A brightly colored dialogue box popped onto a screen in addition to the two that were already present. Caroline Chiang, assistant director of the Career Development Center, quickly responded to the new conversation, handling three at once.
Each of the chat boxes represented a student with a virtual question for a career counselor. The CDC's new service, IM walk-in hours, gives students a chance to talk over the Internet with career counselors in real-time.
"Customer service is our highest priority," Chiang said.
The walk-in hours, for which students to sign in to chat via Google accounts, debuted in January, said CDC Assistant Director Kerry Feather.
"We are trying to reach students where they are. For some people, walk-in hours are fine; for other students a quick question is good," Feather said. "We (now) offer both."
The IM walk-in hours began after a successful two-day pilot program over winter break, Feather said. After conducting a survey of participants, the CDC settled on regular IM walk-in hours on Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., taking the place of traditional walk-in hours, which are offered Monday through Thursday at the same time.
Feather said the program, which has run each Friday since the start of the semester, has been very successful. She estimated that in each of the last couple of sessions, the Center has received approximately 20 students with questions.
"I think the word is really getting out," Chiang said.
To use the program, students must either create or sign into a Google account and invite a CDC e-mail address to chat.
When students log on and begin to chat, the message is directed to a counselor, Feather said. If the service experiences an uptick in traffic, an additional counselor can be brought in to facilitate.
"There's been no wait time," Feather said.
Chiang said the conversations last for about 10 to 15 minutes. If the question is difficult to answer online, the counselor will suggest an in-person appointment.
Feather said the office hours are more helpful for students who have only quick questions, rather than those who need detailed critiques of resumes.
Questions like, "Where do I get started looking for an internship?" and, "Can you look at my resume or my cover letter?" tend to be asked frequently, Chiang said. Because counselors are right at their computers, they can quickly do research to help answer a student's question.
Feather said the newly offered walk-in hours fit into the CDC's efforts to incorporate more technology into their services. In addition to the walk-in hours, the CDC will be debuting a new Web site in the coming weeks, Feather said.