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Focus Groups Aid Re-engineering

By Shang-Lin Chuang
news editor

The student services re-engineering team is meeting with various administrative, faculty, and student groups as it prepares a new plan, scheduled for completion by mid-December.

The team -- composed of separate redesign and assessment teams -- is part of the Institute-wide effort to reduce complexity, improve quality, and reduce costs of processes and services offered.

Officially started in mid October, the team has talked to several groups involved in the offering of student services, said team member Anand Mehta G.

Some of these groups include the Bursar's Office, Student Financial Aid Office, Department of Athletics, Dean's Office, housemasters, faculty committees, the Undergraduate Association, Dormitory Council, Interfraternity Council, and the Graduate Student Council.

The team has also held meetings with focus groups -- smaller groups of people who are invited to participate in discussions on specific topics.

Students want changes soon

Andrew J. Rhomberg G, who attended a focus group meeting on Nov. 14, is involved with many extracurricular activities. "One area that needs to be looked at is the relationship between the Association of Student Activities and clubs."

"Issues such as student club accounts and liability require a lot of time, a lot of paperwork, and few people are satisfied by it," he said.

"On issues such as extracurriculars, there is a lot more that can be done," said Olapeju A. Popoola '96, who also attended a focus group meeting. "We spend so much of our time doing classwork and homework, I wish there is more that i can do socially."

"As a first year grad student, I have not experienced that many problems," said Brian J. Schneider G. "I went to the meeting to contribute ideas from my undergraduate school, University of Rochester, that was undergoing re-engineering."

"I think career and academic counseling needs to be changed," Bharati Kommineni '97. "Knowing first hand how hard it is to try to decide what major to choose, how to go about to find a job, there needs to be improvement to help students."

"I was highly encouraged to go to the focus group meeting by a friend," said Dora M. Paolucci G. "I had a lot of problems, and I wanted to see if my problems are being addressed.

"I had a lot of problems getting paid and getting tuition taken care of," she said. "The communication between department, payroll, bursar's is very confusing and needs to be improved."

"I hope that things will get changed soon," Rhomberg said. "The Institute needs to change sooner or later. It would be best to be done in the next year or two based on the recommendations made."

"I think it is good that the Institute is at least thinking about the student," Popoola said. "They are asking the students what they need, which is not usually done. They are putting the students, the biggest population on campus first."

Implementation starts in February

The plan formulated next month will be refined with comments collected from the community in January, and implemented beginning in February, Mehta said.

"A lot of things could be done more efficiently with less trouble for students," Paolucci said. "It will be interesting to see what actually happens."

"If the reengineering is done properly, it will be very beneficial to the student," Kommineni said. "But I don't think they will be able to complete the new design by January like they said they would."

The assessment team appointed last month, whose purpose is to review administrative and educational support processes and to identify and recommend areas where changes are needed, is made up of Peggy Berkovitz, graduate administrator in the physics department; Stephen D. Immerman and Jennifer D. Dougherty of the Office of Senior Vice President; Lynn M. Flury, assistant to the bursar; Amy C. Haritatos of the Graduate School; Associate Director of Admissions Vincent W. James '78; Mehta; S. Anders Oakland of Information Systems; Senior House Treasurer Jagruti S. Patel '97; Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Marty F. Schlecht ScD '82; Associate Registrar Constance C. Scribner; and Assistant Director of Student Financial Aid Robert E. Weinerman '87.

The redesign team, whose purpose is to design a draft of the improved administrative services to student in areas identified by the assessment team, is made up of Dougherty, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs Margaret S. Enders; Associate Director of Career Services Jeannette L. Gerzon; Immerman; Anthony J. Ives '96; Associate Director of Admissions Marilee Jones; Mehta; Associate Planning Officer Michael K. Owu '86; Schlecht; and Director of Educational Services in the Sloan School of Management David A. Weber SM '83.

Teams identify processes

The teams, coordinated by James and Mehta, have been soliciting community input through newspaper advertisements, meetings, and presentations to various groups, Mehta said.

The assessment team has identified several student services for potential re-engineering. These processes include academic advising and support, admission, alumni services, career assistance, extra-curricular support, supplies and materials, space scheduling, student dining, and student housing.

The team wants to know what needs to be changed, what needs to be maintained, and what is in most need to be changed, Mehta said.

"People's jobs will change quite a bit," Dougherty said. "The teams are coming to the community with raw materials that are not polished, and the teams want the community to help shape these new processes."