Hold the line: Undergraduate admissions call center is standing by

Description of the following video:

[Video: An IUPUI student who works at the Admissions Undergraduate Office call center sits at his workstation and answers his phone. A computer is in front of him.]

Sunnih Flores, an IUPUI student, speaks in voiceover: This is the Admissions Undergraduate Office call center.

[Words appear in top-left corner: IUPUI presents]

[Video: Another IUPUI student who works at the call center sits at her workstation, using the desktop computer in front of her.]

[Video: A panning shot of the call center. You see student employees sitting at their workstations, using computers and talking on the phone.]

Flores speaks in voiceover: All of the students that are applying to IUPUI, we take all the questions that they have about applying, and then also ...

[Video: Sunnih Flores, an IUPUI student, appears on camera.]

[Words appear: Sunnih Flores, IUPUI student]

Flores speaks: ... the opportunities they have. We receive their applications and their materials, and then we have our operations team process ...

[Video: A student employee puts admissions materials into envelopes. A close-up of the materials is shown.]

Flores speaks in voiceover: ... them, and then we are actually responsible for getting the letters out.

[Video: A call center employee sits at her workstation, using the desktop computer in front of her.]

Will Smith, an IUPUI student, speaks in voiceover: We do get a lot of emails, just as much as we get phone calls.

[Video: Will Smith, an IUPUI student, appears on camera.]

[Words appear: Will Smith, IUPUI student]

Smith speaks: We do have some specialists on our team that is more certified in sending out the emails, so they would get the best information to the student, which is normally things that we can get out over the phone.

[Video: A montage of three different call center employees. Each is sitting at their workstation, using the desktop computers in front of them. Two are on the phone.]

Smith speaks in voiceover: The questions range from "Hey, I didn't get my student ID," or "Will you send another admissions letter? I didn't get that." Or it's just all kinds of questions and ...

[Video: Smith appears on camera.]

Smith speaks: ... sometimes not in particular to the admissions office -- sometimes it could be a question that's about financial aid.

[Video: A close-up of a telephone. A hand is shown reaching for the phone.]

[Video: A call center employee talks on the phone.]

Flores speaks in voiceover: I think people are very surprised when they hear a real person. They say, "Oh, I'm not expecting to talk to someone."

[Video: Flores appears on camera.

Flores speaks: Basically, it's finding out what they need, and they get really excited when I can actually help them.

[Video: Flores is talking to a customer one the phone. She is looking at her computer while she talks.]

Flores speaks in voiceover: So, I like to go from there to see what we can do for them in the admissions office.

[Screen goes to black]

[IU trident appears]

[Words appear: IUPUI]

[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]

[Words appear: iupui.edu]

[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

From their tiny office in Cavanaugh Hall, the 18 part-time student workers in the undergraduate admissions call center are the first contact for thousands of potential incoming IUPUI students. Video by Samantha Thompson, Indiana University

Sometimes you need to hear a human voice on the other end of the line instead of an automated, multistep system. Sometimes it's more helpful to get your emailed questions answered by human hands and brain instead of a canned digital missive, especially when it comes to undergraduate admissions.

That's what the young experts in the IUPUI undergraduate admissions call center are there for. Eighteen part-time student workers answer more than 40,000 phone calls and 40,000 emails a year in the tiny office in Cavanaugh Hall. There are no windows, but there's a lot of action and assistance to future Jaguars and their parents.

"People are very surprised when they hear a real person: 'Oh, I'm not expecting to talk to someone,'" said Sunnih Flores, a call center worker since 2017 and a senior studying human resources and business management. "It's finding out what they need, and they get really excited when I can actually help them."

Trenna Soderling answers an e-mail.View print quality image
Trenna Soderling, a call center employee and a junior studying creative writing and American Sign Language, answers an email. The undergraduate admissions call center receives more than 40,000 calls and 40,000 emails a year. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University

When the phones and computer keyboards aren't buzzing with activity, the students prepare materials to be mailed, both to accepted students and to students who haven't met admission standards. On Monday, stacks of IUPUI brochures and booklets were ready for the acceptance letters to be printed. As soon as the office receives the official letter, it goes into a large envelope and out to the post office.

The call center is live at 317-274-4591 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. On this day, six students were at the phones. During the heart of each semester, all nine computer and phone stations are usually full.

Mini marketers

The student workers must be experts in the admissions process. They must know scholarship deadlines by heart, and they must be equipped to sell various IUPUI programs to teenagers and their families who might not yet be sold on the university. They must promote opportunities and give concise descriptions of what potential students can expect.

"Depending on what their major or their intended profession is, or their overall goal, we start there," Flores said. "Sometimes they haven't heard a lot about IUPUI, and we clarify some things."

Other applicants call when they're feeling overwhelmed. The call center employees are instrumental in getting many of IUPUI's thousands of applicants started every year.

"A lot of them just say, 'I don't know what I'm doing. I need help,'" Flores said. "I get a lot of questions like that, coming in all the time. It's all about 'How do we get to your next step?'"

Then there are the calls that have nothing to do with admissions, but the workers are trained as a sort of referral system. The goal is to keep the callers' and writers' IUPUI interest up and requests filled -- whether it's about financial aid, replacing student IDs or receiving another admissions letter to replace a lost one.

Will Smith, a radiography senior and a two-year veteran of the call center, remembers using the call center when he was an incoming student four years ago. Making sure to meet every requirement can be overwhelming, Smith says, and he is happy to pay back by assisting potential students who are where he was just four years ago.

"It's still a lot of the same questions we get today," he said. "It's cool to see how it's wrapped around."

A helping family

Smith and his co-workers spend hours together every week in the secluded office. Music is piped in from someone's laptop speakers, and homework is allowed between projects and calls. Smith said he and his fellow staffers are close.

"There's a lot of love in the room. We all work together and get along really well with each other," he said. "We like to enjoy each other's company because we see each other more than we see our families."

The students are also covering Indiana University Fort Wayne requests until that regional learning center gets its own call center established.

Jen Lund, the call center manager, is impressed with her workers' efforts and enthusiasm for the job. Answering phones is still a crucial part of welcoming IUPUI's incoming class.

"They have to do a lot," said Lund of her student workers. "The students, parents and school counselors really appreciate being able to call. We're able to be that voice for them and answer questions."

Students work in the call center.View print quality image
Student workers Sunnih Flores, left, and Will Smith are ready to field questions about every facet of IUPUI. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University