Organizational Changes Strengthen, Enhance UM Student Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Beginning this summer, the University of Mississippi will distribute the duties performed by the Office of Leadership and Advocacy and the violence intervention and prevention area of the University Counseling Center into two previously established departments, the Ole Miss Student Union and UMatter: Student Support and Advocacy, all falling under the umbrella of the Division of Student Affairs.

This change will allow for enhancement and more effective coordination of services, and will not result in any reduction of university services and programs.

Programs that fall under “leadership,” such as leadership development programs and conferences, registered student organizations and event registration, will be under the purview of the Ole Miss Student Union.

“I feel like it makes these programs more accessible to our students,” said Bradley Baker, Ole Miss Student Union director. “For me, I think the office will be more of a one-stop shop.

“It really streamlines the process for the students, whether they are looking to reserve a room, start a student organization or find ways to get involved.” 

The Student Union is scheduled to reopen this summer.

UMatter will consist of three case managers that will handle student advocacy, sexual assault response and violence intervention and prevention, as well as student of concern reports.

The merger of advocacy personnel is part of a larger university plan to increase exposure for support and advocacy resources. The organizational change has been informed by national best practices, as well as feedback from many campus stakeholders, including students, faculty and staff.

All Office of Leadership and Advocacy employees will be shifted into either the Student Union office or UMatter.

Kate Forster, a case manager with UMatter, said the shift will help her office manage the growing number of cases the university handles.

“The number of students that get connected to our services grow exponentially each year,” she said. “Since I started three years ago, I think we’ve almost doubled the amount of students that I get connected to each year.

“We are looking at combining our advocacy services and elevating our services by including violence intervention and prevention.”

Forster said UMatter will combine the two case managers previously under OLA with a case manager from the violence prevention and intervention area in the University Counseling Center. All three case managers will be cross-trained to handle any issues students might have, providing expanded resources for students during times of need.

“We will still contain the case management work, working with students that are facing any number of challenges that may come up – academic, personal, financial, mental or physical health – all of the unexpected challenges a student might face during their time at the university,” she said.

“As well, we will handle sexual assault response and supporting survivors of relationship violence, stalking, sexual assault. Those services out of violence intervention and prevention will remain very much the same.”

Likewise for Baker, his office will maintain, and in some cases grow, the programs previously housed under the “leadership” arm of OLA, while continuing to manage the Student Union building itself.

“We will not just be taking on new responsibilities; we will be extending them,” Baker said. “We will have an individual responsible for our leadership groups, whether that’s PULSE or MPower.

“That individual will be charged with creating more extensive programs and even enhancing the current programs.”

The Student Union also will advise programs such as the Student Activities Association, Associated Student Body, Ole Miss Big Event and RebelThon.

Despite the physical move to the Student Union, no contact information for any of the leadership and advocacy programs will change. The website to report issues that may fall under the purview of the case managers will remain

Forster said UMatter will maintain its confidential designation.

“So, students can report to us about anything that might be Title IX related, and we’re not mandated to share that,” she said “That was really important when we made this merger that we got that designation.”