On the southwestern corner of Ball State University’s campus, nestled on the Quad, sits Lucina Hall.
Built as a women’s residence hall in the 1920s, the building has now been turned into an administrative hub on campus, with a portion becoming the Welcome Center. Services like Undergraduate Admissions and Counseling and Health Services also operate out of this building.
As one takes the trip up the stairs to room 245, they walk into the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships; however, this space is shared with a new program that launched October 2022.
Cardinal Central combines services from four offices: the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, Student Financial Services, the Office of the Registrar and Retention and Graduation Services.
The service is described by the university as “a convenient, one-stop location for business processes, resources and information for students and their families,” and members of Cardinal Central hope this service will “streamline processes and improve the student experience.”
Discussions for a one-stop service originally began at the vice presidential and presidential level. When preliminary discussions first began for Cardinal Central, the goal was to simplify the amount of services a student had to go through on campus.
Staci Davis, assistant vice president in enrollment planning and management, was present in the development stages for Cardinal Central. Beginning in August 2021, she oversaw the implementation of the service.
Davis said the plans for a one-stop service came from conversations on the larger issue of retention. The goal was to help the success rate of retention by making the services more “student focused and student centric.” She referred to the administrative “bounce” students were put through going across various offices on campus when students are transferred between different offices on the same call.
“We want to make sure where we were sending the student was to the right and appropriate office,” Davis said.
Gloria Pavlik, director of Enrollment Support Services, had her office, the Office of Retention and Graduation Services, merged with Cardinal Central. Pavlik called Cardinal Central the “frontline” for services like Retention and Graduation Services.
Those working on the project, including Davis, used inspiration from other colleges such as DePaul University and Miami University to develop the structure of Cardinal Central. Davis also noted the University of North Carolina at Charlotte used the same software system Cardinal Central uses.
In these development stages, the first Cardinal Central employee was hired in January 2022; Debra Fenty, coming from Cleveland State University, was appointed as director. This was not Fenty’s first stop at a one-stop. At Cleveland State, she started at their one-stop service from its inception in 2004 until coming to Ball State last year. Despite the various inspirations for Ball State’s new service, Fenty said “by no means is any university[‘s system] the same as the other.”
“All of them look different, because [there are] ones that are built around the culture of the students and the staff that are at the university,” Fenty said.
Fenty noted the centralization of services provided by Cardinal Central is “advantageous to the student” because when accessing different offices through Cardinal Central, it will only take one session and not cause a “ripple effect” through holds and transfers.
Some of the services students will be able to access through Cardinal Central include paying bills, resetting passwords, accessing OneDrive, requesting support and accessing financial aid.
All of these actions are part of what Fenty refers to as another side of college, a side of college reflected in the motto of the service, “Supporting the business of being a student.”
“If the business of being a student is not supported and acted upon accurately and quickly, the other part of being a student doesn't happen, like going to classes and graduating. None of that happens if the business is not in order,” Fenty said.
A vision Davis pursued during the development of Cardinal Central was the creation and implementation of a mobile app, which is now online. Ease of use and effectiveness were important characteristics of the layout of the app, Davis said.
The app operates much like the Cardinal Central hub online; students can log into their Ball State email, check their FAFSA and set up an appointment. Fenty referred to it as a great option for students to use when phone lines are busy.
The location inside Lucina Hall will be temporary, however, as the service is set to move to the L.A. Pittinger Student Center later this year. The reason for the move, Pavlik said, is for the service to be in a central location on campus.
“It's a place that students should be familiar with,” Pavlik said. “If you're just happening to be walking through, you would actually see it as well.”
In this space, there will be stations for password resets and to get new Ball State IDs, along with other tech support stations.
With the impending move, all the services Cardinal Central offers will be in one location. Fenty said the experience of the staff will make the move over to the Student Center easier, but she said the goal was a larger picture of working across campus.
“A real big key to the success is working with our partners across campus, [such as] advising instructors, administrators [and] the people who normally do the referrals to our area,” Fenty said.
Student reception to the service so far has been mixed due to “growing pains,” Fenty said. She cites students “not having an option whether to go somewhere else” due to the change of services to Cardinal Central as a reason, but satisfaction rates are at 92 percent, according to post-call surveys.
“Instead of 24 to 48 hours to answer an email, it is taking up to 72 hours and sometimes four days,” Fenty said.
Davis hopes Cardinal Central is able to help students with tasks and help guide them throughout their time in college and beyond.
“It's trying to empower the student and educate the student for themselves to be self-sufficient,” Davis said.