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Transition Teams Look to Streamline Dean's Office

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor

Fifteen transition teams were recently established to better organize and structure the 14 offices that compose the Office for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs.

The advent of these teams will bring the formal re-engineering process of the newly consolidated Dean's Office to a close.

The teams will be serving as "the natural evolution of re-engineering," said Steven D. Immerman, director of administration and operations. Since January, the groups have been determining where the opportunities for change exist in the office.

Unlike re-engineering, where personnel exclusively focused on forming a plan to reform an organization, the transition teams will mainly be composed of people who continue to work within their various offices while they implement changes, Immerman said.

Instead of focusing merely on finances, the transition teams will also focus on improving the quality of services for those who work in and utilize the Dean's Office.

Over the next 12 to 18 months, the transition teams will be working to unify various processes across the various offices, said Dean of Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams. "The transition teams have the goal of saying in a specified time. We will have made major changes in the structure and operations" of the Dean's Office.

Teams to address student services

Several of the new transition teams will be directly restructuring offices that students regularly interact with, Immerman said.

For example, the educational support team is bringing together individuals from the Registrar's Office, the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, and the Campus Activities Complex, among others, to work on improving the quality of service provided to students.

"We're flattening the organization,"Williams said. As part of the process, new groups may be formed to provide specific services.

For instance, the co-curricular activities transition team may create a new group to handle all activity registration for groups. Currently, groups wishing to hold an event must visit several offices to get the proper approval.

Another transition team, the residential system integration team, will work with the Office of Residence and Campus Activities and the Department of Housing and Food Services to implement the proposals of the housing and residential life re-engineering team.

The HARL team issued their final report in January, recommending better communication within the residential system and the dissemination of information in the dormitories.

Theteam is now working with residents of McCormick Hall to develop a pilot program to implement the decisions of the HARLteam, said Margaret R. Bates, dean for student life. McCormick residents and members of the team are visiting other campuses to discover new ideas and develop a framework for the redesign of dormitory services.

Groups to centralize operations

The remaining transition teams will work across all the offices in the reorganized Dean's Office in order to control costs and improve services, Immerman said.

"The Dean's Office needs to develop more centralized services to avoid duplication," Williams said.

For example, the communications and publications infrastructure team will bring together individuals from all the offices that are involved in publishing, Williams said. The end result of the team will be a central service that all the offices can utilize when they need electronic or paper publication.

Other groups will deal with financial operations, planning and management, human resources, information technology, and facilities maintenance, Williams said.

While these groups may consolidate some of the functions of the various offices now under the Dean's Office, any potential mergers of complete offices will not occur until later, Williams said. "The last thing you want to do is set up a whole bunch of new offices" before the processes involved have been redesigned.

Groups will utilize student input

Student input will play a key role in the transition teams, Williams said. "Each team has to have profound student involvement."

In determining how to solicit student opinion, each team will first consider whether to utilize an already established group, Williams said.For example, the educational support transition team can call upon the associate advisers for input.

Other groups will be hiring students as full-time interns during the summer to assist during the transition. Focus groups, advisory boards, and student membership on teams will also be utilized, Bates said.

Eventually, the goal is to inform and seek input from all students. "Student leaders can only take it so far,"Bates said. Individuals who are not involved in drafting plans must be presented with opportunities to share their opinion.

Redesign process accelerates

Because all the offices involved in the transition teams are under the framework of the Dean's Office, the teams are expected to finish their work within 12 to 18 months, Bates said.

By finishing the process in a shorter period of time, the offices will eliminate the burden of continually adapting to major changes, Immerman said.

One of the transition teams will specifically be dealing with the identity of the Dean's Office, Williams said. The goal of that team is "getting people in the office to know each other."

The reorganized Dean's Office was created onOct. 1, merging 14 offices in order to provide a single organizational structure for most student support services.