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Student Success Programs launches text message system

The Student Success Programs has launched a new system intended to provide students with information, updates, and important approaching deadlines regarding PSU and coursework.  

PSU students may have received text messages from Gus the Gorilla checking in on them.  

“…(Gus) is a text bot and he will reach out to students periodically this semester,” said Heather Eckstein, director of Student Success Programs. “…Students can also ask him questions and if he knows the answer, he’ll tell them and if he doesn’t know the answer he will refer (to me)… He’ll also do things like provide updates. So.., enrollment (is approaching). Students should be meeting with their advisor (and) making plans for the spring semester of coursework. So, he’ll be sure to send out reminders about those things too.”  

The system was piloted last year with students who were in Gorilla Gateway.  

“…The response was very positive and we thought it would be helpful for all students to have (this resources),” Eckstein said. “…We even had a couple students that were like, ‘hey, why are I not getting text messages from Gus..?’ That was pretty cool so of course we added them to the list… I think it’s a positive thing… They can opt out of it; they don’t have to participate if they don’t choose to. But most students appear to be okay… with receiving information through this type of (system)…”  

There are two main goals with this system: to provide information and to connect students to PSU.   

“Well, first we want to make sure that students are aware of things that are going on campus..,” Eckstein said. “So, one example is after we had stay at home orders, Gus sent out information to students to say, ‘Hey, these are the things that are going on,’ or ‘These are the dates that have changed..,’ and we’re pushing that information out to those students in a very timely manner. So, one of our goals is to be sure that we have a mechanism for doing that. Now Pitt State uses multiple social media (platforms) to push information out… and we’re going to continue to do those things and students can access information that way. But this is another option for students to receive information in a very timely manner. We think it is kind of fun and we want to connect students to Pitt State. So, that’s another goal is to help students feel connected to the university.” 

This system also provides an information source that students can use when they need it if they have a specific question to ask. Gus has automated responses and can answer questions allowing for an immediate response to some questions.  

“We do really care about students at PSU and we want them to know we’re here to assist them and we think this can help us do… that as much as possible and in real time,” Eckstein said. “So, if they need it at a time when I’m not sitting at my desk to answer my phone and it’s a question Gus can answer, Gus can answer that right there for them.”   

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