September 2012 Archives

Meeting with the Chancellors

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Last week, Sue Van Voorhis met and spoke with the Chancellors of the coordinate campuses. The purpose of her talk was to further educate them as to ASR's role within the University system as a critical support unit. There has been significant turnover in roles at the highest levels of the coordinate campuses; thus, Sue's visit was, in part, an orientation to how ASR works to make a positive difference in students' lives on all campuses.

Web cameras now available in Williamson 162, 164, and 160J

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If you've had a meeting in one of the Williamson Hall conference rooms recently, you may have noticed the new cameras that automatically hook-up to the computers. This is to facilitate the participation of off-site meeting attendees via Google hangouts. If you've never done a hangout before, take a look at this quick guide.

"This Week @Minnesota" features financial literacy

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The "Live Like a Student" campaign was featured in "This Week @Minnesota," a weekly video feature from University Relations that provides a weekly snapshot of life at the University of Minnesota. If you haven't seen it already, check it out.

People in your neighborhood: Jody Stadler

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Jody Stadler considers herself a nerd. She loves Star Wars, comic books, and everything science fiction. One of Jody's favorite comic book characters is Batman and she's even dressed up as Batman for Halloween.

OSF Caped Crusader.jpg

She also remembers one year when she tried to dress up as a ghost from the Peanuts Halloween Special, but had a minor wardrobe malfunction. "I cut the holes in the wrong place and they were on top of my head. Tufts of hair were sticking out of the top," Jody said.

Jody also enjoys "geeking out by listening to podcasts and tinkering around with computers," Jody said. "I'm my parent's IT person."

Though Jody loves comic books and Star Wars, if Hollywood made a movie about her life, she would choose Anne Hathaway in her Princess Diary days as the actress to play her. "I always picture her looking the mirror saying, 'This is as good as it's going to get,'" Jody said.

Originally from Shoreview, Jody graduated from the U with a degree in English in 2005. Immediately after, Jody began working as a Student Personnel Coordinator in the Loan Unit of the Office of Student Finance (OSF).

"I sort of tripped and fell into my current job," Jody said. "I started out as a student worker in OSF in 2002 and I've just never left. I haven't found anything that else that is as interesting."

Jody helps students who have Direct Loans, mostly through email, who want to request an adjustment to an award package. "I also coordinate with One Stop on troubleshooting loan questions and help out our Business Analyst, Marietta (Upsher)."

When One Stop was still located in Fraser Hall, Jody would interact with students face-to-face, but it's now all through email. But she has one memory that stands out.

"I had a random moment with a student who gave me documentation to have a checklist item cleared," Jody said. "I did the work and then she asked to see me at the counter. She gave me a big bear hug and thanked me for helping her out. It was really awesome and surprising."

Before ASR, Jody vividly remembers her previous job. She worked as a janitor in Sanford Hall. "I cleaned the bathrooms and the University Dining Services. Nothing grosses me out anymore," Jody said. "It was an interesting job though. I saw a whole other side of the U. It was like the underbelly of the U."

Last year, Jody bought a townhouse in Maplewood. She enjoys gardening in her new home and is learning to play the guitar.

Just Jody
1, Her favorite movie is Stars Wars (the original trilogy) or Moulin Rouge
2. She wishes she could imitate Chewbacca or Yoda.
3. She grew up wanting to be an author like Stephen King.
4. Jody still does creative writing, mostly short stories and fanfiction.
5. Jody is an only child.
6. Her first concert was DC Talk.
7. If she could have any superpower, Jody would love to fly because she is an impatient traveler.
8. Her favorite food is Indian or Italian.
9. Her favorite book is The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.
10. The last book she read was a short story called Don't Eat Cat by Jess Walter.

Bracketed commas, and what they can do for you

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The comma is a pesky little piece of punctuation that tends to trip up many an innocent bystander. One such time is in the use of bracketed commas.

You can use commas to mark both ends of a clause that causes an interruption in a sentence or provides additional information. This is called bracketing commas. The commas mark an area where a reader could easily pull out that clause and still have it be grammatically correct, though potentially less interesting. For example, take the sentence, "John Keats, who never did any harm to anyone, is often invoked by grammarians." Removing the clause "who never did any harm to anyone" does not make the sentence grammatically incorrect, just less interesting.

Sometimes bracketed commas may seem necessary when they really aren't. If the clause is integral to the meaning of the sentence, you don't need to present it with a pair of commas. For example, take the sentence, "Belinda opened the trapdoor and, after listening for a minute, closed it again." Removing "after listening for a minute" still provides a grammatically correct sentence, but one that is not as informative. That clause is integral to understanding the meaning of the sentence.

State grant work (submitted by Deb Wilkin)

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Some may be interested to know that the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (MOHE) is exploring the possibility of changing the limit on State Grant eligibility from 4 years of full-time post-secondary attendance (as tracked by College state grant staff manually reviewing academic transcripts--go Michelle Boland!) to four full-time academic years of State Grant payments ( tracked by MOHE and electronically stored on their shared data base ).

MOHE recently asked for the University's help in identifying students and potential state grant award information for those students losing out on state grant eligibility due to 4 years of attendance rather than 4 years of payments. Identification of these students and the subsequent calculation of award information was no easy task, but thanks to Deb Edwards and Diane Ashby, the Office of Student Finance was able to provide the much needed information for MOHE's preliminary cost projection work.Nice going!

In 2011-2012 the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities disbursed $22,971,115 to over 6,400 undergraduate students.

A busy start to the term

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The first day of class was a busy one for our systems. On September 4, 24,945 reports were run in UM Reports, making it one of the top 10 days of usage of all time. The busiest hour for UM Reports was 3-4 p.m. (2,514 reports were run). There were 33,559 registration-related transactions, and 97 percent of those were processed in 5 seconds or less.

Sue's monthly wrap-up

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Here is the August wrap-up sent by Sue Van Voorhis to ASR staff on August 31, 2012:

Dear ASR staff:

The summer is winding down, which means everything is ramping up in ASR. Here are a few of the things that I (and many of you) have been working on, in addition to all of the preparation for the start of the term:

Working with advisers and student service staff
August always starts off with the expanded Registrar's Advisory Committee (RAC) meeting. This whirlwind meeting is an opportunity for us to inform a broader advising and student services audience about issues our office is working on that relate to their working with students. As we inch closer to starting the 9.0 PeopleSoft upgrade project, we provided some high-level information on the upgrade and their anticipated involvement. The undergraduate advisers in attendance were provided with a financial aid update to help support our efforts to graduate students in four years.

Working with the coordinate campuses
This summer, I have spent much time engaging our coordinate campus colleagues as we prepare for the upgrade. With new staff in several key positions at two of our campuses, it has been a good time to strategically examine our policy and procedure differences and identify areas where we all can 'bend' and make our students' lives better; outline strategies for collecting input for decision-making; underscore our shared values and commitment to each other; and come to consensus on future directions. Some of these conversations have been difficult and will require sustained attention over the coming months, but I know we are all committed to the same goal of supporting our students.

Supervisors meeting
The ASR supervisors met in early August to get a preview of the upcoming ASR Customer Service Training event on October 24. The Customer Service Training Program Committee emphasized that we aren't doing customer service wrong in ASR, but we want to continue to develop our skills to continue to provide the best service we can to each other and the University community. Additionally, supervisors spent some time reflecting on giving and receiving performance feedback. As I mentioned in the July wrap-up, feedback is indispensable to creating a good work team and even more important to developing leadership and management skills. I know it is hard and sometimes uncomfortable giving your boss (or even your boss' boss) feedback: however, I encourage you to do so. We are committed to establishing concrete ways to do this more often and readily. If you have any suggestions, please send them to me.

The ASR directors and I have used several of our August directors meetings to examine our career families and their associated knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). It has been about three years since we have taken a comprehensive look at these. Overall, the families appear to be in good health, still represent the work that we do in ASR, and reflect the values inherent in our office. As would be expected, some emerging skills and abilities need to be added and some dated language needs to be changed. Additionally, we will be examining each position in ASR to determine if it is still mapped to the appropriate job family as we know jobs and job duties change over time.

August is also the time of the year when I review the previous fiscal year and see how closely our actuals matched our budgeted amounts. In most instances, we were remarkably close, and this is good. We are entering the new fiscal year with a carry forward (meaning, we spent less than we budgeted); this is good because we are never fully funded for our salary and fringe and depend on carry forward to cover the difference. I anticipate sometime in mid-September I will be asked to prepare our budget request for the next fiscal year. This is always a tough task because we have so little of the current fiscal year under our belt upon which to estimate. After we have submitted our budget, I will hold budget brown bags as I have the previous two years to share what we asked for and provide an overview of the process.

One Stop center, Third Party Billing, and Graduate Student Services and Progress
The The One Stop Student Service center, Third Party Billing (TPB), and Graduate Student Services and Progress (GSSP) opened their doors in the new Williamson Hall location on August 13. I am pleased to report we have seen fairly steady traffic for One Stop and GSSP, as well as the expected amount of traffic for TPB. I expect numbers will continue to rise. If you haven't yet visited the Williamson location or met the staff, please make the time to do so. I know it was a bit awkward for some of you to either use the side doors to enter or to meet your guests for meetings, but I do appreciate your patience while we all adjust to new processes.

If you've made it to the end of this message, I hope you feel that you have a sense of some of the things that went on during the month of August. I know I've said it before, but I work with the best people on campus. Thank you all for everything that you do, and I wish you a wonderful start to the term.


What makes work worth doing?

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Everyone has days when this question can be tough to answer. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests that work matters to employees when they see a connection between what they do to a value or goal that has meaning for them. This may not be a big surprise, but take a moment to read the article and see how different employees made critical connections of their work to something important. Take a moment to ask yourself: What makes your work matter?

Get to know Third Party Billing

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The Third Party Billing unit of ASR has the important and weighty responsibility of billing and collecting millions in tuition and fees each year. In 2011, the team's three members managed $45 million on behalf of roughly 12,000 students. Their work is aptly described by the unit's name: they bill and collect student tuition that is paid by a third party. A third party at the University is considered an organization (not owned by the student or a family member) that makes a commitment to pay the student's educational expenses and requires direct billing. A single individual is rarely a third party sponsor. The unit also processes tuition payments for departments on campus that would like to charge one of their accounts.

The largest third party sponsor for the University is Target. Each term, the company pays up to $2 million in tuition for its employees. Most are students in the Carlson School of Management pursuing advanced business degrees. Other big sponsors are the Evans Scholars Foundation in Evanston, Illinois, and the Embassy of Malaysia.

One of the most difficult tasks the team handles is billing several locations of the Armed Forces. Students that are part of ROTC, active duty, the reserves, or the National Guard often have part or all of their tuition paid for, but it's not always easy for Third Party Billing. "It is very difficult to comply with University, Armed Forces, and Department of Defense policies," Accounts Supervisor Sheila Rhody said. "Billing is entered into several systems, and payment is always delinquent." In addition to slow payments, the Armed Forces prefers to pay with a credit card, which the University does not accept due to the additional fees assessed by the credit card companies.

To help document retention and organization, the team plans to join the University's imaging system soon. Right now, it's a huge task to keep track of everything. With so many sponsors and money at stake, the unit is anxious for a more efficient and easier way of managing their work.

The team has a wide range of experience. Sheila has been working for the Third Party Billing unit for 13 years; Doreen Knuston, Office Support Assistant, for 20 years; and Dawn Demaske, Principal Accounts Specialist, for three years. Sheila considers the variety a positive for the team. "It has given us fresh perspective on how to improve processes and assess how we're doing, in addition to experience," she said. They handle the workflow as it comes, working closely as a team and addressing each situation as it occurs. They also meet monthly with Associate director Tom Schmidt to discuss agenda items and any unit concerns.

It can be a demanding job, but the staff keeps it all in perspective. "The best part is helping a student obtain his or her third party funding and knowing you made it easier for them." Sheila said.

Third Party Billing staff:

Sheila Rhody, Accounts Supervisor
Doreen Knutson, Office Support Assistant
Dawn Demaske, Principal Accounts Specialist

The people in your neighborhood: Amber Cellotti

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Wisconsin native Amber Cellotti grew up in Little Chute, a town famous for the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival. Amber and her two brothers, one five years older and one five years younger, grew up living and breathing this festival every summer.


"Since the festival takes place in the park right behind my parents' house, I spent many summers gorging on cheese and riding carnival rides - thankfully, none with a disastrous outcome!" Amber said.

She came to the U as an undergraduate student in 1999 and never left. As an undergrad, she worked in University Dining Services, in a biochemistry lab, and in the CLA Undergraduate Advising offices as a peer adviser. She received her bachelor's in communication studies in 2003 and then, shortly after, began working full-time as a Degree Program Adviser for GSSP in the Graduate School.

In July, the GSSP office moved from the Graduate School to ASR. For the past seven years, her position has been coordinator for the master's and certificate degree services.

Amber works with master's and certificate students as they progress toward degree completion by assisting them with paperwork, filing a thesis, and reviewing files for degree completion. "I also work with graduate programs and faculty to assist with students' time to degree," Amber said. "I interpret graduate education policies and manage student records to determine when a student is ready to graduate," Amber said.

Amber also just started the strategic communication master's program this fall. "I'm excited to go back to school and nervous at the same time," Amber said.

Amber's most interesting job was a summer one she had after her senior year of high school and first year of college building fire trucks. "For those who know me, this would not seem like an obvious summer job -- working retail? Yes. Building fire trucks? No," Amber said. "I was always the youngest person on my shift and sometimes the only female. Oh, I also learned to drive a forklift, which comes in super handy. Not really."

Two years ago in September, Amber got married at Summit Manor in St. Paul. Amber and her husband, Todd, currently have no kids or pets, but hope to add a puppy to the family next summer. Now, Amber lives in Roseville. "I enjoy the proximity to both downtowns and love living within walking distance to Central Park," Amber said.

In her spare time, Amber enjoys gardening, reading, dancing, and traveling. One of her favorite vacation spots is Door County, Wisconsin. "It offers opportunities to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and experience great vineyards all within a six-hour drive of the Twin Cities--do I sound like a commercial yet?" Amber said.

Amber and her husband have also traveled to St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands). "We stayed at Bolongo Bay, which is a family-owned resort," Amber said. "It has a fantastic beach and a really relaxed atmosphere. I can't recall a time when I've been more relaxed or had more fun."

Amber Axioms
1. Her favorite movie is the Dead Poet's Society because it has all the elements--romance, drama, and humor in one movie.
2. She also loves comedies like Dumb and Dumber and The Big Lebowski.
3. Her first concert was New Kids on the Block.
4. When she has time, she enjoys salsa and ballroom dancing.
5. Amber and her husband own a rental property near campus that they frequently make renovations to.
6. She loves big band and jazz music.
7. She has a container garden on her deck, growing bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos, basil (thai and sweet), rosemary, and chives. Her cilantro, unfortunately, had an "untimely death."
8. She got engaged on Mackinac Island, Michigan.
9. If she could have anyone's job, it would be Great Hotels host Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel.
10. She grew up wanting to be a doctor and actually started out at the U as a biology major in the pre-med track.

Submit your team picture for the updated A Team video

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If you haven't yet, take a moment to watch this video featuring ASR's many teams. The time has come to give this video a face lift. Please submit your team's picture, team name, the names of all individuals featured in the picture, and the names of anyone who is on the team but not featured in the picture to The deadline is Wednesday, October 31 so you have some time. The video should be available in November; you'll hear about it in an issue of News & Notes. Questions can be directed to Ingrid Nuttall.

About this Archive

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

August 2012 is the previous archive.

October 2012 is the next archive.

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