Behind the Scenes at the University Switchboard

Posted: August 8, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s Note: This is the third feature story of an eight-article series detailing services that do not receive much publicity, but are used every day by many faculty and staff members at George Mason.

By Elena Barbre

So what really happens when you dial the ubiquitous 993-1000? You, along with approximately 120,000 other callers per year, connect to the finely tuned machine that is the university switchboard. This branch of the Information Services Office, headed by Rebecca Nemeth and staffed by rotating shifts of 15 to 25 student operators, answers the 6,000 to 10,000 calls a month that come through the switchboard requesting everything from the start date for classes to the phone number for professor x.

Nemeth says the most challenging part of her job is scheduling her students. “I try to work around their classes, but it’s hard when you have 25 different schedules plus clubs and other campus activities.” Training these students takes another chunk of time, especially at a university that is constantly growing, changing, and hosting high-profile events.

Student switchboard operators handle calls to the university’s 993-1000 number.

The student operators are each required to take the GMU 101 course, which Nemeth also teaches, as an introduction to the university’s people, programs, and resources. Each student also takes a turn staffing the information kiosks outside the Finley Building and the Parking Deck, which gives them a broader perspective of the university, as well as some relief from the frenetic pace of the switchboard.

“I like being in the middle of all this,” says Nemeth, who has supervised the switchboard for the past seven years and prides her operation on being the live voice behind the university’s administrative maze. “It’s fun, and it’s different every day. I like solving little problems and I like to help people. We are a service provider–just ask us and we’ll do it for you.”

The switchboard has just moved to a new location in SUB I, Room 206B, where it continues to serve all three campuses. Operating hours are Monday to Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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