New University Resource Helps Students Complete Degrees on Time
As the leader of the new Graduation Help Desk, Angela Scoggins BA’00, MA’08 works with schools and other offices to help find solutions for students struggling to stay on course to a timely graduation.
Students struggling to graduate on time have a new advocate at The University of Texas at Dallas.
The Graduation Help Desk, funded by The University of Texas System for each of its eight academic institutions, aims to help undergraduates overcome obstacles to a timely graduation by connecting them to the right people and resources across campus.
Angela Scoggins BA’00, MA’08, associate director of academic outreach, brings experience as both a student and a staff member to her role leading the new help desk, which is based in the Office of Undergraduate Education. Scoggins previously worked as an academic advisor in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and with the Student Outreach and Academic Retention office.
“I remember what it was like as a student when I walked out of an office knowing less than when I went in. Often it’s a matter of not asking the right questions,” she said. “I take it very seriously to know what’s going on with students.”
“Often it’s a matter of students not understanding University policies and procedures or not knowing the questions to ask. We can help come up with creative solutions. The important thing is that we keep communication lines open.”
The help desk is the go-to resource for students who need help coordinating academic, financial or personal issues across schools or offices. Scoggins regularly collaborates with the Dean of Students Office, the Military and Veteran Center, the Student Counseling Center, school advisors and associate deans, the Office of the Registrar, and Residential Life.
The help desk does not replace academic advising. In fact, Scoggins recommends that students who are behind on their degree plans consult their advisors first.
Courtney Brecheen, associate dean of undergraduate education, said the centralized help desk focuses on helping the campus community navigate the University system to address complex matters that impact student success and completion.
“The help desk can help with any issue that may need multiple offices to collaborate on a resolution. Angela has the ability to help efficiently facilitate a conversation between students, the associate dean, the Office of Financial Aid or whomever else might need to be engaged in finding a solution to a particular issue,” Brecheen said.
Kali Cagnolatti, an academic advisor in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, recalled a student who left to attend pharmacy school before formally graduating with a double major in biology and business administration. The student eventually chose to discontinue studying pharmacy and found employment in a different field.
“She had landed a job, but they needed her to have a degree in hand,” Cagnolatti said.
Her old degree plan would have required a “boatload” of courses to take in order to graduate, but Scoggins worked with four departments on campus to get the student reinstated under her previous academic catalog year’s requirements. The student was able to receive her degree without needing to take another course.
Cagnolatti said the help desk allows the University to maintain the integrity of academic policy while developing solutions to help students.
“I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it together,” she said. “It just saves so much time to have a liaison between the majors.”
While many students request help with general academic questions and study skills, the help desk also identifies nonacademic factors related to personal well-being and financial stability that contribute to academic struggles.
Lendon Burnett, a finance senior who serves in the U.S. Army Reserve, was struggling with military obligations that forced him to miss the first few weeks of the semester for training and occasional days for briefing meetings. He needed a plan for a nonacademic withdrawal so that it wouldn’t affect his 4.0 GPA.
As the team leader for the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education program, he now refers other nontraditional students to the help desk.
“I tend to give Angela’s name out quite a bit,” Burnett said. “She’s helpful in every situation. Angela always knows who you need to talk to.”
Scoggins said anyone on campus, including faculty or academic advisors, who is aware of a student experiencing a barrier to graduation, including faculty or academic advisors, can contact the help desk and leverage its resources.
“Often it’s a matter of students not understanding University policies and procedures or not knowing the questions to ask. We can help come up with creative solutions. The important thing is that we keep communication lines open,” Scoggins said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].