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.

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This page contains a single entry by ingridn published on January 6, 2012 3:31 PM.

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