on helping students finance their education while they are at Mills, especially students of color and those who are coming from already struggling financial backgrounds.
Another student, Reyna Maldonado said there needs to be more support for undocumented students because, based on her experiences, she did not feel supported at all.
“I was pretty much told you have the money to be here or you don’t,” Maldonado said. “I didn’t know about the binder until now. If there was really support, they could have directed me to it.”
Some of the changes that are taking place have been influenced by Ellucian. According to Vice President for Finance and Administration/Treasurer of Mills College Maria Cammarata, after three days of interviews with staff, Ellucian gave 60 pages of recommendations back to the school for all departments, not just to the M Center. Some recommendations included training new hires by Ellucian rather than current employees, using aspects of modules that haven’t been utilized before and cleaning out unnecessary information.
Associate Director of Career Connections and Community Engagement Ines Barbosa gave clarification during a quick discussion about Handshake, the new online system to post all job positions at Mills, after some issues were brought up. Barbosa explained that all job listings on campus are required to be listed on Handshake, according to the Federal Department of Education. However, work study jobs were only viewable by those who were awarded work study.
Other changes include the acceptance of College Level Examinations Programs (CLEP) exams. These are helpful for people who may have learned subjects or lessons at home and want to get credit.
Another project the M Center is working on is a calculator to help students get the real cost of what they need to pay for their bills. This calculator will import both financial aid, the semester bill, and students ideally will be able to include outside scholarships and opt out of the Kaiser Insurance, to give the amount they are expected to pay. The amount calculated will be sent to the M Center as a record. Since this is still in the testing phase, the M Center is using current student employees in the office to test the calculator and welcome other students who are interested to help finalize this tool. They hope to have it ready by mid-December, so students can be prepared for the Spring semester.
Future open meetings will be held and input by students are encouraged to be emailed to ASMC.
“This is only an opening of a dialogue,” Clark said.