January 2012 Archives

Online self-certification for private loans

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FA-IT has just implemented a new self-service web application that allows students to complete self-certification for University private loans online (i.e., TILA). The application populates the form for the student using registration and other data from PeopleSoft. When student submits TILA online, pertinent system data is updated, speeding up loan processing and disbursement. This task used to require in-person assistance from One Stop Student Services, routing through Imaging, and processing by Financial Aid Loan Unit staff. The project rollout marks a big win for student and staff alike -- saving the University time and money.

Next ASR staff event: May 16

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The next ASR staff event will be held on Wednesday, May 16. Specific details regarding timing and location will be available in the coming weeks (and a meeting will be added to your calendar). The Development Team plans to repeat the half-day conference format, with a few new twists.

The Employee Survey Team

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This year, Academic Support Resources staff members will be asked to complete four brief surveys about their experience and satisfaction working within ASR. Questions for these surveys are developed, and their answers are interpreted, by the employee survey team, which was formed in 2007 to help make ASR a better place to work. The team's first work involved a review of questions from previous surveys and an exploration of new ways to solicit information from staff members.

Although early survey questions focused on demographic information and staff experiences working within ASR, the team has made efforts to develop questions that invite nuanced suggestions or ask about employee experiences working within the larger University community. Some questions are asked repeatedly, across surveys, so the team can examine trends in responses. The survey team hopes that this year, by using four small surveys instead of one large one, it can increase the completion rate and write questions that follow up on trends from previous responses.

For each survey, the team considers not just which questions to ask, but also how to ask them and how to invite responses. Once responses come in, they're organized using affinity diagrams, in which similar responses are grouped together and larger groups are represented by larger typefaces. Although the team looks for large affinity groups, which indicate wide consensus among respondents, it also examines smaller response groups or individual ideas which might have value for ASR. Once the team has categorized all responses, it shares its findings with supervisors and directors and recommends actions that ASR can pursue to positively affect employee work experiences.

In the past, the team has been able to help develop regular supervisors' meetings and to determine the ongoing importance of employee recognition. Now, the team is working to encourage employee participation and to develop questions that can help staff members anonymously and safely share their concerns and ideas about working as part of the ASR team. Watch for the next survey at the end of January.

Employee survey team:

Anya Norton, process coordinator
Ingrid Nuttall, assistant director
Maggie O'Neill, principal collections representative
Travis Trautman, business analyst

1) You mentioned that survey results regularly underscore the value of employee recognition. Are there any other trends you see across surveys and years?

Communication is another trend that shows up year after year. Staff continually ask for more communication about what is happening in ASR and how ASR is perceived within the University. Communication has improved through the years and the number of communication issues has decreased but it is something that continues to come up.

2) How do you determine the appropriate method of response for each question in a survey?

First we create a quantitative question that we feel is important to ask staff or the ASR directors feel is important to ask staff. Quantitative questions typically include a 5-point Likert scale but may also be multiple choice questions asking staff to choose topics that are important to them. We then evaluate if the question should have qualitative follow up questions. If it is determined the quantitative question should be tied to qualitative questions we then draft questions asking what works and what need improvement.

3) What sorts of efforts has the survey team made to increase survey completion rates? Are there any methods you're interested in trying?

We have tried many things in the past to try to increase survey response rates. We have offered to have a drawing for a prize if we got a 95% response rate. We have also given out treats to entice people to complete the survey. But we struggle with increasing the response rate. Currently we work on reminding people to complete the survey during meetings. I am open to suggestions about how to increase the response rate.

4) What are some initiatives that have come out of responses to past surveys?

Supervisors meeting, getting the ASR website updated and providing some ideas for the content for the website, ASR wide training opportunities, and News & Notes.

Gov. Dayton's bonding bill

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Gov. Dayton's capital budget recommendations are now available (go to pg. 26). The recommendations are about $100 million less than the University's capital request. The implications of the recommendations for ASR are still being determined.

Millions of aid dollars disbursed

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Financial aid for spring 2012 was disbursed to student accounts on Tuesday, January 10. Here are the numbers:

Crookston: $7,501,801
Morris: $8,673,342
Duluth: $55, 592,534
Twin Cities: $217,581,704

That's one spicy financial aid meatball.

Capitalization rules only U would know

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The U has some specific capitalization rules that you may not be aware of. For example, did you know you capitalize "Mall" as in "Northrop Mall" but not "plaza" as in Northrop plaza?" The official style guide may be kaput, but there's still a style web page that addresses some of these particular capitalization rules. Check it out when you have a moment.

Director's update: Thank you for a great start

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Spring 2012 is off to a great start. As you know, ASR staff play a critical role in the day-to-day work of students, faculty, staff, and others. No matter where you work in ASR, you make a difference to the University community. I want to thank you for your commitment to our mission and to this institution. Saying "thank you" is a very small gesture, but it is an honest one. I sincerely value you and your contributions to the University.

Improving tuition and fee management

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Here's a project team with ♪our minds on our money and our money on our minds♫. ASR is working with the Office of Budget & Finance and key financial contacts throughout the University to improve the process of requesting and reviewing fees. The tuition and fee management system (TFMS) project aims to improve financial decision-making, automate some data entry, and provide better tuition and fee information to the University community (including parents and students). The team has completed data modeling and requirements gathering and is now consulting with users to sketch out the interface. The project is notable in that the ASR Web Team will be doing the development work on this enterprise system in partnership with the Office of Information Technology. The new TFMS system is planned for an October 2012 launch to coincide with the next fiscal year. For more information, visit the TFMS project site.

Professional skills courses that may interest you

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The Office of Human Resources offers a number of professional skills courses ranging from "Leading Effective Meetings," to "Communicating Across Cultures," to "Conflict Fluency." Check out the courses on OHR's website. If you want to register for one, speak with your supervisor and complete a professional development request form.

Become a Gmail ninja

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Well, perhaps a padawan. Paula Seeger (OCM Support) would like to share these handy Gmail tips with the rest of us. Anyone who masters all the keyboard shortcuts deserves some pie.

New online transcript ordering system

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The new online system for ordering official transcripts will go live on February 1, 2012. The new system will expedite both ordering and processing and will offer an option for an electronic official transcript that can be delivered minutes after it is ordered. A new pricing structure for official transcripts will also take effect when this new system is launched. Read more on The Ledger.

New TXT-U vendor

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The University has partnered with a new vendor to host its emergency notification system (TXT-U). If you haven't already, you may want to sign up for TXT -U to stay informed about critical campus safety information.

"ASR Team" video now available

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As anticipated as the next Hollywood blockbuster (or, perhaps, even more so), the "ASR Team" video is now available on the ASR website. Use the pause button with reckless abandon to learn the names of your colleagues and match them to their fabulous faces.

Employee survey results

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The results and recommendations from the second 2011-12 ASR employee survey are now available. The survey team (Anya Norton, Ingrid Nuttall, Maggie O'Neill, and Travis Trautman) reviewed and analyzed the responses from the survey, developed tag clouds from the responses to the qualitative questions, and presented recommendations to the ASR directors based on the data. The third mini-survey will be sent at the end of January and will include these recommendations for you to review and select which one(s) you believe are most important to implement.

New Office of Classroom Management home page

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The Office of Classroom Management (OCM) launched its redesigned website home page on Monday, January 9. The content hasn't changed, but the look and navigation have been updated to better reflect users needs. Contact information has been added to a bar at the bottom of all pages, and OCM news is now pushed through a dynamic feed to the home page under "OCM news spotlight". Any bookmarks you might have to OCM web pages will still work fine and dandy.

New contact for the imaging unit

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Any requests for the ASR imaging unit should now be directed to asrfiles@umn.edu. This includes name changes, duplicate records, and record conversions.

ASR event materials on ASR web

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There have been many requests to post the PowerPoint presentations and video that were shown at the December ASR staff event on the ASR website. The PowerPoints are up; there's a hitch with the video, but it should be up next week.

The Graduate Education Transition Team

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The graduate education transition (GET) team began its work transitioning responsibilities from the Graduate School to colleges in summer of 2010. First formed of John Vollum and Frank Blalark, and later adding Robert Bode and Heather McLaughlin, the team started by developing an understanding of around 150 processes managed by the Graduate School, then by meeting with colleges to discuss how they handle their parts of these processes. From the beginning, the team has aimed to free human resources for student service by streamlining processes and leveraging technology. This has involved a large-scale data conversion of graduate student records, the mapping of paper-driven processes for automation in WorkflowGen, and transfer of imaging capabilities to colleges.

Through its collaboration with colleges and the Graduate School, the GET team developed a consultative model for transforming administrative processes and created for each graduate program a new plan-level coordinator (PLC) role, a key contact for majors at the graduate level, who works to ensure that the right people are involved in reviewing decisions. The team's first process automation focused on the graduate request for registration exceptions, the process by which students can request exceptions to several unique registration policies, with distinct request types and approval paths. Working with the ASR web team, the GET team created a simplified online form using WorkflowGen, but learned that future complex workflows may be best broken apart into simpler processes before automation.

The team is working now on automating the components of the degree program form, developing workflows first for adviser assignments and then for committee assignments. Attendees of Registrar's Advisory Committee meetings are updated about the team's progress each month, and can also stay informed by visiting the Graduate education transition: student administrative processes website or by reading The Ledger.

Team members:

Frank Blalark, director of academic records
Robert Bode, business process analyst
Heather McLaughlin, business process analyst
John Vollum, project manager

Interview questions

What parts of your work have you found to be the most challenging?
Heather: There is a lot of great opportunity to make some really big, positive changes and it's easy to get caught up in processes and all the potential improvements that could be introduced. Unfortunately, the reality is that we are all constrained by resources and time and therefore need to be mindful of our scope. We have worked hard to define a scope that is both realistic and beneficial to graduate education.

What process will you begin working with after degree plan? How will you approach it?
Heather: We will begin working on the various degree progress milestone processes. We will approach this process in the same manner, by using the consultative model for transforming administrative processes.

In our interview, you mentioned the concept of kaizen. How has the GET team used kaizen in its work?
John: Kaizen means improvement. We constantly look for ways to simply processes and remove wasted effort. We try to find standards of practice that everyone can use and that reduce needless complexity.

In your initial work, you found that you would be considering around 150 processes handled by the Graduate School. How did this number compare with your estimates?
John: It isn't the number, but rather trying to get a handle on how much work each process involved. A simple item could end up to be hundreds of hours of work, or it could be almost nothing. We had to understand each one adequately to be able to make a project plan.


You mentioned that you used some of CLA's mapping of its internal efforts in getting an understanding of processes in other colleges. What elements of CLA's structure did you find most useful, and why?
John: CLA had looked at the report and organized it into six categories so they could divide up the work. We looked at the categories (Admissions, Curriculum, Communications, Data Management, Governance, and Placement) and found them workable for us and for other colleges. We subsequently asked the colleges to designate contacts for each category. This step allowed us to target our interactions with the colleges toward people who had accountability for a given category.

Each issue of News & Notes will feature a profile of a unit or team within ASR. If you know of a unit or team you'd like to read about, write to communications@rt.asr.umn.edu with suggestions.

Get connected

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Expand your network by checking out one of the many professional networking and collaboration groups on campus. Many thanks to Santiago Fernandez-Gimenez (ASR-IT) for submitting this tip. If you have an item for readers roundup, send it to communications@rt.asr.umn.edu.

No more Norris

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Norris Hall went toe-to-toe with a demolition ball; the ball won. Where Norris Hall once stood will soon be green space and a new path to the East River Parkway.

News & Notes online

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Starting this week, News & Notes content will appear not just in your inbox but also on the ASR website. The new News & Notes blog will feature stories from this newsletter, strategies and tips for successful communication and collaboration, and other features to support the work of ASR staff.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2011 is the previous archive.

February 2012 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.