Three Steps to Streamline Processes for Student Success

As learning-centered organizations, change is constant in higher education. Each year new standards, best practices, research, technology, and strategies drive us to improve as educators. We do this to improve our practices to better serve students and support their learning. Yet making these changes can be a challenge (and a ton of work!). Many educators and whole organizations suffer from change fatigue, feeling overburdened when another new initiative or project is introduced. We need a better process for change, one that takes into account the current situation, emerging issues, the desired future state. Most importantly, we need a process that centers the needs of the people served by the institution.

Process mapping is a collaborative, visual approach for incremental change that incorporates all these elements. Process mapping creates visual workflow diagrams to clarify understanding of a process. It allows a team to redesign the user experience by analyzing the current process and determining points to improve.

Improving a process via process mapping involves three steps:

  1. CREATE an “as is” process map to understand the current process.
  2. ANALYZE the current process to identify and pinpoint issues.
  3. REDESIGN the current process to address the identified issues, creating an improved process.
The Three Steps of Process Mapping

These three steps can be done as an individual but are more effective with a team that includes representatives from each campus unit or stakeholder group involved. Sticky notes, markers, and a blank wall or whiteboard are the only tools needed. For virtual collaboration, Google Jamboard, Google Slides, Miro, and Mural are good substitutes.

Process mapping can help higher education to adapt to change. For example, merging two units in a reorganization or adjusting practices to follow COVID-19 public health guidelines. It is also useful for revisiting the reasoning behind processes that “we’ve always done that way.” The approach is a great fit for higher education since institutions often have long-standing practices that could use exploration and improvement. The improved processes might use new technology or better serve the needs of specific student groups. Higher education institutions are complex organizations with many siloed divisions and units. Since students interact across these silos, their experiences can become disjointed with varied processes across the institution (or varied understandings of a common process). Simplifying and standardizing processes supports student success by making the institution easier to navigate. First-generation students, international students, and others who experience barriers navigating the institution especially benefit.

Walking through an example illustrates the practical and visual nature of process mapping. In this case, using a common process in higher education: a student registering for the next term of courses. Starting off, it is helpful to define the scope of the process and who is involved. Here, the process starts when the student decides to enroll in courses next term and stops when the student is registered. The student, their academic advisor, and a department staff person are the people involved.


In the first phase, create an as-is map of the current process. Of the many different types of process maps, a top-down flowchart is a good first map as an overview. Here a top-down flowchart illustrates major steps in the registration process (initiation, advising appointment, approval, and scheduling) with more specific sub-steps within that major step written on sticky notes underneath. As indicated by the key on the right side, different colors of sticky notes signal actions taken by different people (student blue, advisor yellow, and department staff purple). This color-coding provides an at-a-glance view of who is involved where in the process. When more than one person or unit is involved in a single action, a second sticky note of that color is placed under the first. The as-is map should show what currently happens in the process, not what should happen. Common issues or complications are included, such as the student obtaining department approval in this example

As-is map of the current registration process (Step 1: Create). Click for image in which you can magnify content.

In the second phase, analyze the as-is map to identify issues and pinpoint where they occur. Goals of the process improvement project provide the lens for this analysis. If the goal of the example project was to make the process simpler for students to navigate, the analysis might note that finding a time to meet for the advising appointment requires several back-and-forth emails (non-value-added steps) or that the both the advisor and the department staff review the student’s record (duplication of effort). Both result in extra steps for the student. Indicated by orange sticky notes, these issues are placed next to the process step where they occur (#1 and #2).

Issues identified in the registration process (Step 2: Analyze). Click for image in which you can magnify content.

Another potential focus is to improve the process for a specific population of students. If the goal of the example project was to improve the registration experience for students with children who work in addition to attending college, then the as-is map would be analyzed by considering how student parents might navigate the process. Such an analysis might note that planning course times may be more complex due to work and childcare schedules (#3) and busy student parents might not be available at the same times as advisors (#4).

Lastly, the goal of a process improvement project may be to respond to change in the environment, such as a new technology platform, the merger of two departments, or in this case reopening after closures due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. An analysis focused on that goal might note potential financial, health, and travel concerns that pose barriers to students re-enrolling (#5) as well as additional complexities in course planning for advisors and students to discuss (#6). These three different types of analyses illustrate the variety of ways process mapping can be applied depending on the current needs of the institution.


In the third and final phase, build on the identified issues to redesign the as-is process. Changes most often remove steps from a process to streamline it, but they can also add steps to resolve an identified issue. Here a redesign streamlines the registration process to make it simpler for students to navigate. To address inefficient appointment booking via email (issue #1 from Step 2: Analyze), an online calendar system is utilized in the initiation step. This reduces emails and effort for both the student and advisor. It also frees up time for the advisor, removing a less valuable activity (appointment scheduling) so that additional time is available for more valuable activities like providing guidance to students. To reduce run-around for the student and duplication with both the advisor and department staff reviewing the student’s record (#2), the advisor could send the approval request directly to the department staff. Then only the department staff is involved in the approval step, with the help of an automated workflow. This assumes the department does not want to delegate approval authority to advisors, which is another even more streamlined redesign option.

Redesigned registration process to ease navigation for students (Step 3: Redesign A). Click for image you can magnify content.

Redesigns may also include changes that extend beyond the scope of the mapped process, involving steps earlier or later in the process or units other than those included on the original as-is map. The student parent and reopening focused analyses lead to redesign ideas outside the scope of the as-is map but that fix issues identified in the registration experience. As shown here, redesign plans for student parents focus on providing more flexible options for course schedules and advising appointments. Redesign plans for the reopening scenario include addressing key items in communications with students and creating a feedback loop with advisors to better understand student needs.

Redesign ideas to improve student parent experience and support re-opening (Step 3: Redesign B). Click for image you can magnify content.

As illustrated through this example, process mapping is a simple but powerful approach teams in higher education can use to lead and adapt to change. Process mapping collaboration brings people together working toward a common goal. Process mapping visuals allow groups to more clearly see both the issues in the current process and possibilities for future solutions.

Consider: What changes does your institution or unit need to adapt to? Which changes are you looking to make? What processes at your institution do students find difficult to navigate? Working through the three steps of process mapping – create, analyze, and redesign – can aid in improving these areas to the benefit of students, educators, and the institution. Grab some sticky notes and try it out!

Ready to learn more? Alex is presenting on this topic July 22nd at the 2020 Inland Northwest Student Affairs Colloquium (INSAC). Learn more here about this free, virtual event.

Alex Aljets is the Student Success Portfolio Manager focused on information technology at Oregon State University. She assists other organizations with process improvement on a project basis. Alex is a former University Innovation Alliance Fellow and started off her career in higher education as an academic advisor. She can be reached at alex@aljetsconsulting.com as well as on LinkedIn and Twitter.

A text-only version of the process mapping images in this post as available from Alex Aljets upon request.

Administrative Planning for Student Success during a Pandemic …

By Dr. Krista Vogt

In student services, we often speak of the products of our work – a great workshop, a thoughtful mentoring program, a popular orientation program, etc. In this blog, I’d like to take a look at the administrative side of student success. These last two weeks, I’ve had the privilege to be at the senior leadership table where important decisions needed to be made for the safety, health and continued learning of our students. It’s been a scary roller coaster of a ride, but I am grateful to work at an institution* that is focused on students and kept their needs top of mind as we made our plans. First, a quick timeline of events, and then I’ll walk you through some of the lessons learned.

*I work at a large (17,000 students) Ontario College of Arts and Technology (commonly known in the US as a community college)

Wednesday, March 11

The World Health Organization issues a statement calling the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Travel restrictions and social distancing are not yet being discussed.

The president of the college calls his senior leadership council with guests from facilities, security, corporate communications and student services together for discussion. Our largest recruiting event, our Open House, is in three days. Our discussion is about what to do should things get worse; we decide to keep going with the Open House and assume classes will continue, we order extra cleaning of the campus.

Thursday, March 12

Late in the evening, the local school board announces that all public schools will close until April 6.

Friday, March 13

The president reconvenes his council and we decide to post-pone the Open House, but continue with classes and employees are to report to work as usual. I have a planned vacation with my family to ski in Quebec. All night my husband and I consider our options, mostly we speak of our own need for self-care and the need to be with our teenage kids. We decide that he will stay and the kids and I will go.

Sunday, March 15

The large university in our city announces it is cancelling classes for a few days and will resume their semester online mid-week.

The talking between campuses is non-stop. What are you doing? What is your plan?

Monday March 16

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau closes the border to non-Canadian citizens and asks Canadians to not travel out of the country.

Employees report to work and students come to class at the college. Parents and students call our Contact Centre furious that we are still open when the university is closed. The decision is made to cancel classes for the week and resume online where possible on March 23. Employees are still to report to work as usual.

Tuesday March 17

The President’s council meets again, it’s time to send “non-essential” employees home. There is a scramble for laptops and staff rush to grab their resource materials and forward their voicemail. They water the plants, thinking they’ll be gone two weeks at most. Our Contact Centre is deemed essential so a schedule is quickly developed to decide which staff will be on campus.

Wednesday March 18

I drive home from Quebec as I experience separation anxiety from my husband and feel the need to support the staff who report to me as well as my fellow managers who are exhausted. It also seems logical to return home since I had spent most of my time in Quebec on conference calls and responding to emails anyway.

Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20

I am working from home, but spending three hours a day on conference calls. The new routine is a phone call with the Office of the Registrar managers, a phone call with the college student services managers, and then phone calls with my staff team. Once new decisions are made, the phone calls with each team go around again.

LESSONS FROM WEEK 1 – as we plan for online learning and online service delivery

The main question of Week 1 was: how do we get staff set up from home so they can support students? Technology was paramount. We quickly discovered who didn’t have reliable Internet at home, who didn’t have home computer equipment, and who didn’t have the technological savvy to learn how to set up a remote desktop session using VPN. Our concern was for students, but our focus had to be on staff. If they didn’t have the tools they needed, they would not be able to support the students. Additionally, the staff needed to be in place of strong mental health to be able to support students who needed it.

Illustration by Paru Ramesh

My work during week one was about getting staff comfortable – with new equipment, new software, and new routines at home. Many are struggling finding a balance between work and supporting students while also supporting their family – many have children at home. Our college has kept everyone on the payroll, but for many staff members, their partners are being laid off from work as businesses shut down. My expertise is in project management and operations, but this week called for true transformative leadership. What the staff needed was reassurance, help and understanding while learning new ways of working, and to keep well informed of the ever changing decisions being made by the college.

A distant second to supporting staff as they set up from home was figuring out how student services were to be delivered remotely. Daily meetings of the student services managers team were crucial to help each of us in our planning. Counsellors and advisors were set up with the capacity to do online appointments. The Wellness Centre launched Facebook live streaming of fitness classes that could be done at home. For students who could not go home, residence made a plan for food delivery to rooms. We were ready….

Monday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 24

It is the first day of online class delivery. I go to campus but it is a ghost town. Only one door is open; my entrance is allowed because I am on an essential services staff list. Five staff members of our 86 member staff team are in the office – all sitting six feet apart and all there to help run the Contact Centre. The phones are much quieter than we expected. The daily conference calls with college leaders continue. At noon on Tuesday, the president decides that no one should have to be on campus. The Contact Centre is closed and staff are sent home, but my next task is to find a way to open back up again … with the Contact Centre newly configured to operate remotely. We bring all the plants home, unsure of when we’ll return to our offices.

Wednesday, March 25 to Friday, March 27

Everyone is now working from home. Contact Centre staff are answering the emails that are coming in quickly now that students and parents have no one to phone. IT services staff work 12+ hour days reconfiguring the phone network and assisting staff and professors struggling to move to online delivery. My days are spent on the phone – 5 and 6 hours at a stretch. Student services are being delivered remotely. Our focus shifts to how we are going to complete the semester and what we will do about our next semester, with 3000 new students set to start a new college program on May 4.

How do distance learners connect?
Credit: Adobe Stock: rocketclips

LESSONS FROM WEEK 2 – as students begin their online coursework

There have been two main issues arising for students as they transition to online studies; technological access and money to support themselves. Our college put 2280 classes online last week. We are hearing from a minority of students that they are just not able to get online. The access issue is one of equipment failure; the students may live in place without cable internet or they simply may not own a computer. We have set up a computer lab, close to a college entrance with social distancing and cleaning protocols in place to assist with this access issues. More difficult to solve is an access issue related to students with disabilities or learning challenges that make online learning impossible. We are working with Counselling and Accessibility Services, Indigenous Services, and the Learning Centre to work with each student individually to come up with a success plan. Professors have also been incredible and adapting where possible.

With businesses closing, our students are experiencing layoffs from work. Many rely on this work to provide for their basic needs. Adapting to online learning is taking a back seat to figuring out how rent will be paid and where the next meal is coming from. We are working on a simplified bursary system as well working with our student’s union to distribute food vouchers.

The reality however is many students will not be able to finish, and this will be the focus of week three. We are working to put a withdrawal form online and remove the barrier of insisting on a 1:1 meeting with an advisor before withdrawal (but offering this service for those who choose it). We will then need to develop a recovery plan to help these students find a pathway to credential completion.

In Ontario, the peak of the outbreak is expected in the next two weeks. Public schools are no longer resuming on April 6. Staff supporting students from home may be our new normal for the foreseeable future. We’re focused on access to online learning and financial hardship faced by students. I wonder what new issues will arise for students in the coming months?

For some levity in a tough situation, I leave you with a game you I will be playing at work today….

How are you leading to support student success in your role? Please “leave a reply” as we would love to crowdsource the myriad of ways people from around the world are getting by in this time of vast uncertainty. Please be well and stay safe.

Dr. Krista Vogt is Senior Associate Registrar, Admissions at Fanshawe College and can be reached on Twitter @vogtkris

Studying Shared Governance Approaches to Managing Student Services

By Jacqueline Beaulieu

Spoiler Alert: This blog post shares details pertaining to my dissertation research (in progress) that examines the outcomes and implications of an Ontario provincial government policy that requires publicly assisted universities to negotiate compulsory non-tuition-related ancillary fees with students. I discuss how this research connects to the Supporting Student Success project and how my prior work on the latter supports my ability to undertake my dissertation research.

Would you like to learn about opportunities to participate in the forthcoming phase of this research? If so, keep on reading!


If you are connected to student affairs and services and/or student governments in Canada, you are likely familiar with recent headlines concerning the Divisional Court of Ontario’s November decision to quash the Ontario Provincial Government’s newly implemented Student Choice Initiative. Announced in January, 2019 as taking effect beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, the initiative allowed individual postsecondary students to opt out of certain formerly compulsory non-tuition-related ancillary fees newly categorized by the Provincial Government as “non-essential”. For folks from outside of Ontario: “compulsory non-tuition-related ancillary fees” is a term used to describe fees typically (but not exclusively) levied above and in addition to tuition for the purposes of recovering costs of student services not normally eligible to be funded via capital or operating revenue (MTCU, 2019). These fees specifically recover costs of student services provided by postsecondary institutions.

The Student Choice Initiative also permits individual students to opt out of certain formerly compulsory student society fees categorized as “non-essential”. These incidental fees are collected by postsecondary institutions on behalf of the corresponding student governments, typically to support the governance function and services they provide to students. The fees are approved by students according to agreed upon policies and procedures of the respective student government(s).

The Province described their aim as providing individual students the opportunity to determine which services, groups, and initiatives they would like to use and/or support. Under the terms of the initiative, students would continue to pay compulsory fees for services categorized as “essential” which included:

  • Athletics and recreation,
  • Academic supports*
  • Career services,
  • Health and counselling,
  • Student buildings,
  • Travel/walk safe programs,
  • Discounted transportation passes,
  • Health and dental plans (where students did not have alternate coverage),
  • Student ID cards
  • Transcripts and graduation

*Institutions cannot levy additional compulsory fees in addition to tuition for items and services connected to classroom learning unless exempted by policy. Examples of exemptions include: fees for in-province field trips, learning materials retained by students, and placement services for work terms.

Note that the following types of services are not included in the above list of essential services:

  • Most services (other than those listed above) provided by student governments
  • Student newspapers, media, and other communications
  • Services specific to supporting students from diverse and/or marginalized backgrounds
  • Leadership education programming (offered as co-curricular learning),
  • Community-based learning and outreach (offered as co-curricular learning),
  • Mentoring programs

The initiative was met with controversy, with several student organizations pushing back for reasons that included a perceived lack of consultation, a shared belief that the Province was overstepping its authority, and some speculation that student organizations were being targeted. At the same time, some conservative student groups and the B’nai Brith of Canada League for Human Rights supported the initiative, citing that not all students supported their student organizations.

The initiative was subsequently challenged in court by the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (one of the province’s student associations) and the York Federation of Students (a student representative body serving undergraduate students at York University in Toronto). The University of Toronto Graduate Students Union and B’nai Brith of Canada League for Human Rights served as intervenors.

The Divisional Court of Ontario decided to quash the initiative on the basis that the Province lacked the legal authority to govern agreements between postsecondary institutions and student governments concerning student fees. You can read more about the Divisional Court’s decision here. The Province is currently appealing this decision.

While the introduction and subsequent quashing of the Student Choice Initiative appears to have garnered some attention from members of the broader public, those who are less familiar with this topic might not realize that students attending Ontario’s publicly assisted colleges and universities have held a collective right to democratically approve compulsory non-tuition-related ancillary fees for almost 26 years. Prior to 1994, universities could unilaterally implement “discretionary fees” (the term used for what would later be called “compulsory non-tuition-related ancillary fees”) to recover costs associated with student services. Growing discretionary fees and a corresponding financial burden for students sparked public debate; the Provincial Government subsequently implemented a policy on compulsory non-tuition-related ancillary fees on March 23, 1994.

According to this policy, compulsory non-tuition-related ancillary fees can only be introduced or increased if approved via procedures outlined in a protocol agreed to by a college or university’s administration and student government(s) (MTCU, 2019). Should a college or university implement a new fee or fee increase that contradicts the provisions outlined in the policy and/or the institution’s corresponding protocol(s) and no resolution is achieved among a protocol’s signatories, the Provincial Government may reduce the institution’s operating grant by an amount up to the equivalent of the revenue raised by the new fee or fee increase (MTCU, 2019). Institutions’ protocols can be renegotiated or adjusted at any time upon mutual agreement of the relevant parties.

My dissertation research (in progress) examines the outcomes and implications of this policy for stakeholders connected to the province’s publicly assisted universities. The study responds to growing demand for such research (e.g., Aitchison et al., 2016; Evans et al., 2019) and will expand to include stakeholders situated at Ontario’s publicly assisted colleges upon the completion of my dissertation.

I am fascinated by this policy as it represents an interesting and rare example of a scenario where students are not only included in institutional decision-making (e.g., where they are included in small numbers as members of Boards of Governors, Senates, departmental committees, etc.), but their approval is required for decisions to advance.


History of Student Participation in Shared Governance

Canadian universities have received international attention in the past for the ways in which students were involved in institutional governance and decision-making, departmental committees, and other aspects of campus life (e.g., McGrath, 1970; Jones & Skolnik, 1997; Zuo & Ratsoy, 1999). Anecdotally, my sense is that these types of involvement opportunities are often valued by administrators, practitioners, and students. There can be considerable responsibility attached to these roles, however, they are commonly viewed as providing students with valuable learning and experiences. Many share my view that institutions also stand to benefit from regularly engaging with students’ ideas and perspectives. At the same time, we find ourselves increasingly hearing about growing pressures that present-day students are facing (e.g., accessing majors; obtaining acceptance to graduate and professional programs; rising costs of attendance; managing family-related responsibilities; preparing for competitive job markets). These pressures can be viewed as being at odds in some ways with the messaging students often receive about the importance of getting involved in their campus communities. Which begs a question: what are related implications for shared governance? For student services? For student learning?

I am eager to learn more about the opportunities and/or challenges that can arise from this type of policy arrangement and whether or not (and if so, how) related opportunities and challenges have changed over time. My hope is that the study’s findings will inform and support the important continued work of policy stakeholders. Lastly, I hope the findings might provide inspiration as we grapple with the question below:

What should student participation in shared governance and institutional decision-making “look like” in modern-day postsecondary institutions?

Connection to the Supporting Student Success study

Not too long ago, I joked the Supporting Student Success Study could be viewed as the metaphorical “egg” to my dissertation research, the figurative “chicken” in this case. That is, the Supporting Student Success Study examined how student services at Ontario’s publicly assisted universities organize to support student success. My subsequent project examines the outcomes and implications of a policy that “lays” (pun intended) parameters for negotiating substantial portions of student affairs and services’ budgets. How the policy and the universities’ corresponding protocols’ outcomes influence student services practitioners’ efforts to support student success is of key interest to me as a researcher and practitioner.

This represents one of many reasons why I am grateful to have had the experience of working with Tricia and colleagues on the Supporting Student Success study. In doing so, I gained a host of relevant knowledge and skills that are supporting my ability to undertake the data collection and analyze and interpret this study’s findings. One lesson that I learned was the importance of deeply engaging the knowledge, perspectives, and expertise of the fullest spectrum of stakeholders possible. Doing so requires substantial investments of time and resources; however, tends to result in findings that better capture the essence of what is occurring at our campuses. This leads to well-informed findings that are detailed, nuanced, and ultimately useful for practice and policymaking.

I am equally thankful that Tricia is contributing her expertise and mentorship as a member of my dissertation committee, which is being chaired by Professor Emeritus Dan Lang- one of our country’s leading scholars in the area of postsecondary finance and administration.


Want to learn more about opportunities to participate in the forthcoming phase of research?

Over the next few months, several opportunities will be available to those interested in contributing relevant information, thoughts, and perspectives to this ongoing research.

Are you a senior student affairs and services administrator working at one of Ontario’s publicly assisted universities or federated institutions?

If so, you will be invited to participate in an online survey designed to engage your knowledge, perspectives, and expertise relevant to the research topic.

Keep an eye on your inbox for an important email containing further information and an invitation to participate.

Are you a university administrator or student affairs and services staff member working at one of Ontario’s publicly assisted universities or federated institutions?

Are you a student government executive or student member of the board of governors (or equivalent governing body) at one of these institutions?   

Stay tuned to find out if I will be visiting your campus in the coming months!

I am conducting interviews and focus groups at several “case study” universities designed to engage the relevant knowledge, perspectives, and expertise of diverse policy stakeholders.

Please note that every effort will be made to ensure that individual participants and their organizations are not identifiable in the reporting of the study’s findings.

Finally… what were you up to in the mid-1990s? Were you involved in or consulted regarding the policy’s development and implementation? A protocol’s development and implementation?

If your answer is “yes” to one or more of these questions, please consider contacting me via email if you would like to learn more about an opportunity to participate in an interview on the topic of the policy’s origins and past.

You may be interested to know… that individuals affiliated with the Provincial Government, Council of Ontario Universities, and provincial student associations are also being invited to participate in this research.

Concluding Thoughts

My hope is that my research related efforts will support many of you in the good work that you do with students. For those working at Ontario’s publicly assisted colleges and in other policy contexts where comparable policies are in place or being considered, my hope is that you will be able to glean all kinds of relevant learning from the insights provided by this study’s participants. By enabling us to develop a more comprehensive understanding of this policy’s outcomes- from initial implementation to present- this study’s findings could be used to support good policymaking… if and when stakeholders decide it is time to revisit the policy.


Jacqueline Beaulieu is a PhD Candidate studying Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Her scholarly work is located at the nexus of higher education governance, finance, administration, and student success. Prior to pursuing full-time studies, she worked in student affairs and services at universities in British Columbia, Ontario, and Michigan (USA). Examples of her past professional responsibilities include the design and implementation of a new first-year experience program and providing oversight for a portfolio of campus life services.

She is also a digital content creator on the rise: her YouTube videos on academic skills and graduate student success have been viewed 4000+ times in less than one year. You are encouraged to stay connected with her via email (jacqueline.beaulieu@mail.utoronto.ca), by subscribing to her YouTube Channel, and following her on Twitter (@jacquiebeaulieu) and Instagram (@phdessentials).

References (Non-Hyperlinked)

Aitchison, C., Brockie, L., Oliver, B., & MacDonald, R. (2016). Policy paper: Ancillary fees. Retrieved from https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/ousa/pages/86/attachments/original/1479404004/Ancillary_Fees_document.pdf?1479404004

Evans, E., Gerrits, M., Ibrahim, F., and Sethumadhavan, N. (2019). Policy paper: Ancillary and incidental fees. Retrieved from https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/ousa/pages/1900/attachments/original/1575857033/Ancillary___Incidental_Fees_document.pdf?1575857033

Jones, G. A., & Skolnik, M. L. (1997). Governing boards in Canadian universities. The Review of Higher Education, 20(3), 277-295.

McGrath, E. J. (1970). Should students share the power? A study of their role in college and university governance. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (2019). Tuition fee framework and ancillary fee guidelines: Publicly-assisted universities. Retrieved from http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/mtcu-university-tuition-framework-guidelines-mar2019-en.pdf

Zuo, B., & Ratsoy, E. W. (1999). Student participation in university governance. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 29(1), 1-26.

Sharing Practice from Around the World

By: Tricia Seifert, curator of the Supporting Student Success blog

As times change, the purpose of some things change as well. This blog was originally created as a place to share findings from the Supporting Student Success research project, a multi-institutional mixed methods study that sought to understand how colleges and universities across Canada organized and cultivated a culture to support student success on campus. Information about the study remains on the website. There are tabs detailing the different phases of the project, the surveys we designed, the presentations and publications that have derived from the work, and the amazing team that made it happen.

Although we continue to publish from the Supporting Student Success project, the blog has become a place for practitioners from around the world to share promising practices that are improving their work and their ability to support students to achieve their personal and academic goals. In 2019, we published posts from scholarly practitioners in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with a post from Australia in the wings. Blog viewers come from over 50 countries including Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Philippines, South Africa, as well as Trinidad and Tobago.

Gall-Peters map. Image by Daniel R. Streve.

Recently, I was on a call with people involved in student affairs and services from around the world. We were discussing the avenues by which we could learn from the good work being done internationally. We identified the many wonderful venues that publish research studies on student affairs and services and their contributions to student learning and development. These include the Canadian Journal of Higher Education, Journal of Australia and New Zealand Student Services Association, Journal of College Student Development, Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, and the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa. But we were thinking about how we might share and learn from international colleagues in a way that is less formal than a standard research article.

I think the Supporting Student Success blog could be one place. With a post in January 2019 detailing how one university in Mexico created a one-stop shop for student services to a recent post from a Canadian university describing holistic supports for indigenous students studying Science Mathematics Technology and Engineering disciplines, the Supporting Student Success blog has provided a forum to share and learn from others.

So today, I invite you to give some thought as to what you are doing in your work that is interesting and innovative. What would you like to share with the 3,680 (and counting) Supporting Student Success blog followers? And let me ask this question on the flip side: what would you like to learn from others? Please take 2 minutes to “leave a reply” and answer one or both of these questions. If you have something to share in the form of a future blog post, please leave your contact information so I may follow up with or you can reach me directly at tricia.seifert@montana.edu.

Our readers look forward to hearing from you.

For map enthusiasts, the image at the top of the page is a representation of the Sinu-Mollweide map created by Allen K. Philbrick in 1953. These images were taken from the Future Mapping Company website.

What do Arduinos have to do with Student Affairs?

By: Jennifer Clark, Student Success Coordinator in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering at Montana State University

As a student affairs practitioner, it is helpful to explain our work and its value to student success in many languages. In my student affairs work in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, student success is desired; but let’s face it – engineers are often much more comfortable solving hard problems that are easily solved with math and science than messy problems that involve students, their emotions, and the back stories they bring with them to college. Regardless of the recognized value of the student success perspective, the language is unfamiliar and might even be described as foreign…but it can be acquired.

A MSU Engineering student helps Jen.

Recognizing the need to gain a deeper appreciation for the logical, ‘law-abiding’ language so familiar to engineers, I spent the last few months delving into the engineering design process through a computer hardware and coding project using open-source Arduino tools which support developing engineers and computer scientists. I was guided by my understanding of student success and pitched a ‘walk in their shoes’ concept idea to a few electrical engineering students/professionals. They were THRILLED to help me step into their world for a bit, even though they were not particularly interested in understanding the nuances of student services. At first, the goal was simply to gain a deeper appreciation for the complex nature of engineering as a discipline and as a way of thinking. What I gained was this rich, robust perspective of not only the Engineering discipline, but how to communicate the value of student affairs and the value that listening to students brings to success programs. 

This project became my way of articulating to the engineering community with whom I work why listening to students is important. The Arduino board was the instrument that allowed me to speak the ‘engineering language’ as I shared my learning. Briefly, there are 4 devices on this board; each do something different based on the code that was built in. There is an LCD screen that says, “I Love MSU” with an image of a bobcat; a light that changes between 3 colors; a buzzer that sings a Mario Cart song; and the last is a motion detector. These devices were simple in their action, but behind the scenes required a higher degree of complex and specific wiring and coding triggering the intended response to an action command. Student affairs work has a similar structure, on the surface appearing simple but requiring strategic and intentional planning to ensure student success programs have the desired outcome for the population they are designed to serve. Specifically, the motion sensor on this board provided the best demonstration of why it is so important for student affairs professionals to hear and respond to the needs of the students they serve. 

Looks so simple . . . looks can be deceiving.

As the most complex component on this board, the motion sensor took me some time, and extra help troubleshooting, to realize the pre-coded time delay was creating problems with what I wanted the device to do. It wasn’t until I reviewed for myself how the device was set up that I realized what was happening and that I could remove the extra time delay code. Instantly I recognized that this was the perfect metaphor for communicating to my engineering and student affairs colleagues the value of the student perspective as we work to perfect the practice of student success.

Intending to support success, student affairs practitioners may pre-code experiences, or strategies as best practice, unaware that they are not what students find most valuable. There is a need to engage with students and listen carefully to examine if what has been pre-coded makes sense. Keeping a finger on the pulse of current students within our disciplines allows for recognition that students really need a shorter time delay; or in my case, no time delay at all. By stepping outside my box and learning something new, a door opened, a new language was learned, a gap in understanding was bridged and a way to connect two worlds was created.

Still learning.

Engineering education and student affairs practitioners both seek to solve problems related to student success. Searching to find order where there appears to be chaos, recognizing decisions require understanding of trade-offs in using one method over another, and the willingness to embrace innovation by trying new approaches is using an engineering mindset in student affairs. Through this process it is important to be mindful of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and more importantly asking if there is something else we should, or shouldn’t, be doing instead. Including student perspectives is critical to any design process meant to benefit student populations. By keeping our finger on the pulse of what current, everyday students need, the probability of designing effective solutions increases. This supports mindfulness of the pre-coding we as practitioners insert and the purpose it serves in meeting the overall objective. So, what do Arduinos have to do with Student Affairs? They remind us to be intentional in how programming is developed in order to make the connection for maximum student effect.

Lessons from a “One-Stop Shop”

Happy New Year, 2019! The Supporting Student Success blog is trying something new for the coming year. We want to highlight the amazing work that is going on around the world to support post-secondary students to achieve their academic and personal goals. We want to hear from you! Have you, your co-workers, or the students with whom you work done something interesting? Have you developed a new program, enhanced your own practice in a meaningful way, collected and analyzed data that has led to other institutional improvements? Essentially, do you have a story to tell?

To kick us off, I am excited to share a story of a “one-stop” comprehensive student center at a university in Mexico.

It’s interesting when a campus has undergone such a physical transformation that you are unsure if you have been there before. This happened to me as I walked through the halls of Mohawk College. The first time I had been on campus was to collect data as part of Phase I of the Supporting Student Success project. The next time was to collect Phase II data. In the intervening 18 months, the campus had transformed. My memory of 14 or more individual offices where students registered for classes, received financial aid, paid their tuition bill, learned about student clubs and organizations, and met with a career counselor were replaced with a sleek central location that was well-lit and inviting.

This was more than five years ago but I remember that day like it was yesterday. The look and feel of that single, central location beckoning students—many of whom are adult learners—to engage and take charge of their educational experience is something that I haven’t forgotten.

Locations such as the one at Mohawk College have sprung up across North America. Recently, I attended AACRAO’s Strategic Enrollment Management conference in Washington, DC and re-connected with my colleague, Francisco Maldonado, from UPAEP (Universidad Popular Autonoma del Estado de Puebla), who presented on lessons learned from 20 years of running a “one-stop shop” comprehensive student center.

For the last decade, the concept of the “one-stop shop”, which may include registrarial, financial aid, financial services, academic advising, career services, and opportunities for student engagement, has grown in popularity. In fact, it seemed that every attendee in the room either had a “one-stop shop” on their campus or were in the process of developing one. The interest in the “one-stop” concept made Francisco’s list of 15 “musts” even more salient.

I asked Francisco if he would share his slide show for the Supporting Student Success blog and he has graciously agreed. Below are his slides from the AACRAO SEM conference along with his perspective informed by nearly 20 years on the journey.

15 Musts to Design and Keep Efficient & Satisfactory Service in a One-Stop Shop

How did we design, and try to maintain, an efficient and satisfactory service in our one-stop shop? It is important to note that we speak here of our experience and what we have learned along the way. What you see in these slides is not taken from any book, or manual; it is only what we have learned along the way.

According to this, we have come to identify 15 “musts” that we think must be borne in mind when it comes to implementing a service, from assuring the need for it to continuous improvement, going through various stages among which we identify the sale of the idea, what is related to the service processes, the database, the IT tools and the necessary personnel, the branding, the promotion, the fulfillment of the promises, the service evaluation, the participation of the stakeholders and the joint decision-making that leads us to continuous improvement.

NoWayBack

First of all, we had to be sure that this is what we wanted and what our students needed, because once we started and generated expectations among both students and university staff, there is no way back. We could not say “let’s go back to the previous situation”. The fact of implementing almost any service, but especially as a one-stop shop for students, is a point of no return.

It is convenient to remember here that these kind of offices are known as “hygiene” … are any of you familiar with the term or concept?

A department or office of “hygiene” is one that, while it works no one notices, but as soon as it fails or it doesn’t exist anymore, everyone realizes. And that happens with the one-stop shops, particularly in the universities. That is why its implementation is a point of no return.

SellTheIdea_GetBuyIn

It was also important to persuade the various stakeholders of the idea, but especially those who would be affected in their work, their processes and, above all, in their position of power.

It is not a secret that integrating various services for the first time in one place changes the playing field. For some people, they may perceive this change as a loss of “power” if the specialized service they had previously provided in their own offices is moved. Hence the well-known resistance to change and its consequent obstruction by some people who feel affected.

We had to face this too and it was not easy. I think it was even the most complicated to achieve, that even having already started operations in our one-stop shop, we still found signs of resistance to change and, even today, some comment or symptom still emerges from some people who were working during the implementation over 18 years ago.

AnalyzeSimplifyConnectProcess

The next thing we did, which was not the hardest part, but I would say it was the most laborious and took the most time, was to analyze, simplify and connect our service processes.

Before the one-stop shop, each office had its own processes, requirements, documents and even information systems, linked to those of other offices or departments, but not in a systematized way, which represented for the student having to make a pilgrimage from an office to another to get the paper, the stamp or the document that the next office requested.

To avoid and solve this, the first thing that had to be done was to analyze our processes separately, simplify them and connect them, all with a systemic vision, realizing (all of us who participate) that being part of a whole (systemic vision) an amount of requirements, steps and business rules were not necessary.

BuildDatabase

However, the analysis, simplification and connection of the processes would have served little or nothing if that had not led us to build a solid and comprehensive database that contained the information of all our students regarding the different offices that make up the one-stop shop. That is, it was necessary to take the information from the different systems and databases managed by each office to a single central database, which was also necessary for the next stage …

IntegrateIT

… that was to merge or integrate the different systems into one, so that all the requirements and validations that had to be done manually from one office to another, were made directly by the system, without the need for the student to go to each office for the signature, seal or authorization needed.

Among these three steps, I would say this is the core design of a one-stop model. Without an analysis, simplification and connection of processes, a solid and comprehensive database and a single system (or several, but integrated), I do not say that it would be impossible—but surely it would be much more difficult—to implement this service model.

This is how our current SIS was born, called UNISOFT. A comprehensive university management system, both academic and administrative, homemade, which is now also the source from which the rest of our systems are fed.

RecruitAndTrainStaff

At the same time, we recruited, selected, and trained the team with the right profile to give our students the service we wanted. We all know that the soul of any service is the people who provide it and that a person with a profile that is not service-oriented can do more harm than simply not having anyone.

Over time we have also learned that these positions turnover often and that even people with the right profile burn out in much less time than in almost any other position. So the team requires very close follow-up, motivation, and constant training (due to everything emerging and changing within the institution) for a dynamic position that allows them not to get bored or burnt out, and requires a high degree of frustration tolerance.

BrandStrategy

We also found it very useful to create and position a brand within the institution. This was important to do among students and the academic and administrative staff. Branding was key among staff who supported the general strategy of our university as an innovative institution and focused on academic quality as in the service, but who also generated a sense of belonging to something greater, something more important, for the team that participated in this process (those who we had to sell the idea in the first place, remember?)

DesignDevelopBrand

From our brand strategy arose this logo, which was the one we used when in the year 2000 our small student service center evolved into a comprehensive center under the concept of a one-stop shop.

Since its birth in the mid-90s, its name was “Student Attention Center” (CAE for its acronym in Spanish) and since the name was already positioned in our community, we used the same base adding a “+” sign (that, in addition, being in red color, gives the idea of the symbol of the Red Cross, which is where you go for help) and the words “and better”. In this way, we came up the “CAE + and better”.

SpreadTheNews

We also conducted a dissemination campaign through the internal media of the institution, alluding to the simplification, the elimination of queues and endless visits, and systematization, since at the same time our first self-service consultation system for students was released, so that at least they could solve their doubts regarding their academic and administrative information without depending on us.

DoorsOpen

And the moment of truth had arrived; the moment to open the doors, which I remember very well, was on September 17, 2001, that was also the moment of …

FulfillPromises

… fulfilling the expectations and promises we had generated, which is not a single day thing, but every day, student to student, service to service, case by case.

Because as was said before, this is a hygiene service and with only one promise or expectation not fulfilled, 18 years ago or today, it is enough to take down the work of many people and a lot of time.

It is difficult, but it is necessary.

MeasureWhatMatters

Once we started, we also learned to measure everything, because what is not measured, cannot be managed and improved. But with the passage of time we learned to measure what really matters and not absolutely everything.

It is useless to have very accurate measurements that reveal that, on average, it takes very little time to solve a problem. Rather, we have to focus on measuring what really matters, which in our opinion is the particular experience of each customer and the resources that these experiences are costing us. Measurement is meaningless if the results are unknown.

ShareResults

These measurements must be shared with those who matter, both to celebrate what is good, congratulate and reward, and to correct what is necessary, much of which is not entirely in the hands of our team, but it is in our hands to seek the solution with whomever we should do it. For example, when it comes to something related to the systems, or when resources of all kinds are required in order to continue fulfilling our promises, we have to negotiate with whomever is needed in order to solve the problem to our students.

MakeDecisions

But more important than measuring and sharing information is to make decisions based on it. It is useless to measure if that does not lead us to make decisions that allow us to …

Improve

continuously improve. These services quickly become obsolete and have to be renewed continuously to meet the expectations of a changing student body.

StayStudentCentered

And perhaps one of the most important things we have learned is that there is always the temptation, for other stakeholders, but also for us, to put processes or systems ahead of or above the interests of students. It is common that in everyday life we lose focus and look for the simplest or most efficient for us, although this is not necessarily for the student, so we have to be alert all the time and fight against each threat so that, others like ourselves, keep our students at the center of everything.

Wrapping Up

What an honour to share Francisco’s lessons with the Supporting Student Success blog readers. Thank you, Francisco.

It is fitting that the final “must” focuses on staying student-centered. At the end of the day, students bring us to this work. Their stories, their experiences must be at the center of what we do and how we do it.

As we begin a new year and launch into 2019, I invite you to take a moment and reflect on how you demonstrated a student-centered approach in your work in 2018. What will you do in 2019 to maintain and advance your student-centered practice?

If you wish, please “leave a comment” so that others might be inspired by your words and commitments to supporting student success in 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring the Muddy Waters and Blue Skies of Supporting Student Success

By Jacqueline Beaulieu

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity of presenting alongside Tricia Seifert at the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services’ (CACUSS) Annual Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba (June 19-22, 2016). The theme of the conference, Muddy Waters, Blue Skies, supported conversations on the many challenges encountered when aiming to support student success as well as the blue skies of opportunity and possibilities of what could be for students, staff, faculty, and community members. In our presentation titled Principles for Creating Student Focused Postsecondary Organizations, we examined how communication, resource allocation, and institutional culture are perceived as shaping the development of student-focused organizational approaches.

The current study was initially undertaken as part of a case study research methods course. Data from two institutions were analyzed as part of the class project; data from two additional institutions have since been analyzed to develop the broader set of findings presented at the CACUSS Conference. Data from an additional 1-2 institutions will be analyzed prior to presenting overall findings at an upcoming scholarly conference (to be determined). If you attended Tricia Seifert’s recent CACUSS presentation on publishing in student affairs, you likely recall her encouragement to “never let a good class paper go unpublished”. This blog post represents one of many ways to disseminate findings and concepts developed during course and work-related projects.

The purpose of this blog is to provide an overview of the study, current findings, and a working set of principles for creating student-focused postsecondary organizations derived from the findings. It will explore some of the “muddy waters” (challenges) of supporting student success as well as how communication, resource allocation, and institutional culture can come together and create “blue skies” (opportunities and possibilities) for all students.

About the Current Study

The findings in this study were derived from an analysis of data collected during the first phase of the Supporting Student Success study. During this phase, qualitative interviews and focus groups were conducted with nearly 300 student affairs and services staff from 9 universities and 5 colleges across Ontario. The purpose of the original study was to develop a more complete description of how Ontario’s post-secondary institutions are formally and informally structured as well as how staff perceive these structures as supporting and/or creating challenges for their ability to support student success.

This research focused on the larger research-intensive universities included in the broader sample given the range of centralized to decentralized organizational structures within this subsample and the range of stakeholders groups within each of the institutions and complexity of relationships between the many constituents.

Several theoretical frameworks including resource dependency theory (eg. Hillman, Withers, & Collins, 2009; Leslie & Slaughter, 1997; Tolbert, 1985), organizational ecology (eg. Carroll, 1984), and institutional logics informed the current study (eg. Thornton & Ocasio, 2008; Thornton, Ocasio, & Lounsbury, 2012). The current study tested propositions stemming from these frameworks as advanced by Pitcher, Cantwell, and Renn (2015).

Research Questions and Design

Central research question:

How do student affairs and services staff perceive their institution’s organizational structure and culture with respect to the development of a student-focused approach for program and service delivery?

Sub-questions:

  1. How are communication and resource allocation perceived as interacting with the development of student-focused organizational approaches?
  2. How do perceptions of communication, resource allocation, and institutional culture compare between more centralized and more decentralized organizational structures?

In terms of analysis, NVivo software was utilized to analyze interview and focus group transcripts as well as strategic planning documents. Open coding was utilized (Corbin & Strauss, 2014) followed by a theory-driven approach to collapse codes into categories. Themes within cases were identified by the researchers and then analyzed across cases. Pattern matching techniques (Yin, 2014) were utilized to examine if findings reflected perceived opportunities and challenges of centralized and decentralized organizational models as identified in the literature.

Institutions were placed along a continuum of organizational structures, ranging from more decentralized to more centralized, for the purposes of comparing findings across the institutions. Two of the institutions were categorized as highly centralized (Centralized University A and B) in which nearly all of the student affairs and service areas reported to the senior student affairs and services officer. An additional two institutions were identified as having a combination of centralized and decentralized features (Federated University A and B). Decentralized features may include units like career services that exist at both a university-wide and faculty-specific level. The number and nature of reporting lines as well as the distribution of student services determined degree of centralization.

Findings

Building Relationships and Communicating

At all of the institutions, participants perceived relationship building and communication as critical to one’s ability to support students. That being said, how informal networks developed varied in terms of:

Inward versus outward facing focus:

  • At the Centralized Universities and within centralized units at the Federated Universities, participants focused on internal communications with fellow centralized staff
  • At the Federated Universities, more examples were provided regarding relationship building and communication that was outward facing (eg. cross unit; with faculties)

Role of physical spaces and proximity of services:

  • Participants at the Centralized Universities as well as participants working in centralized units at the Federated Universities spoke of the importance of physical placements of services and how location influenced the development of relationships

Strategies utilized to foster positive relationships:

  • Participants at the Centralized Universities and Federated University A commented on the importance of forums, town halls, and socials
  • Participants at Federated University B described fewer campus-level initiatives, however, mentioned many meetings amongst staff working in the centralized unit

Interpreting the Relative Value of Resources

At all of the institutions, concerns were expressed regarding perceived declines in fiscal and human resources as well as subsequent impacts for students and staff.

Impact on relationship building and communication:

  • At Centralized University A and B as well as Federated University A, human resources were viewed as influencing the amount of available time for communicating with stakeholders and participating in socials

Impact of space and proximity of services on students and staff

  • At Centralized University A and Federated University A, participants discussed the appropriateness of types of spaces for programs/services offered, whether spaces were viewed as welcoming, and if proximity of locations supported informal relationship building

Viewing Students and the Role of Student Affairs and Services

At all of the institutions, providing the best possible support to students was considered a top priority. Yet, the focus of support varied. At Federated University B, students were often described as clients and customers and educating students regarding why and how to get involved was considered a strong emphasis of student affairs and services’ work. At Centralized University A and B and Federated University A, students were often described as co-facilitators and co-decision makers and students’ holistic development was prioritized.

Utilizing Strategic Planning to Offset Organizational Weaknesses

At Centralized University A, Federated University A, and Federated University B, strategic plans were described as providing clarity and direction regarding how the unit and institution would navigate critical issues. Strategic planning was also described as helping to mitigate tensions over resources by conveying priorities and creating fewer unknowns. At Centralized University B, participants referred less to strategic planning, however, staff members engaged in comparable levels of discussion related to departmental and institutional values as conveyed and fostered by senior leaders.

Implications

On that note, we have attempted to summarize our learning thus far in a working set of principles for student-focused postsecondary organizations.

Principles for Creating Student-Focused Postsecondary Organizations

As a student affairs unit,

  1. Strive towards achieving “optimal” balances of inward versus outward facing communication
  2. Enable and empower stakeholders to develop ongoing communication and relationships that support student success… and themselves! Support stakeholders towards feeling comfortable and confident in reaching out to one another.
  3. Consider how current space allocations and proximity of services influence communication, organizational culture, and student success.
  4. Use strategic planning processes and outcomes to augment organizational strengths and offset organizational weaknesses or gaps. Unify stakeholders, create conversations, bring clarity to change and in doing so, reduce tension and competition.
  5. Work as a community to define and co-create the learning environment that you aspire to become.
  6. Invite, listen to, and engage with the perspectives of faculty, students, and other community members.
  7. Foster individual and organizational resilience so that “when the going gets tough”, student success and learning remain paramount as organizational values and overall objectives.

Navigating the Muddy Waters, Blue Skies of Creating Student-Focused Postsecondary Organizations

Organizational shifts, not to mention organizational change, can be downright difficult. During the conference presentation, attendees discussed how to employ the principles outlined above in hypothetical case studies. When immersed in our own institutions, it may be challenging to see the possibility of the principles at work. Sometimes it is easier to think about organizational shift at a distance, which is precisely what case studies offer. We share the case studies, one situated at Centralized University and the other at Decentralized University here. With staff retreats just around the corner, we invite you to use these case studies with your staff. Having discussed the principles in the safety of a case study, it may open up the possibility to imagine applying these principles to your daily work and organization.

During the closing session of the conference, our Conference Weavers, Tricia Seifert and Neil Buddel provided an analysis of overall themes within conversations that unfolded during the week. Tricia and Neil encouraged conference participants to commit and take responsibility for creating change on our campuses and asked what we would commit ourselves to doing post-conference. In a similar spirit, I would like to close this blog post with a simple question:

What can you commit to doing to shift your postsecondary institution towards an increasingly student-focused approach?

One of my post-CACUSS commitments: writing this blog post with the hope that our findings will support colleagues in their efforts to support student success ☺. If you are willing, share your commitment(s) by “leaving a reply” in the space below or tweeting us @CdnStdntSuccess; we look forward to retweeting as many of these as possible!

Jacquie

 

References

Carroll, G. R. (1984). Organizational ecology. Annual Review of Sociology, 10(1), 71–93.

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2014). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hillman, A. J., Withers, M. C., & Collins, B. J. (2009). Resource dependence theory: A review. Journal of Management, 35(6), 1404-1427.

Leslie, L. L., & Slaughter, S. A. (1997). The development and current status of market mechanisms in United States postsecondary education. Higher Education Policy, 10(3-4), 239-252.

Pitcher, E. N., Cantwell, B. J., & Renn, K. A. (2015, November). Inside access: Examining the promotion of student success through organizational perspectives. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Denver, CO.

Thornton, P. H., & Ocasio, W. (2008). Institutional logics. In R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, R. Suddaby, & K. Sahlin-Andersson (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of organizational institutionalism (pp. 99–129). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Thornton, P. H., Ocasio, W., & Lounsbury, M. (2012). The institutional logics perspective. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

Tolbert, P. S. (1985). Institutional environments and resource dependence: Sources of administrative structure in institutions of higher education. Administrative Science Quarterly, 30(1) 1-13.

Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods (5th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Student Success: What employers are looking for.

By: Kimberly Elias

Through the Supporting Student Success research study, we have explored how various stakeholders define student success and how organizational structures can support or hinder those definitions. While there are varying interpretations of ‘student success,’ getting a job is surely an element of most students’ definition. Our role as student affairs and staff practitioners is to support students in their academic pursuits, while encouraging students to engage in meaningful opportunities beyond the classroom—which will support their success during and after their studies. To support our students in their pursuit of a career, it is useful to have an understanding of the labour market and what employers are looking for in the hiring process. Do employers look at grades? Do employers value co-curricular experiences? This post will highlight some results from my master’s thesis titled, “Employer perceptions of co-curricular engagement and the Co-Curricular Record in the hiring process.” I conducted a survey with employers from the University of Toronto Career Centre database and received responses from 110 employers from various industries. Employers were asked to reflect on current hiring practices, including the skills they look for, and their perceived value of the new Co-Curricular Record program. So what do employers value?

1. Skills, skills, skills Both the academic literature and my research highlights the importance of core skills, and employers use the resume and interview to discern whether or not candidates have those skills. In my survey, employers were asked to select the competencies/skills they look for in the hiring process. The top five competencies (in order) included: communication, professionalism, teamwork, critical thinking, and collaboration. Competencies When I analyzed responses across five industry groupings based on the National Occupation Classification, the top three selected competencies from the aggregate level were also in the top five across all industry groupings—communication, professionalism, teamwork. Other literature supports the value of these skills, where other studies have found communication, work ethic, teamwork, and leadership among the top desirable skills (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2008; Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc., 2006; Canadian Council of Chief Executives, 2014). This suggests that regardless of the industry, there are core skills that employers look for in the hiring process.

2. Educational credentials…but not really grades Employers were asked to identify the importance of various factors in the hiring process. While all factors were considered important by some employers, when ranked by importance, previous work experience was at the top followed by educational degree, references’ feedback, academic subject focus, extracurricular participation, grades, awards/official recognition. Factors One can assume that a level of knowledge and skills has been developed through academic credentials, and so employers do value the educational degree in hiring. However, GPA plays a limited role. In this study, it was ranked 6/7 factors, and the literature suggests that GPA is often not asked for in hiring, and if it is, it may be used as an initial screening tool rather than a deciding factor (Causer, 2009; Hutchinson & Brefka, 1997; University Wire, 2014).

3. Co-curricular experiences!? In student affairs, we often preach the value of a well-rounded education, and how engagement in co-curricular opportunities can influence the student experience, development, and success. In my survey, I used the term “extracurricular” rather than co-curricular, since that is the language more prevalent in labour market research. While nearly half of employers (49%) identified extracurricular participation as very important or important in the hiring process, it was ranked fifth out of seven factors, while previous work experience was ranked first. This suggests that employers may not necessarily see extracurricular experiences as a primary indicator for developing the core skills that they look for in hiring. Yet we know through student development theories that co-curricular engagement can help students develop core skills such as communication, leadership, and teamwork. This is where the Co-Curricular Record (CCR) can come into play. In my survey, employers were provided with a definition of what “co-curricular” means, along with a description and sample of the CCR. Employers were then asked a series of pointed questions about their perceived value of the CCR. When asked how likely they are to review the CCR, 77% of respondents said they would be very likely or likely to review a CCR if it is attached to an application, and 73% if it is brought to an interview. The gap between the value employers placed on extracurricular participation (49%) to their likelihood of using a CCR (73-77%) suggests that employers may not inherently understand the value of these experiences, and it is important to provide information about how co-curricular experiences can foster the development of desirable core skills. Since the CCR produces an official record of involvement, this demonstrates institutional recognition of the value of these experiences. At an institutional level, the CCR should be promoted to employers as a means to demonstrate the value and importance of co-curricular experiences in developing skills. Whether students submit a CCR, or use it as a preparation tool to help them write their resume or prepare for an interview, the CCR is a visible initiative that can help elevate the value of these experiences. CCR sample What you can do

  1. Encourage engagement: Whether or not your institution has a Co-Curricular Record, there are a myriad of experiences beyond that classroom that you can encourage students to participate in that will help them develop core skills.
  2. Facilitate reflection: Once students participate in these opportunities, it is important to help students reflect on their experiences and the skills that they developed. In the media, we hear concerns about a “job skills gap”. In my survey, when I asked employers to rate the ability of students/recent graduates to describe the competencies/skills they developed outside the classroom, 4% of employers selected excellent, 35% very good, 49% satisfactory, and 12% needs improvement. This highlights that we can help students improve their ability to articulate relevant skills. If a student is an Orientation Co-Chair and cannot articulate the value of that experience on their resume or in an interview, and if an employer does not know what it means to be a Co-Chair, then the value of that experience is lost in the process and the assumption is that the candidate does not possess the necessary skills. Again, whether or not your institution has a CCR, you can help students think through their experiences, so that they can describe the value.
  3. Join the movement: If your institution has a CCR, is in the process of developing one, or thinking about developing one—this recommendation is for you. A Canadian CCR Professionals Network has formed, and I encourage you to join. The network has 150 professionals across the country, and is intended to provide a space for open communication and dialogue through a listserv, workspace, and regional and national meet-ups. To join, email kimberly.elias@utoronto.ca.

References

Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE). (2014, January). Preliminary survey report: the skills needs of major Canadian employers. Retrieved from http://www.ceocouncil.ca/skills.

Causer, C. (2009). G.P.Eh? Grading the attributes that set candidates apart. IEEE Potentials, 28(3), 17-18. Doi: 10.1109/MPOT.2009.932462.

Elias, K. (2014). Employer Perceptions of Co-Curricular Engagement and the Co-Curricular Record in the Hiring Process. Unpublished master’s thesis, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. (2013). Welcome to the National Occupational Classification 2011. Retrieved from http://www5.hrsdc.gc.ca/NOC/English/NOC/2011/Welcome.aspx

Hutchinson K.L., Brefka D.S. (1997). Personnel administrators’ preferences for resume content: Ten years after. Business Communication Quarterly, 60, 67-75.

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). (2008). Experiential Education Survey. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org.

Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. (on behalf of The Association of American Colleges and Universities). (2006, December 28). How should colleges prepare students to succeed in today’s global economy? Retrieved from http://www.aacu.org/leap/documents/Re8097abcombined.pdf

University Wire. (2014, Jan. 9). GPA isn’t everything when it comes to finding careers. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1476250337?accountid=14771

Share your great work – ACPA 2015 Call for Proposals and Reviewers

In the last few years, ACPA has highlighted a significant interest and movement in understanding how student affairs and services practitioners and educators from around the world support student success. As such, ACPA Commission for the Global Dimensions of Student Development (CGDSD) invites you to submit a proposal and/or to become a reviewer for the 2015 Conference in Tampa, FloridaTampa2015OL385x118

Specifically, the CGDSD seeks innovative proposals on topics related to how student affairs and services (SAS) staff support student success from different or comparative geographic areas and varied professional contexts.

If you are currently developing a proposal that focuses on:

– The practice(s) of student affairs globally,

– Interesting/innovative work in education abroad and/or international student and scholar programs,

– Examples of intercultural competence development at home or abroad, with students, staff or in graduate preparation programs, or

– Ideas and discussions on working with diverse populations of students

Then, you should consider submitting your program for sponsorship with the CGDSD.

Why Submit a Sponsored Program? Sponsored programs receive additional visibility among Commission members and receive greater promotion to all conference attendees though dedicated and additional spaces in the conference program and online. If you want to maximize your program’s exposure at Convention, there is no better way than as a sponsored program.

Submit a Sponsored Program. To have your program considered for sponsorship, simply select the ‘sponsored program’ box when beginning your application. CGDSD has 5 dedicated spots in the 2015 program. If your proposal covers multiple areas (e.g. career planning for international students), you can indicate co-sponsorship (by selecting that option instead of sponsored) and choose the relevant commissions on the next screen. The co-sponsored option means we can sponsor more great work as it only counts as 0.5 of our 5 allotted spots. Please note that proposals not selected for sponsorship will remain in consideration in the general program review!

Guide/Tips on Submitting a Proposal. You can find more information about the program submission process here and watch a great video on developing and submitting proposals to ACPA. All program submissions for the 2015 Convention are due on Wednesday September 4, 2014.

ACPA Seeks Program Reviewers. In addition to the call for sponsored programs, ACPA is also seeking members to review proposals. Reviewing proposal submissions is a great way to get involved with ACPA and help shape the conference program by bringing your international perspective to the review process.  You can sign up here http://cdms.myacpa.org/ and please don’t forget to select “Commission for Global Dimensions of Student Development” when selecting your interests (it is the 5th one down in the list). Those asked to review will receive 6-10 programs early in September.

By proposing sessions and becoming involved as reviewers, we advance the international outlook of ACPA and the other professional networks that we belong to.

Many thanks for your interest and please share our call for sponsored sessions and reviewers with colleagues interested in global practices, perspectives and programs of student affairs and services.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Jeff Burrow at burrow.jeff@gmail.com

Supporting Student Success Presentations at #CACUSS2014

CACUSS 2014 (#CACUSS2014) is less than a week away and the Supporting Student Success team is excited to present in a number of sessions. This post showcases the three sessions directly related to our ongoing research project as well as other presentations which involve members of the research team. For those who are not able to attend the conference in Halifax, we will post our presentation slides after the conference. Please check out the “Presentations and Publications” tab in late June.cacuss photo

Project-Related Presentations

301 – Blueprints for Student Success: Improving High School Students’ Awareness of Student Affairs And Services: Presented by: Christine Arnold and Kathleen Moore
Student affairs and services (SAS) have become integral components of Canadian colleges and universities. Increasing high school students’ awareness of service areas, programs and initiatives is imperative in order for students to make informed decisions regarding involvement, academics and health/wellness. This presentation will engage participants in our research-based Blueprints for Student Success website and mobile application developed to provide high school students with the knowledge and language necessary to navigate their transition to postsecondary education. Monday, June 9, 3:30-4:00 Session # 301, 200C2

602 – It’s All About What You Ask Them: Using Cognitive Interviews to Improve Student Assessment: Presented by Jeffrey Burrow, Diliana Peregrina-Kretz, and Tricia Seifert
The assessment of programs and services is a crucial step in improving and understanding student learning and development. Cognitive interviews can improve the quality of student affairs assessments by uncovering the cognitive processes participants use in responding to questions. This learning lab will introduce the theory and practice of CI’s and will highlight how they can improve assessment. Participants are asked to bring their own assessment examples so they can conduct mini-cognitive interviews during the session. Tuesday, June 10, 1:45 – 3:00, Session #602, Meeting Room #4

913 – How Do You Know? Why Do You Think So? Using Research to Inform Practice: Presented by: Tricia Seifert, Janet Morrison, David McMurray, and Karen Cornies
This panel presentation highlights the experiences of senior student affairs and services leaders in using research from the Supporting Student Success study. The panelists will share how they have used the findings from this research broadly, and in some cases their institution’s data specifically, to foster conversations with colleagues about the role of student affairs and services in supporting student success, re-organize and structure a division, and influence organizational culture. Wednesday, June 11, 9:30-10:45, Session #913, Suite 307

Members of the Supporting Student Success research team are also presenting in several other sessions. We invite you to check out their great work.

305 – Employer Perceptions of Co-Curricular Engagement and the Co-Curricular Record in the Hiring Process: Presented by Kimberly Elias
Universities and colleges promote the value of co-curricular engagement and the Co-Curricular Record (CCR) as a means to highlight transferable skills to employers. Listen to the results of a thesis study which examines the question: How are co-curricular experiences and the CCR perceived and valued by employers in the hiring process? This study explored current hiring processes, competencies and factors employers look for, and perceptions of the value of the CCR in the hiring process. Monday, June 9, 3:30-4:00, Session #305, Suite 306

411 – OPEN BOOK: Recent Literature in Student Affairs: Deanne Fisher, Rob Shea, Tricia Seifert, Ross McMillan, John Austin, Tamara Leary and Jeff Burrow
Each year, the Open Book session introduces participants to relevant and recent literature – good and bad – in student affairs and related fields. Our panel of readers present mini-reviews of books that have influenced our practice and the institutions in which we operate. This usually provokes a conversation about the big ideas that shape our work. Audience participation is encouraged! Monday, June 9, 4:15-5:30, Session # 411 Suite 205

90 Ideas in 90 Minutes: Research and Assessment section: Tricia Seifert and Jeff Burrow: Tuesday, June 10 | 8:45–10:30, 200C2

501 – Moving Forward – Transitioning Beyond the First Year: Presented by: Adina Burden, Diliana Peregrina-Kretz, and Lake Porter
The growing number of students with disabilities enrolling in post-secondary education requires that institutions provide comprehensive and tailored programs to meet their unique needs. Transition programs that introduce students to campus and student life are an integral component in supporting students with disabilities acclimate to the new environment. This session will provide participants with tools necessary to develop a successful transition program for students with disabilities including: planning, executing, and follow-up programming to support students. Tuesday, June 10, 11:15-12:30, Session #518, Meeting Room #4

518 – Understanding Icky: Making Difficult Ethical Decisions in Student Affairs: Presented by Chris McGrath and Tricia Seifert
We all make tough decisions under tough circumstances. But when the difficult choice results in a negative outcome for our students, our personal and professional ethics can easily collide. This is an opportunity to learn about models of moral and ethical decision making in professional practice, and to begin mapping our “moral languages” (Nash, 1996) towards a better understanding of how we make tough professional choices. Tuesday, June 10, 11:15-12:30, Session #518, Suite 202

605 – Navigating Transition Through Online Mentorship: Presented by: Leah McCormack-Smith and Steve Masse
In the spring of 2013, we rejuvenated our student transition program by pursuing a unique experiment with e-mentorship. Informed by current theories of student engagement and best practices emerging from our campus Student Communications Summit, we committed to matching our entire first-year class with successful upper-year e-mentors. During this session we will introduce you to the program, share our successes and challenges, as well as discuss our plans for the future! Tuesday, June 10, 1:45-3:00, Session #605, Suite 306

801 – Transfer Literacy: Assessing Informational Symmetries And Asymmetries: Presented by Christine Arnold
International researchers have voiced concerns regarding students’ understanding of credit transfer and the resulting impediments. An investigation of students’ clarity and confusion with credit transfer processes centers on the existent information system in place and its accessibility. In the Ontario context, this information system includes government/agencies, institutional administrators and students. This research seeks to examine the extent to which the college-to-university transfer information system is performing efficiently and identify (a)symmetries existent in stakeholders’ understanding of this process. Tuesday, June 10 4:15-4:45, Session #801, Room 200C2

1002 – Co-Curricular Record/Transcript: Establishing Standards and a Community of Support: Presented by Kimberly Elias and Chris Glove
The rapid adoption of the Co-Curricular Record/Transcript (CCR/T) program across Canada created a need for the CCR/T Professionals Network to form. This network recently met in May 2014 to develop a framework of recommendations on how CCR/T’s should be structured in Canada as it pertains to quality and standards. Participate in the ongoing discussion and share your thoughts and feedback on the recommendations developed at the Summit. No experience with CCR/T is needed to participate. Wednesday, June 11, 2014 11:15-12:30, Session #1002, Suite 202

We hope your conference is a great one, and that you are able to attend some of the eleven (11!) presentations we have featured here, as well as the dozens and dozens of other, amazing presentations scheduled for CACUSS 2014. See you in Halifax!