Kevin contacted me via LinkedIn the other day and asked me some thought-provoking questions. They get right to the heart of some common concerns about the registrarial profession. He gave me permission to share them with you and I will try my best to answer them one at a time.
First, here is what he sent me.
I don’t know if these questions will be of interest to other readers of your blog, but you’re certainly welcome to share our conversation if you’d like.
While I was doing my doctorate, I ran a wedding videography and photography business with my wife and some partners. That provided excellent practical administrative experience in business contexts. However, I imagine there are similarities and important differences between business and university administration.
My main questions for you concern skills, challenges, and path into administration.
(1) Apart from April fools day jokes about voice recognition, how often and in what capacities do you get to exercise your creativity as a registrar?
(2) Professors often face the pressure of being expected to publish frequently. Thus the axiom, “Publish or perish.” What are the greatest sources of pressure and stress placed on registrars or other full-time administrative professionals working at universities?
(3a) What challenges do you think professors or other researchers face if they try to transition into administrative roles?
(3b) Do you have any advice for scholars trying to move into administrative work?
Thank you! If you or your students have any questions about what it’s like to do postgraduate studies in the UK, I’d be happy to help. :)
With my warm regards,
These are excellent questions, Kevin. I’ll answer your first question here.
How often and in what capacities do you get to exercise your creativity as a registrar?
It depends on what you mean by creativity. I am a creative person, and outside of my work as a registrar, I express this in my wood carving and sculpture.
I work with a fun bunch of people who take their work very seriously but take themselves lightly. We play the odd prank and host hot-chocolate or lemonade stands for students. The main way I express creativity at work is by solving problems and making life easier for students, staff and faculty. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for faculty to complicate matters. I enjoy seeing the relief on their faces when I suggest an easier, more direct solution. In fact, this is much of my job. The Provost often comes to me to find solutions for problems as do Deans and individual faculty members. I’m constantly on the hunt for an easier, simpler way to do everything, as long as it is consistent with who we are and what we do.
I spend some time creatively working through the best office configuration for welcoming and serving students. We change things up every couple of years depending on our service model. For example, when I first started at Trinity Western University our office served most students in-person, and most of our work was paper-based. Our office was set up much like a bank with tall, stand-up desks designed to receive and distribute paper forms and cash payments. Then we switched things up to be more of a consulting model, so we had individual desks with sit-down chairs and more resources available for staff to take the time to respond to student needs. Then we chose a hospitality model similar to a hotel, and we changed up the configuration of the office yet again, with a reception/concierge type of desk designed to serve the majority of student queries. There is some creativity expressed in this.
Secondarily, I encourage creative solutions from the staff in my office. Recently, a staff member proposed making a sign in the trendy chalk paint style to welcome students. I gave her the time and resources to create it, and used my own personal wood working skills to build a frame for it. I’ve been in some registrar’s offices that decorate with different themes for different times of the year. We haven’t done that, but it’s an option.
We have to be careful with creativity in the Registrar’s Office. Just as accountants cannot do too much creative accounting, neither can registrars. Universities depend on us to be consistently perfect with student records, finances, academic calendars/catalogs and other university records. But much like accountants, if we know the boundaries we also should know the options to work inside those boundaries or when to remove and replace them.