Stephen Jones is the kind of person who seems to stop every few steps to say a warm hello to an old friend, a student he helped, or even a total stranger. It is, after all, his job. As an Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) counselor and its transfer/continuing students program coordinator, Jones makes it his business to make sure every student at UCSB has access to advice for their future.
“EOP was born out of the civil rights movement,” Jones said. “[However,] we are not just for minorities—that has never been true. Our purpose is to provide bridges for first-generation, low-income students.”
The program attempts provides four main services: EOP Counseling Support Services, Summer Transitional Enrichment Program (STEP), a Mentor Program, and Cultural Services and Resource Centers. For Jones’s part, being a member of the EOP team means being a counselor-of-all-trades.
”We teach students how to approach academics,” he said. “I put together graduate student workshops and supervise six mentors in the residence halls. We have a wealth of information, and we become our students’ confidantes.”
According to Jones, sometimes this means not only tooling with a student’s academic schedule, but also being there to listen if there’s a problem that springs from something deeper than merely having too many late-night chemistry labs. “While we are here for academic purposes, sometimes other psychological things come out.”
Whatever the problem, Jones said he’s confident in his ability to make sure students walk out of his office with a piece of helpful advice. “Any student that comes through my door, I make sure that they leave with something,” Jones said. “We have 21,000 students [at UCSB], and those who don’t come see us run into problems that could have been resolved with just a little counseling.”
However, being a font of academic and personal advice has become a bit more trying with the recent UC budget cuts. “We lost four counseling positions because of budget cuts, and now we are always busy,” Jones said. “There is a longer wait for students to see a counselor.” As I sat with him in his office, Jones showed me his calendar to demonstrate that he was usually booked solid throughout his day. “No relief in sight, but we enjoy the work,” he noted.
Relief or not, Jones’s overall aim seems genuine: trying to help students find their place at UCSB, in Isla Vista, and—eventually—in their career in the proverbial real world. “This is your home,” Jones said, but the world “will not revolve around you. You are part of the world.”