The Student and Administrative Services Cluster team (L-R, from top) Cholo Mallillin (Director of the Office for Student Services), Elias Pan (Director, Office of Facilities and Sustainability), JP Gregorio (Director, Office of Management Information Systems), Gary Faustino (Director, Office of Guidance and Counseling), Chris Castillo (Assistant to the Associate Dean for Student and Administrative Services for Campus Events Management), Joy Salita (Associate Dean for Student and Administrative Services), Dr. Henri De la Cruz (Director, Office of Health Services), Ginger Acevedo (Director, Loyola Schools Bookstore), Lucia Chavez (Assistant to the Associate Dean for Student and Administrative Services)

The Story of LS One

By Nette Zabala

Having a one stop shop for student services was a three-year-old dream. When the pandemic hit, the Loyola Schools had three months to transform the dream into reality.

When COVID-19 struck and forced the Loyola Schools (LS) to abruptly switch to online learning, it left a lot of uncertainty in the air. Students had a lot of questions such as “how will I do my load revision?”, “how do I get help for my AISIS?”, and “how do I get in touch with my guidance counselor?”

“It is second nature for us to think of our students,” says Chris Castillo, Assistant to the Associate Dean for Student and Administrative Services for Campus Events Management. “We asked ourselves, ‘How do we deliver our student services during a pandemic?’” The answer lay in moving student services to the online platform.

In just three months, LS One has become the one stop virtual shop of the Loyola Schools. Students can simply visit the website for guidance on all student-related concerns and inquiries spanning learning management systems, library services, academic services, health and wellness, IT support, formation, records and information, scholarships and aid, accounting, logistics, and security. All official announcements and memos are posted on LS One, so students know that news is not official until it is on LS One.

The online platform was designed to be intuitive so students can search and navigate on their own. However, if they need more help, LS One also has a live interactive component in the form of OSSO—a virtual bear/mascot of the LS One virtual assistance helpdesk. Through OSSO, students needing assistance can email or chat with officers who are on standby from 8 am to 10 pm.

“OSSO helps us to be there for our students. From the very beginning, our team was adamant. ‘Walang iwanan. [‘No one will be left behind.’] Giving up on a student’s query was not an option. We are committed to helping the student until his or her concern is completely addressed,” says Michael Mallillin, Director of the Office for Student Services.

Walang iwanan” also rings true for another component of LS One, which is the sending of Portable Learning Packets (PLPs) to students. It is a system that allows students who have internet connection issues to request for offline versions and low bandwidth forms of their learning materials. “This is our way of showing the Ignatian tradition of cura personalis [care for the entire person] where we make sure that no student is left behind in their online learning,” says Lucia Chavez, Assistant to the Associate Dean for Student and Administrative Services.

Lenz Dagohoy, a physics major, shared her appreciation of the PLP through a tweet announcing that her “education came in the mail today.” Her tweet has since gone viral. Dagohoy says that receiving her PLP was a big help. “It’s really cool. I feel like Ateneo is offering students alternatives. It’s a good way to make sure that learning continues.”

The LS One is a joint project of a conglomerate of units in the Loyola Schools: the Office of Student Services, Office of Guidance and Counseling, Office of Health Services, Office of Facilities and Sustainability, Office of Management Information Systems, and the Loyola Schools Bookstore, which are all under the Office of the Associate Dean for Student and Administrative Services.

After launching LS One, Castillo surveyed the fruits of the whole team’s labor and has many reasons to feel proud. “In the midst of all the chaos, we needed to recollect and refocus, and this is our end product,” he says. However, this is just the first step as there are more dreams in the pipeline. Down the road, the LS One is preparing to make the platform more transactional. Soon, students will be able to order a transcript or purchase from the bookstore completely online. And further down the road, a new building dedicated to student services will rise on campus.

Asked if the Loyola Schools would ever go back to the way things were, Mallillin says no. “Echoing the University President, the call to the university is to reimagine Ateneo’s future in the face of difficult challenges, to transform and commit. We have transformed because of this experience so there is no going back, only moving forward,” he says.

Explore the LS One website here.