Humboldt State Eyes Changes to Re-energize Student Experience

Humboldt State University is looking to the future, focusing on new priorities and directions for the University Center (UC) to enhance the student experience.

Under organizational changes announced last week, UC will be more streamlined to offer students more opportunities and vibrant programs, as well as to reduce costs, eliminate operational redundancies, and increase revenue.

“The University Center has done a great job over the years. We will be building upon that success with fresh ideas for student engagement as we navigate the pandemic. It’s a challenge we’re looking forward to as students return to campus this next week,” says Todd Larsen, Acting Executive Director of UC.

The UC is an auxiliary of HSU that carries out a variety of important programs that are central to student life. These include recreational, cultural, and educational offerings; dining services; and a number of facilities. University Center includes: CenterArts, Center Activities, the Student Recreation Center, Dining Services, the Bookstore, and other facilities that help support several student programs.

As part of the changes, and consistent with budget realignment happening across campus, approximately $500,000 in savings from UC management salaries will be reallocated directly to student programs and services.

At the same time, a number of burdensome fees that students have raised as concerns for the last year will be eliminated. Student employment within the UC will be maintained and even possibly expanded, making the UC even more student-centered.

Operations will also be more integrated with broader campus operations. Larsen will report to the Dean of Students, Dr. Eboni Turnbow. Center Activities will now report to Director of Athletics & Recreational Sports, Jane Teixeira. UC technical support as well as facilities will be integrated with the University’s Informational Technology Services and Facilities Management departments, which will result in cost savings in order to allocate more funds toward student needs and interests.

Many changes will occur this semester, while others will take longer to implement. In nearly all cases, the ongoing response to the pandemic will mean modified operations for Fall 2020 and likely the Spring 2021 semester.

As a student representative of the UC Board for the last three years and Student Affairs Vice President, Jourden Lamar says changes like these will allow more students to be more involved in the decision-making process and, in turn, more engaged with the University community.

“I’ve always pushed for more student involvement because decisions at these levels impact them the most,” says Lamar, who is the UC Board Chair this year. “The priorities being proposed are monumental because they will open avenues for students to have their voices heard, which benefits not only them but also the campus community.”

The University will continue collaborating and communicating closely with the UC Board of Directors—UC’s governing body—to improve transparency of UC operations.

Close collaboration with the University is expected of all campus auxiliaries. HSU has broad oversight of UC operations in accordance with the authority vested in the President by the CSU Board of Trustees. This is also described in the UC-HSU Operating Agreement and in the associated items from the California Education Code and California Code of Regulations. In addition, the UC Executive Director is a state employee (MPP) who reports to a campus vice president or their designee.

UC facilities are being reassessed, as well. The HSU Bookstore will be relocated from University Center building to the Jolly Giant Commons in order to provide a more accessible retail space with better parking access, closer proximity to most student housing, ground-level entry, and an increased capacity to generate revenue. The bookstore will remain under control of the UC. The HSU Alumni Relations and HSU Foundation offices are being relocated from Nelson Hall to the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, which will also continue to be the home of HSU Crew and Center Activities boating programs.

These moves will free up space for additional student-focused resources at UC and Nelson Hall, while also creating a welcoming space for alumni and donors to connect with the University. In another example of reallocating space to prioritize students, student government, which sits in the smallest office space in the UC, will be swapped into one of the more robust offices that have been historically reserved for UC executive staff.

In addition to the evaluation of space, HSU has determined that a fiscal audit and review of UC services is necessary. UC management’s response to numerous findings and recommendations from
compliance audits in 2016 and a cashiering audit in 2018 were not sufficiently completed. The need to evaluate effective practices for student-facing and programmatic services is also critical as part of the leadership transition of the UC. As a result, HSU has asked the CSU Office of Audit and Advisory Services to conduct a thorough and deep review of the University Center’s revenue, expenditures, and business operations.

The results and recommendations will be helpful as key stakeholders work together to improve and reimagine future student services at UC.

As part of the audit and program review, HSU will collaborate with the UC Board Chair and engage members of the UC Board to participate in interviews, provide perspective, and to engage in the process of interpreting, prioritizing, and overseeing implementation of the relevant recommendations.

Dining services will be revitalized, and will provide more food options while keeping costs low for students. A related goal is to create a more dynamic dining experience— something HSU has been exploring the last several weeks with consultants from food service management company, Aladdin. The UC will enter a one-year consulting agreement with Aladdin and UC and present that agreement to the UC Board for review.

“We’re looking at possibly incorporating more interactive elements such as taste-testing, having students meet the chef, and special dining promotions,” says Larsen. “These activities may not seem like a huge deal but because we’re a destination campus, it’s important to provide a fun, welcoming environment so students feel good about being at HSU and families feel good about sending their students to HSU.”

Similarly, with the realignment of CenterArts with the Office of the Dean of Students and Center Activities and the Student Recreation Center with Athletics, HSU hopes to provide more robust arts programming, activities, and trips. CenterArts will continue to provide events that engage the community while growing and expanding the number of student programs offered.