The University of Minnesota opened a passport office earlier this month following a recommendation from the U.S. Department of State.
The University’s Passport Office, which opened July 8, is an official passport acceptance facility operated by the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance office located on 17th Avenue Southeast. It accepts passport applications and takes photos for passports and country-specific visas. In addition to supporting University students, the office provides services to the broader community.
The launch of the office came in response to a suggestion from the Department of State based on an analysis which identified a shortage of passport offices in the Twin Cities area, said Missy Peterson, the director of finance and operations for the GPS Alliance.
The analysis also showed that passport offices located in universities and libraries received higher satisfaction ratings from consumers compared to offices found in other locations, Peterson said. She speculated the consumer-friendly atmosphere fostered by universities and libraries might have something to do with these findings.
In any case, maintaining a warm environment is a priority for the passport office as it endeavors to serve the public. “Our goal is to be the face of passport services ... and to make it not be a scary process,” said Meaka Pitschka, the lead agent at the office. “We’re here to help provide services for the University and the community at large.”
In preparation for their roles, Pitschka and other agents at the office had to undergo a training provided by the Department of State. They were trained by passport acceptance agents in how to look at applications and documents to ensure they are complete with the correct information, Pitschka said.
“We’re that first-line staff that looks at the applications, collects the information, and we send it off for processing,” Pitschka said.
Bethany Marquand, a University junior studying supply chain and operations management, is preparing for an internship in Italy in the spring. She said she was referred to the new passport office by the Learning Abroad Center.
For Marquand, who lives on campus and does not have a car, the University office was a convenient option for applying for her first passport.
University students are also offered a discount on their photos at the University passport office.
As more people come in, Pitschka said the office is eager to continue to serve the public as business picks up.
“We like to make sure that this is not a stressful process and that if people have questions we’re here to help them with their applications,” Pitschka said.