Feb 23, 2010

Ride to win: Prize Bus informs and rewards students

by Betsy Abraham

Riding the bus is generally nothing more than a way to get around. The Student Advocate Office (SAO) is making a ho-hum bus trip a fun way to win prizes and help students learn more about what the SAO does.

Six student advocates will ride different buses around campus in an effort to reach out to students and inform them about SAO services. During the Prize Bus campaign, two of the advocates will ride a randomly selected bus for two hours, letting students know about upcoming deadlines and giving them a chance to ask questions. In addition, the advocates will ask bus riders questions and reward them with items such as T-shirts, key chains, lip balm and coffee mugs if they answer correctly.

The student advocates try to ride the bus during and close to important dates that concern all students.

One main topic SAO wants to make students aware of is the upcoming Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) deadline. Student advocates also ask students questions about financial check-in and important registration dates.

“A lot of the questions we ask are deadline driven because as a student, a lot of the information is deadline driven,” Student Advocate Gabriel Wasson said. “Our goal is to try and help sort through a lot of the information. We want to highlight some of these dates to keep in mind.”

SAO hopes that the Prize Bus will help get the word out about the office, inform busy students and answer their questions. Wasson said that because of the SAO’s location at North Campus, many students do not have the time to come to the office and the Prize Bus gives the office a unique way to reach out.

“We want to make our office a three-dimensional office. We’re not just someone on the other end of a phone call (or) someone who answers an e-mail, but we’re also an office where we want to come and meet you where you are,” Wasson said. “If we can target a portion of the population here at Liberty that’s too busy to come up and see us, then riding the bus is even more beneficial for those students because we’ve met them halfway.”

Since the office started doing the Prize Bus, the SAO has received a lot of positive feedback from students who said that the Prize Bus helped them know where the office is located, inform them about services the SAO provides and make the office more to students than just a name.

“The biggest difference is the students at first had no idea who the advocate office was, but word has spread and students are more educated about us now,” Wasson said.

Sophomore Matthew Bell said that encountering the student advocates on the bus provided him with a lot of useful information. The Prize Bus allowed him to talk to student advocates who helped him learn about resources available to help him finish paying for school.

“I would have never gone to the SAO for any type of financial advice if it had not been for the time that (they) took to be on the buses to let us know about happenings around Liberty and to answer our questions,” Bell said. “I am confident enough now to say that since I know where it is and what is available, beyond our help or resolving issues, I will continue to come back. All this is because I simply got on the bus.”

In addition to the Prize Bus, the SAO seeks to reach out to students through e-mails, postcards and phone campaigns.
“We want to be a proactive office and not necessarily wait for you to have a problem. We want to reach out to you first,” Wasson said.

The SAO seeks to offer impartial, confidential assistance to students. Wasson describes the office as an “informed friend.”
“We know who to go to if you need assistance with something. We know how to find money, the upcoming dates and deadlines, and the rights and responsibilities of students,” Wasson said. “We’re also your friend. We’re not just some department here at Liberty that looks at you like an ID number but you have prayer requests and issues.”

Wasson hopes that in the future, student advocates will be able to ride the bus more often.

“We want to make it even easier on the student to be informed. We want to serve the needs of the students and put those needs ahead of our own,” Wasson said.

Contact Betsy Abraham at
babraham3@liberty.edu.


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