For Howe Students, the Center of Attention

When Business and Technology major Melissa Matos decided to pursue a master’s degree through the Howe School, she first thought of the Student and Faculty Support Center. 

The center works to provide advice, insight, information — any service that helps students adjust to university life and succeed in the classroom and beyond.

Matos, now in her fourth year at Stevens, said she visits the center “almost daily,” which was especially true while selecting which program in which to pursue a master’s. With the help of the center and its manager, Michelle Crilly, she picked Enterprise Project Management. 

“Michelle helped me narrow it down,” Matos said. “She knows what my interests and strengths are, and she connected me with the professors I needed to talk to.

“Sometimes I’ll just stop in there and grab coffee and sit down and talk to her. There’s always a basket full of chocolate. It’s homey.”

That “home away from home” atmosphere has been a mission since the center opened in September 2012. 

“It’s sort of a place for them to feel like they’re at home,” Crilly said. “Larger institutions don’t have that personal touch.” 

Personalized attention

That sense of personal attention is what makes the center so useful for students like Matos. She said she’s talked to a friend at another school who must schedule visits with counselors via email, which are then scheduled for several weeks later. 

“And then eventually, it’s just an email conversation that they have, she never actually sees a person,” Matos said. “Whereas I can wake up in the morning, realize I have a problem, go walk in and see someone — and it’ll be resolved by the end of the day.”

Word of the center’s usefulness is getting out. “There’s more awareness that we’re here, that we’re here to help, now that we’re going into our second year,” Crilly said. “Our numbers have jumped.”

It’s not just registration, either. Crilly also gets personal requests, such as trouble with a boyfriend or student loan fears.

“I’ve had lots of students come in very upset for whatever reason — their parents passed away or got divorced, or something, and I tend to talk with them and refer them to the appropriate channels,” she said.

One area with potential for the center is placement. While Stevens’ Career Development Office takes the lead on providing information on careers and internships, Dr. George Calhoun, director of the Howe School’s undergraduate Quantitative Finance program, hopes the center can soon offer a jobs exchange that’s targeted specifically to the needs of business students and the companies who hire them. 

Future plans for the center include services like identifying a handful of students best suited for a recruiter, sparing hiring managers from sorting through résumés and ensuring new hires are a good fit.

Howe School students already navigate this process very well, Calhoun said, as evidenced by the impressive placement rate for students within the six months following graduation. And with additional support, there could be even more success on this front.

That sort of planning dovetails nicely with the personal touch that’s so carefully emphasized at the center.

“There’s people there who know you and can help you,” Matos said. “It’s very personal, one-on-one attention. I haven’t heard of anything like it from my friends elsewhere.”

 

Support center fast facts

Staff: Michelle Crilly, manager; Andrea Gomez, assistant coordinator

Where: Babbio Center, third floor

When: Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 

What: “Everything from registration to graduation,” according to Crilly. A day in the life is likely to include course advisement, chatting with prospective students, connecting students to professors, guiding transfers into Howe, sending information on internships. 

Who: Any student taking business classes. A lot of traffic from juniors and seniors; about 40 percent is graduate students.

Why: To create a home away from home. “It really is like that,” Crilly said. It’s a one-stop-shop for information, but also “a place to read the paper or grab a hot chocolate.”

 

Walk this way

Students may be startled about the process of getting an appointment at the center. Because there isn’t one. You just show up.

“You just walk in, and someone will see you and make sure your needs are met,” said student Melissa Matos. “They know my face, my name, my story. They know what I’ve come in for help on before — and they’ll follow up.”

That’s a priority for the center, said Michelle Crilly: “Nine times out of 10, we can deal with whatever’s on their mind right away. There’s no line, they just walk in.”