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More than a card: Reflecting on the role of a campus card office

By Joann Wright, University ID/RaiderCard Unit Manager, Texas Tech University

As the summer winds down and another semester is upon us, I’m inclined to consider the role my office plays at the university. While there may be some who claim that your campus ID office is purely a location where plastic cards are made, those in the identification community know our reach is far greater. We facilitate access. Yes, that can mean physical access to buildings, services, and dining plans; but we also provide access to experiences and a shared community. Access to connect with others.

I don’t mean to imply that my office is the be-all-end-all of what it means to be associated with an institution of higher learning. But I am reminded of a personal story from my school. During new student orientation a student forgot their government issued photo ID, so they couldn’t pick up their student ID on arrival, but would instead have to wait until they came back in the fall. The student, obviously upset, then questioned the point of even coming to orientation at all if she couldn’t get her campus card? We gently reminded her that orientation is also about registering for classes, learning traditions, touring campus, and getting information for paying the bill. But this is just an example to illustrate that for students (and let’s be honest, employees too), getting an ID card is a tangible way to show they are part of the university community. They go home excited to show their new ID to their friends and then imagine what the next years hold for them.

An ID card for many people is more than just another card in their wallet. It holds an inherent opportunity for belonging. For the first-generation student, it could be finally realizing the prospects that await them because they now have an opportunity to get a degree. For the student who is relieved that their school uses preferred name on their ID, it could mean they can finally feel they are associated with their real identity. For the non-traditional student, it could be a reminder that working full time and taking classes on the side is worth it to pursue a new dream. For the tired parent taking care of a family, the card could remind them to keep pushing through the night to finish up homework. For university employees, the campus card can be a reminder that each day they work with students and support other employees. Even for retirees who take the opportunity to enroll in personal enrichment classes after a lifetime of hard work, the card can be a symbol of belonging. For each of these groups the ID card is a way we can bond with each other and be identified to our institution and to the world.

For us in the ID business, we also share a unique relationship with each other. Like any industry, we are a group with our own common experiences. We can share a laugh about what worked and what didn’t. We can appreciate the common annoyances of the university setting (yes, the ID office should be notified when someone leaves campus so we can remove their access and deactivate their account). I am always thankful that I am part of a group who is so willing to share tips and tricks of the trade. It is understood that if one succeeds among us we are all successful because we can share what worked and what didn’t. Together we represent more than an identification card — we are the facilitators of relationships for each other and those we serve.

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Have a card office experience or insight that you want to share? We want to hear it and give you the platform to share your ideas with your fellow card office professionals! Send in article submissions by emailing [email protected] and you could be featured!

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