Opportunity Center off to solid start for spring semester

Jordan Rusche, Editor in-Chief (She/Her)

After officially opening on the first day of the semester, the Wintrode Student Success and Opportunity Center has had a productive first couple weeks.

“We’ve gotten off to a really good start,” Dennis Hedge, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said. “There’s still plenty of work to do.”

Located in the former Wintrode Student Success Center, the opportunity center connects students with various offices on campus, like Disability Services, TRIO and Financial Aid, to meet their individual “holistic needs,” according to South Dakota State University’s website.

“We’re an office that really focused on student success and providing good support to students,” Jody Owen, director of the Wintrode Student Success and Opportunity Center, said, “and we’ve actually seen an increase in our usage numbers this spring over where we were at the same time last spring semester.”

Owen, who previously served as director for the Wintrode Student Success Center for several years, said the center is still working on becoming fully implemented into the university. One of the first ways the center has worked to connect with students is by adopting Jacks Cupboard for two weeks and collecting food donations.

“We’re an office that really cares about students,” she said. “We identify and recognize the unique needs of our student populations, and we want to make sure we’re very involved in supporting the activities across campus that are here to help our students be successful.”

Along with creating the physical space and online presence for the center, the university has created the Opportunity Center Implementation Team to help integrate the center into university operations with the help of faculty, professional staff, administration and even students, according to Owen.

Kyle Shapcott, a Students’ Association senator and the student representative on the implementation team, says the SA Senate is also working to help further integrate the center into student life.

“Currently, there is a taskforce (The Opportunity Center Awareness Taskforce) on Senate that consists of nine to 10 senators and exec team members that are working on surveying the different resources that are under the umbrella of the new [Opportunity Center],” he said.

The taskforce also will help to spread awareness and validity of these resources and will present their findings to the implementation team at their second meeting in February.

“I’m really excited to be a part of the implementation team and hope to be a strong advocate for the students of SDSU,” Shapcott said.

Now that the center is up and running, Hedge says there are still more steps to complete before the center is fully in effect.

“Probably the biggest item I would say … item number one is we created a job description for a coordinator position (for the opportunity center),” he said.

The coordinator for student success and opportunity will work directly with Owen to implement strategies for the center to use.

“One of the first things that we’ll have them working on is really building the connections between all the offices that are part of the Student Success Network … so that we can strengthen our pathways between those offices in an effort to really support students,” Owen said.

The university is conducting an external search for a coordinator, meaning both outside candidates and internal candidates from the university will be considered.