Published March 2, 2015
University Life and Services is on a “quest” to improve student services at UB. Department leaders Barbara Ricotta and Maria Wallace described one of the key ways the unit is working toward that goal in a presentation to the Professional Staff Senate on Thursday.
PSS is working to foster a culture of continuous improvement on campus and will periodically invite to its general membership meetings campus leaders whose departments are spearheading such projects.
About two years ago, University Life and Services implemented a continuous improvement program called QuESt, which stands for Quality for Every Student. It stemmed from one of the retreats Ricotta, associate vice president for student affairs, and her directors conduct each summer to set department priorities for the coming year. In June 2012, they decided to place greater emphasis on customer service initiatives — with an eye toward programs that could improve students’ lives on campus — and convened a committee chaired by Wallace, director of parking and transportation services.
“They started looking at how we all respond to customer service when you call one of our offices,” Ricotta explained. “They had their staffs call all our offices at different times and then record whether we did a good job or not. Were they helpful? Were they courteous? Did they give out the right information? Did they refer you to the right office if they didn’t know the information?”
The next step was to create an initiative, and QuESt was born. The program is based on the belief that some of the best suggestions for improvement come from within an organization — from the people who drive the campus buses and shuttles, answer the phones and serve students meals in the dining halls. With approximately 900 employees and 1,100 student assistants, there’s plenty of room for input within ULS.
“QuESt engages people at all levels in an organization, and I think that is powerful,” Wallace said. “I will say, and I’m the director of transportation, that a driver out in the field knows more about routing and what our students need in terms of routing than I do. They need to know that their suggestions are worthwhile, that we’re listening, and they need to believe that their submissions will impact the lives of our students.”
To date, ULS employees have offered 38 ideas. The program is broken up into cycles. After the submission period closes, the committee reviews the proposals and recommends some of the more feasible ones to senior leadership. Employees may submit their ideas anonymously, but those who provide their name are entered into a drawing, and each receives a personal thank-you from Ricotta.
There were 15 submissions during the first cycle, which ended May 1, 2013. The winner was an alternative spring break program that allowed students who had the desire, but not the financial ability, to perform community service projects. University Life and Services received $12,500 in funding — split over five years — for the program, which has enabled nearly 30 students to participate in alternative spring break since the 2013-14 school year. One group traveled to Long Island to help families impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
The second winning suggestion was for a food pantry for UB students. After researching the idea, the QuESt committee contacted University Presbyterian Church near the South Campus. The church already had a food pantry and was eager to partner with UB. Students were able to begin using the service this past fall.
Ricotta is reviewing the committee’s two recommendations from the third cycle, which closed Jan. 15.
Employees who want to learn more about QuESt, or complete an online submission form, can visit the program’s page on the Student Affairs website.