Virtual support center helps students wherever they are


Whether near or far from campus this semester, students facing difficulties in their life can access a virtual support center and find the right resource.

Launched in late July, the SRU Concern Center website lets students with any problem easily find the right campus resource contact and reach out directly, said Karla Fonner, director of student support.

The Concern Center allows students to search for concerns by what they need. The website also lists alphabetically over 80 concerns students may have, from food insecurity and stress to relationship difficulties and adjusting to school.

Selecting a concern takes the student to a list of services they can contact to help resolve the matter. They may also reach out through a care referral, which is linked at the bottom of each page, Fonner said.

Once the Student Support Office receives a report, either from the student themselves or a concerned party, they reach out to the student through their SRU email and see what they can do for them.

Fonner said that choosing to seek help through the office is completely optional. Should a student choose to engage, the office looks at all their needs to form a plan that best fits the student.

Students can meet in person at the Student Support Office in Patterson Hall, but those who cannot make it to campus are not left out.

“I can talk to you no matter where you are,” Fonner said.

In addition to email, staff can also talk with students through telephone and Zoom calls. Fonner said they are also able to communicate via text for students who may not want their roommate or parent overhearing their conversation.

The Concern Center website lists 25 SRU support services to assist students, but the Student Support Office can refer students to local services that can help as well – something students taking courses from home this semester may need.

After getting the student in touch with the resources they need, the office will follow up to make sure the student’s concerns were addressed. If something did not work, they will come up with a new plan to help, Fonner said.

The Concern Center is only a month old and getting the word out about it has been priority, Fonner said. Despite regularly advertising the Concern Center in the SRU Campus Update email, many students are not aware of the virtual resource.

“That does not sound familiar,” said Caleb Novak, a sophomore music education and performance major when asked if he had heard of it.

Fonner said they are taking steps to inform not just the students but also those students who regularly interact with and traditionally reach out to faculty and resident life staff. This approach may prove to be an effective step.

Olivia Black, a senior information systems major, said she was unaware of the Concern Center but whenever she faced problems and had questions, her resident advisor proved to be immensely helpful.

The Student Support Office has also incorporated the Concern Center into its Step UP! Bystander training.

Fonner said one of biggest hurdles is getting over the anxiety of reaching out to some of these services for help and that is where working with staff through the Concern Center can help.

It is important that those seeking help, Fonner said, “don’t feel like they are in it on their own.”

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Joe is a senior communication major with concentrations in converged journalism and digital media production. This is his second year with The Rocket and first as the news editor. With a penchant for asking tough questions, his byline can be found on more than 100 articles for The Rocket including many breaking news and investigative pieces. During the hours he’s not wearing the hat of student journalist, he spends his time as a husband, father and dog owner in Slippery Rock.


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