Volume 9, Number 13 March 15, 2002

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Team honing details of new merged Registrar’s & Student Services unit

As it enters the final month of its Sept. 15-to-April 15 working life, the project team merging the U of S Registrar’s Office with Student Affairs & Services is ready to unveil its vision of the future.

Project Consultant Ed Possberg says that after six months of work – including wide-ranging student surveys and focus groups, extensive consultation with University staff, and a look at best practices at other universities – his eight-member team is now honing the details of what the new merged unit will look like and how it will operate.  These will include issues like staffing, policy, organizational structure, required office space, and location.

“We plan to roll this out by the second week of April,” for all to see, Possberg says.  Then, as the project team winds down its work by April 15, it will also release an implementation plan, mapping out how the two existing offices can join forces to become one co-ordinated new unit.

And, Possberg adds, it’s a new unit that doesn’t yet have a name – so his group has announced a contest to “name the organization”, in an effort to generate some fun and interest in the changeover (see sidebar, below).

Ed Possberg

The “ROSS Project” team (for “Registrar’s Office and Student Services Redesign and Restructuring”) has purposely spent the lion’s share of its time seeking input on the project’s stated aim of how a new merged unit can incorporate “effective and efficient processes and services within the University to improve the quality of the experience for students, and services to internal stakeholders.”

In October, 86 students in 11 focus groups – including Aboriginal students, international students, students with disabilities, young alumni, residence students, first-year students, and graduate students – were asked about their likes, dislikes and wishes when it comes to student services.

Based on those results, in November a detailed survey was e-mailed to 6,000 U of S students, and 1,331 responded – an unusually high return rate of 22 per cent.

Beyond that, interviews of up to three hours were conducted with 60 stakeholder groups – including not only Registrar’s Office and Student Affairs & Services staff, but also some from Alumni & Development, Security Services, Chaplains’ Office, Parking, Residences, and some colleges.

“I really want to thank the many people who have given so much time to help us,” Possberg says.

He says the flood of gathered information will make a difference.

“There will be a lot of changes, and it’s not about cost-cutting.  It’s about doing things better – for the students and the institution.”

Possberg says while some changes will happen soon, others may take years, depending on how quickly resources and facilities can be arranged.

He says he knows organizational change can be difficult for some staff members to accept, in this case the staff have helped to author the changes, through consultation and ongoing involvement.

“We’ve tried hard to communicate with staff, through newsletters and regular meetings.  They’ve been very highly involved.”

While he can’t scoop the project team’s forthcoming report, Possberg can suggest what student-service issues are uppermost in students’ minds.  The survey showed they highly value these six attributes for student services:

  • Friendly, respectful and personalized service from staff (ranked most important by students).
  • Accurate, timely and easy-to-understand information.
  • Assistance in decision-making on academic, career or personal situations.
  • Services being available on-line.
  • Quick turnaround time.
  • Centralized ‘one-stop shopping’ that reduces runaround and problems (ranked lowest on this list, but still important, by students).

The merger idea gained momentum when it became apparent that former Registrar Ken Smith and Associate Vice-President of Student Affairs & Services Vera Pezer were both going to retire at the end of December 2001.

Last April, Vice-President Academic & Provost Michael Atkinson asked two senior officials from the Universities of Calgary and Manitoba to visit campus, meet staff, and suggest how the U of S might proceed.  Their June report recommended merging the two offices.

Last August the two office staffs held a day-long retreat to discuss the matter, and by mid-September the ROSS Project had been launched.  Its team is: Marion Van Impe (Financial Services), Dean Jones (Information Technology Services), Jana Danielson (Student Affairs & Services), Lyn Currie (Education Library), Alison Pickrell (Office of the Registrar), Kelly McInnes (Office of the Registrar), Jack Wallace (U of S Students’ Union), and Possberg.

Contest – Name the new unit!

The new campus office that will be formed soon from the merger of the current Registrar’s Office and Student Affairs & Services is a poor waif in need of a name.  You can name it and also win a valuable prize!   Here are the rules:

  • Open to:  Anyone with a great idea for a name.
  • Criteria:  The name must:  reflect the U of S’s commitment to students;  be descriptive of the functions of the unit;  be simple and easy to understand;  and be catchy and inspirational.
  • Prize:  The winner of the ‘Name the Organization’ contest will receive a $100 gift certificate for the U of S Bookstore or any of its satellite stores.
  • Deadline for submissions:  Monday, April 2, 2002.
  • Forward submission, in confidence, to:  Kelly McInnes, ROSS-Project Team, c/o Student Awards Office, Office of the Registrar, Main Floor, Administration Building.

The ROSS-Project Team reserves the right to refuse submissions.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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