October 29, 2014

Cornell Unveils New Administrative Portal for Students

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By AIMEE CHO

After more than a year in development, a new online student administrative portal — partially funded by a gift from Liz Stuntz ’73 and Mayo Stuntz ’71 — went live last week.

The development of the Student Essentials site began last fall, when Susan Murphy ’73 Ph.D. ’94, vice president for student and academic services, Joanne DeStefano MBA ’97, vice president for finance and chief financial officer and Barbara Knuth, dean of the graduate school, envisioned a new method to deliver student services to Cornellians.

“[They asked their staff to] think creatively about the way student services can be delivered at Cornell,” said Jason Kahabka, assistant dean for student services and admissions for the graduate school.

Students looking to take care of administrative matters and access commonly-used University websites can now do so through this new online academic portal, Kahabka said.

The site offers links to Student Center, Blackboard, library hours, academic support resources, exam schedules, transcript services and dining menus and hours.

“Most offices have websites but it can be frustrating for students … to get the information they need.” — Jason Kahabka

Student Essentials also provides students “quick-views of their data in real time,” according to University bursar Peter Olcott.

“Students can easily view their bursar, Cornell Card, meal plan, City Bucks and laundry balances right in the portal. If they need more information they can follow the link for details,” Olcott said.

Kahabka added that when first-year or transfer students arrive on campus, they can “struggle to find all the information they need to enroll in courses, pay their bills, verify their financial aid and get acclimated to Cornell.”

“Cornell is a large, complex university with many different administrative services available to students,” Kahabka said. “Most offices have websites, but it can be frustrating for students to visit many different sites to get the information they need.”

Liz and Mayo Stunz partially funded the site because they “specifically wanted to help incoming students connect with the wealth of resources available on campus,” according to University Registrar Cassie Dembosky.

The offices of the University Registrar, Bursar, Financial Aid and the Graduate School helped with the design of the website, according to Kahabka. They got feedback from several different student groups, including the Student Assembly and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

Olcott added that during the 2013-14 academic year, the freshman Meinig Family Cornell National Scholars researched how peer schools present information, what portal designs are easiest to use and what information students use most frequently.

“The Meinig Scholars invested hundreds of hours into this project and the success of this effort is in large part due to the excellent feedback and creative ideas they provided,” Olcott said.

The new website elicited positive reactions from students, who  commented on its usability and aesthetic design.

“It’s more intuitive,” said Nicole Edelstein ’15. “If I were to try and look for something, I feel like it would be easier to find.”

Jessica Reuter ’17 added that she likes the “colorful design” of the new site.

The new website is also designed to integrate with the new course catalog website that was also just unveiled, according to Dembosky.

“We heard loud and clear that searching for and enrolling in courses was not easy,” Dembosky said. “I’m really excited about the vastly improved class roster and we’re already hearing great feedback from students in advance of pre-enrollment.”

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