Admissions, financial aid move to University Welcome Center

Admissions, financial aid move to University Welcome Center
The new University Welcome Center sign went up this year, a change that represents the collaboration of Augustana University with the Sioux Falls Seminary in a physical space. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

The historic Administration Building used to be the first place prospective students saw of the Augustana campus. Now, they go across the street to a new collaborative building.

Augustana extended its partnership with the Sioux Falls Seminary by setting up its financial aid and admissions teams in the offices owned by the seminary on Summit Avenue.

“It’s a great, welcoming space,” Carrie Pederson, the enrollment operations and event coordinator, said. “It just shows off the campus really well, too. It’s a really great first impression.”

Admissions and financial aid needed a space that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act since the stairs in the old building were an obstacle for some visitors.

“It’s just been really, really great to welcome all families into this space where [people with] all kinds of mobility can come in,” Pederson said.

The main floor of the building hosts a seating area with a fireplace which leads into a hallway of offices and collaborative work spaces. There are a few separate meeting rooms and secondary work spaces, along with personal offices.

“It’s more of an accessible building for any folks coming to see us,” Tresse Evenson, director of financial aid, said. “Presentation-wise, I think it looks nice. Space utilization for what we do in meeting with students [is] more conducive than in the admin building where we were.”

Evenson said she hopes that having admission and financial aid in the same accessible space will help make students more comfortable when coming back to the building.

“Any time that we can take any of that nervousness [or] anxiety off of an administrator to a student connection, I think that’s hopefully positive for our students,” Evenson said.

Augustana now works alongside the seminary. The offices are all in the same hallway, and everyone shares the communal spaces.

“They’re also a really innovative thinking group, which is always good to be around for the rest of us,” Evenson said. “To just be right here, knowledge crossing both ways, that helps a lot.”

Nate Helling, an Augustana ‘02 alumnus, serves as the seminary’s chief financial officer and vice president of operations. He said their enrollment is up 40% just this year, but their students don’t attend a physical campus here.

“As our model has changed, what we found was we had this beautiful 10-year-old building that was empty most of the time,” Helling said. “For years, we’ve rented out more offices than we’ve used.”

Sixteen separate organizations now use the space with Augustana and the seminary, including Sioux Falls Psychological Services.

“It’s the willingness to work together and even to work together within difference,” Helling said. “That’s something we don’t do in our industry very well, but it’s also something that we don’t do in the world very well.”

Augustana and the seminary have partnered for the past 15 years to help each other with information technology, maintenance and other collegiate services.

“We’ve gotten really good as schools at asking questions when there’s a need that arises and thinking of each other as an option to meet that need,” Helling said. “We’re working smarter together.”

Conversations started back in January about extending the partnership to office sharing.

The move took place over the summer, with most Augustana faculty switching buildings in June. Assistant director of admission Haley Elness helped pioneer the move, but the whole team took part in the transition.

Part of the move meant finding a new name for the building.

“For a while we’ve talked about what’s the right name to put on the building,” Helling said. “So with the Augustana conversation, together we came up with this University Welcome Center idea.”

The new sign went up a few weeks ago, officially marking the building as the new home to Augustana admissions and financial aid.

“The space works really well,” Pederson said. “It’s just a great, beautiful space. I think you could ask anybody on our team, and they’re super grateful for the opportunity to work over here.”