Students spoke, Emory listened — and the result is a range of change

By John Baker Brown, Campus Life | Emory Report | Aug. 28, 2019

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Blue Donkey Coffee has moved from the Farmers Market to Cox Hall Food Court. Photo by JB Brown.

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The expression, “You spoke; we listened,” may be joining the ever-crowded ranks of advertising clichés, but it accurately describes one of Emory’s key approaches to enhancing the student experience. Student feedback from various sources is reflected this fall in a range of innovations and other enhancements around campus. 

Here are three areas that have made changes based on student input.

CAPS expands its therapist staff

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) will add five new therapists to its staff during the new academic year, in response to increased student demand for mental health services. Three positions are already filled with staff members who will start in September. Searches are underway for the other two positions. 

“We’ve seen a 60 percent increase in students’ requests for mental health services at Emory in the past five years,” says Wanda Collins, vice president of Campus Life and director of CAPS. “The demand is trending upward on campuses nationwide and Emory is no exception.”

CAPS also is collaborating with Emory Law School on a pilot project, Let’s Talk. The initiative makes a counselor available to law school students for consultation one afternoon each week. The brief sessions help students to assess their needs and determine whether regular therapy could be helpful.

A successful pilot project could lead to the initiative being offered in other schools across campus, according to Collins. “Emory students expressed a need for more access to mental health services and their university heard them.”

Students and Emory Dining collaborate

The student-run Food Advisory Committee of Emory (FACE), which gathers student feedback through town halls and a hotline, has helped Emory Dining continually enhance dining experiences for years. The committee of 10 to 15 students provided dining staff with significant input that impacted plans for food service in the new Emory Student Center and the Cox Hall Food Court.

For example, the Dobbs Common Table (DCT) in the student center features 10 dining stations that include substantial menu options for vegetarians and vegans, as well as those who simply want to add more non-meat dishes to their diets.

Students also provided significant input on the DCT furniture, finishes and décor. One result is an original painting by local artist Christina Kwan. A framed version is mounted on a wall, while a much larger version adorns a significant portion of the dining area’s ceiling.

On the sustainability front, the Dobbs Common Table is striking a blow against food waste by eliminating food trays, according to Chad Sunstein, director of Campus Dining.

“Trays loaded with food that ends up in the trash are a major source of food waste,” he points out. “By getting rid of trays, we can reduce food waste on campus by a substantial amount and save the water that would be required to wash them.”

Eagle Emporium, the new convenience store in the Emory Student Center, features expanded international products and will rotate food concepts weekly to better respond to student preferences.

Kaldi’s Coffee hosted the grand opening of its student center location in July, featuring new food selections, cold brew coffee and nitro cold brew coffee on tap, an extensive selection of Firepot Nomadic Teas, comfortable indoor seating and a large patio.

Students also will be pleased to know that one of their favorite local businesses, Blue Donkey, moved from the weekly Farmers Market to Cox Food Court, bringing its popular coffee and pastries to the campus community seven days a week.

Another new addition to Cox Hall Food Court is station invasion. Like Eagle Emporium, the station expands the selection of international products and will rotate food concepts weekly according to student preferences.

Student organizations get priority reservations

The Student Center Operations and Events (SCOE) team has implemented a new reservation policy that gives priority scheduling to events that enhance the student experience. Specifically, priority is given to events planned by registered student organizations and by Campus Life, along with signature events for the university.

The SCOE team made the change after observing that space was filling with requests for events that were not focused on students and could take place at other venues. With the opening of the new Emory Student Center, the policy change keeps the facility student-focused so students can enjoy the space.

“Importantly, these changes will occur behind the scenes,” says Ben Perlman, SCOE director. “The process for making reservations does not change for students.”

In addition, room reservation and AV fees have been eliminated for the entire university community. External organizations will continue to pay. The changes apply to the following facilities: Alumni Memorial University Center (AMUC), Cox Hall Ballroom, Campus Life Pavilion, Emory Student Center, and Emory Student Center Plaza.