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Re-engineering Teams Target Student Service Processes

By Shang-Lin Chuang
News Editor

The student services re-engineering team is preparing its final recommendations on topics that could affect the way students register for classes or look for jobs. The team has been looking at ways to make procedures like registering more efficient and cost-effective, and user-friendly.

The recommendations are slated to be presented to the re-engineering steering committee in early March; the team plans to use the time until then to solicit input from the community.

"There are many mechanisms, from individual discussion to focus group discussion to advisory groups to large group meetings, that will provide communications," said team captain and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Martin F. Schlecht ScD '77.

Focus groups will consist of about 10 people from similar backgrounds, which will collect and consider ideas and suggestions. Large group meetings could involve people from the Graduate Student Council, the Undergraduate Association, living groups and dormitories, or academic departments.

"We are really hoping to get a lot of student feedback," said student services team member David A. Weber, the director of educational services. "The open house we held was very helpful, the information was more detailed, and that's why we are going to do it again on Monday, Feb. 26. I hope it is obvious that student involvement in all areas of re-engineering is critical."

Processes chosen based on criteria

The student services assessment team has marked several so-called "processes" - or general activities, again, like registering, that students have to go through - for redesign. Processes that affect student life were looked at and recommended for change based on a set of criteria developed earlier, Weber said.

The criteria includes importance to the student, level of dissatisfaction, opportunity to complement the educational mission, cross-functional interaction, ease of implementation, cost, and volume.

The four processes recommended for redesign are co-curricular support, career assistance, orientation, and educational program support. The processes of supplies, housing, and personal support have been recommended to go through a set of changes including re-organization and training.

Co-curricular support is among the processes the team has recommended for redesign. The processes the team is proposing for change support event registration and planning, the management of student accounts, space allocation and scheduling of student activities, and allocation of funding for all student activities.

Processes of career assistance recommended for redesign include programming, publications, advice, and information dissemination, planning for work, service or further education, development of connections among all constituencies, and feedback mechanisms.

All processes involved in freshman orientation, excluding residence selection but including the period between application and admission, have been recommended for redesign.

In the process of education program support, the coordination of freshman year information, support to academic advising, provision of information about educational opportunities, and support for skills development have been recommended for redesign.

All four of these processes have been recommended for redesign starting either June 15 or Sep. 1. The implementation of the redesigns has been temporarily set at either this December or March of next year.

Processes marked for change

Provision of supplies and materials has also been recommended for change. Process owners would be created to coordinate access to goods, appoint undergraduate and graduate students to the supplier consolidation re-engineering team, and emphasize student needs in administrative decisions related to these processes.

The housing process has been recommended to be reorganized by first combining the Offices of Housing and Residential Life, and secondly by merging the management of the physical assets of housing into the Physical Plant custodial and repair and maintenance zone processes.

In the process of personal support, the team recommended establishing coordinators at the senior level to organize, train and support service providers across varied offices, and information dissemination.

The main thing to keep in mind is that what we have been presenting is our preliminary proposals," said assessment team coordinator Anand Mehta G. "They are not set in stone yet. We have some ideas, but we need to have input before we know what will work."

"Our sole purpose was to develop a short list," Weber said. "We do think we know enough to make a firm recommendation, but the specifics need more study."

The team has raised important ideas, said Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates, who attended Monday's advisory group meeting. "I am appreciative about the things being address, but I see the proposals more as the beginning of a process than a final resting point."

"I thought the proposals sounded all right," said Undergraduate Association Representative to the meeting Dow-Chung Chi '98. "Overall, the recommendations are on the right track, putting services."

"I'm very impressed by the sustained devotion and hard work that has obviously gone into the assessment team's recommendations," said Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Travis R. Merritt. "More than that, they have succeeded in identifying several areas in which quality of student services might clearly be improved."

The goal of re-engineering is to save money and improve services, Chi said. "I think these proposals fall more on the side of saving money and manpower. I don't think the students will feel the changes they are making."